The day after Total Solar Eclipse '06, we spent another restful day at sea. All over the ship, there was an air of excitement and people were talking about the experience in the restaurants, lounges, and hallways. I heard many people say that this was their first eclipse experience and it would not be their last. At the Gala Night dinner immediately following the eclipse, our table mates from Kentucky expressed their enthusiasm and appreciation for what they had witnessed. It was their daughter's idea to come on the trip, and they were so glad they had been there together. Since we were still in Libyan waters, we were not allowed to break open a bottle of wine, but we did our best to toast with bottled water.
Prior to the eclipse, Alex had attended a lecture called "Eclipse for Kids" by an astronomer from the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Alex got a notepad and pencils from the planetarium people, and was told to draw pictures of what he saw and bring them to the t-shirt making activity the day after the eclipse. So, we took Alex and his drawing pad up to the top deck and found a group of kids drawing eclipse pictures with fabric pens on t-shirts. Alex drew a sun and colored it in, and wrote "Eclipse" on it in blue marker, and declared it a masterpiece. Alex is not a child who enjoys arts and crafts, so getting him to sit still long enough to draw a circle and color it in meant that he was really into it. Now, If it had been an activity involving a video game where you try to shoot the sun out of the sky, he would have been there all day.
One of the Sky & Telescope trip organizers was collecting photos from passengers to put together a slide show for everyone to view later in the day. Frank went down and stood in a long line with other hopefuls to submit his best photos of the corona and the diamond ring. After we got the prints back from the photo shop, we realized that his Mylar-and-band-aid filter actually worked well, and that he had gotten some decent photos after all. He came back a little discouraged after seeing how many people showed up with their digital cameras, ready to download a masterpiece or two. He wasn't optimistic about having a picture chosen for the presentation, given all the fancy and professional camera gear that everyone else brought along, but it didn't hurt to try.
Alex and I had started going to the room designated as the "Library" onboard to do his homework while we were on the ship. The ship's Library consisted of a bookcase with some abandoned paperbacks (mostly in Italian) and some board games that passengers could use. The tables had chessboards on one side and green felt for card playing on the other side. Most of the time it was quiet, but on this day, it was full of Italians playing a boisterous game of cards. I didn't recognize what they were playing, but they were having a great time with whatever it was.
Alex's homework, meted out by the Best Kindergarten Teacher on the Planet, aka Teacher Janice, consisted of some math worksheets, a writing workbook, some puzzles and pages to color, and a trip journal. We used some of the photos that we had developed in the ship's photo shop, and glued them in with the purple glue stick she packed for Alex, along with markers, crayons, and pencils. His job was to label the photos with a word or two and come back and give a Show and Tell presentation. Given Alex's propensity for public speaking, I think she could plan to take the day off that day. We also glued in some Egyptian money, a few ticket stubs, and other memorabilia from the trip.
While we were doing this, some of the Italian card players came by and stood admiring Alex's journal over his shoulder, especially Frank's Diamond Ring photo. They started talking to us in rapid-fire Italian. I shrugged and said, "Inglese?" which is just about the only Italian I know besides "un caffe con latte, per favore" ("Coffee with milk, please."). When they asked me if I spoke Italian, I said no, since I didn't think they wanted to take my coffee order. One of the ladies asked, "Francese? Parlez vous francais?" and one of the men inquired, "Espanol?" I reached into the dark recesses of my memory and mustered up some college French. "Le père d'Alex est le photographe," I stuttered, which either means "Alex's father is the photographer" or "Alex's father is a photocopier."
"Molto professionalista!" they exclaimed, which I took to mean that they were impressed and they understood what I was trying to say. Either that, or they thought Alex's father the copy machine reproduced these pictures beautifully.
Later in the day, we dropped Alex off at Kids Club and went to the Eclipse Redux lecture, that included some really cool mpeg movies of the scene. One of the movies was made by pointing the camera at a silver hubcap, giving the full 360 degree view of the scene. What astonished me was that someone had the foresight to pack a hubcap in their luggage and traveled halfway around the globe to capture this scene. I thought that must have given the TSA something to chuckle about when searching his suitcase. When they got to the actual eclipse photos, we were thrilled to see that Frank's Diamond Ring made the cut, eliciting several "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd. I was very proud of him. He was thrilled and just beamed. This was one of the highlights of our time on the ship for me. After the slide show, people had the opportunity to share their impressions of the day, and some spoke movingly about how warm and friendly the Libyan people had been, and how much this shared experience transformed them. Over all, the eclipse junkies turned out to be a pretty friendly lot, and we were glad to be counted among them.
Later that night, Alex was incredibly antsy at dinner, and wanted to hurry to get to the Baby Disco. Tammy agreed to take him so we could finish our dinner in peace and talk with John and Stella a little more. When we arrived at Baby Disco to pick up Alex, were were startled to see him wearing his pajamas, and not the shirt and shorts he had been wearing at dinner. I asked Mary Beth (who was also wearing pajamas) what was up. She said that it was pajama night at the Baby Disco. She said Alex arrived alone, and that when he saw everyone in PJs, he said he wanted to wear PJs and ran out, returning a few minutes later in his pajamas. I was seriously alarmed that they let him run off by himself, but she said, "I thought since he came by himself you were letting him be more independent." She apologized profusely for not keeping better track of him.
We sat Alex down for a chat and asked him why he left the Baby Disco without a grown-up. He said, "Well, you know, Tammy came with me and left me here. I wanted pajamas, so I went to our room, but the door was locked, so I got a cleaner lady to open it with her key. I got my PJs on and came right back." He stared up with big eyes and looked like one of those Precious Moments figurines my mom's friends are so fond of, complete with a please-don't-be-mad-at-me-mommy look. Our room was only one floor directly above the disco, so he didn't go far. I alternated between being horrified that he was wandering the ship alone, and being secretly pleased at his resourcefulness and ability to take care of himself. I sometimes don't give him enough credit for being able to do things for himself, since I am so used to just doing things for him. I don't think that letting him wander around a 12-story cruise ship by himself is a good idea at age 5, particularly given the news stories about bridegrooms being mysteriously tossed overboard. But, little by little, he's proving that he is a resourceful, intelligent and independent person. I suppose I should just be happy about that, but as a mom, it makes me a little sad to know that his baby days are coming to a rapid and inexorable end.