The luckiest kids get to go to a summer camp they love.

I was a lucky kid.  My camp?  Skyline Ranch Day Camp, in Topanga, CA.

The kids were divided into groups by gender and age, with a counselor for each.  Every morning, our counselor would receive the day’s schedule—it changed every day—and we’d be running off to whatever our first activity would be.  There was plenty to do:  trampoline, archery, BB guns, swimming, horseback riding, arts and crafts, hiking.  We’d throw ourselves into each activity for half an hour, then run at top speed to the next one.

Sometimes horseback riding or swimming would go for a full hour.  Calloo, callay!

Sometimes there were field trips: Busch Gardens, Disneyland, ice skating, fossil hunts, the beach.

Camp was never boring.  Ever.

And once a month, there’d be a weekend overnight event.  Bud, the camp’s owner and head honcho, would break out the barbecue (a massive homemade affair fashioned from half a fifty gallon drum with half an acre of diamond-shaped steel mesh grill surface), and cook hamburgers and hot dogs for everyone—everyone consisting of what seemed like a hundred assorted kids and counselors.  No idea what else we ate, but man, those burgers were good.  The big kids got to sleep on the flat roof of the Arts and Crafts building.  You had to be ten, as I recall, to be considered a Big Kid.

The year I was eleven is the one I remember best.

Two of my girlfriends and I, and two boys, twin brothers whose names I don’t recall, arranged our sleeping bags in a circle and lay there on the asphalt shingle looking at the sky.  Talked about our lives, where we lived, what our dreams were.  And then—

“Look!” said one.  “A falling star!”



The sky was alive with meteors.  It seemed like hundreds.  None of us had ever seen anything like it.  Some of us were sure it was the magical quality of that particular night; others thought every summer night was like this, and we had just never noticed before.

It was neither.  It was the Perseid meteor shower, an annual event courtesy of the Earth’s passage through the trail of the comet Swift-Tuttle.  But we didn’t know any of that.  We just knew it was cool.  I wish now that our counselors had known, that they had advertised it as a night of stargazing, had grasped a fabulous teaching and learning opportunity.  But maybe they just didn’t know.

It was many years before I ever heard the phrase “Perseid meteor shower,” and even more before I connected it to that magical night when I was eleven, when the world was still so wondrous and new.

This weekend is the anniversary of that magical night more than forty years ago, and tonight is the peak viewing night.  You can expect in the neighborhood of seventy meteors an hour, all over the sky, best viewed between midnight and dawn.

Honestly, you should go out and take a look.  Go someplace dark, away from the lights of the city, and take a sleeping bag.   Take people you love to talk to, or go alone.

Talk about your life and your dreams.

If you wish on a falling star, your wish just might come true.

You can click here for more on the Perseids and other meteor showers to watch for this year.