Chapter 38 – Kokhavim (כּוֹכָבִים) (stars) – August 2028
To say the kids' fascination with the stars and celestial bodies started with a school field trip was truly an understatement in Ziva's opinion. Sure the twins' school trip to the David M. Brown Planetarium in Arlington had sparked even more interest in observing the night sky, but the true source had been Charles Palmer's gift of a telescope for Christmas 2026.
The kid had learned about constellations, solar systems, moons, and other night sky phenomena within the first month and shared that knowledge with his cousins. Many a family dinner at the Palmer house ended with the entire family observing the night sky via Charles' telescope. He'd also carted the entire set up to Gibbs' cabin in the summer of 2027 when the nine grandkids had stayed with their grandfather at the cabin for ten days. The five DiNozzos had persuaded their grandfather to purchase a telescope for them the following week; Tony and Ziva came home from an extended trip to Israel to find the telescope set up in the family room on a rolling platform made by the old man specifically for moving the telescope out onto the deck and into the yard.
Since then, LJ and the twins had been almost religious in carting the telescope outside on nights when the Space Station passed overhead. Tali had been more interested in the annual meteor showers; the Perseids in August, and the Geminids in December. LJ also made sure to see the Orionids around his birthday and the Leonids in November. A second telescope was under the tree for all five kids the previous Christmas.
Anthony had been interested in obscure constellations, looking up their names and locations and loading all sorts of sky maps on his phone to help him find the star formations. He'd even found the Flying Squirrel constellation, a failed attempt by William Croswell to rename part of Camelopardalis in 1810. Anthony liked the funny name better, but since the squirrel constellation only contained two or three stars, it made more sense for it to remain a part of the larger formation.
John, Anthony, and Tali had also been very interested in reducing light pollution for the celestial viewing. At the remote cabin, the skies had been filled with stars, and all of the kids were amazed at how much they could see without the interference of manmade light as in their suburban yards. Many nights they had stayed up until the wee hours to view astronomical phenomena; Gibbs had been more than obliging to foster and encourage his grandchildren's natural curiosity.
Tony found a huge star map at the wholesale club and the nearly six-foot long by four-foot wide image became the wall covering on the largest non-bookcase wall of the kids' playroom. Tony was a bit disappointed that the interest in the heavens had not inspired any of the kids to aspirations of a career in space science or exploration. Perhaps being of a generation that was still quite awed by the moon landings, the Space Shuttle program, and all things relating to astronauts and NASA altered his perspective. For his kids, space exploration was not the novelty it had been for him as a child.
He would never forget the live telecast of the fateful launch of the shuttle Challenger on that cold January Tuesday morning. He'd been in his senior English class at Remington, watching the launch which was supposed to put the first educator in space. The fiery explosion seventy three seconds into lift-off left the entire school, hell, the entire country, in shock.
"A penny for your thoughts," Ziva touched his arm as she spoke.
"Not worth that much," he replied. "I was just thinking about the space program when I was a kid and then that brought the Challenger disaster to mind. It's one of those things, like watching the Twin Towers fall, that will be in my mental imagery forever."
Ziva nodded, "We watched the launch live after dinner, but when the explosion happened, Ima took me to my room and Abba turned the volume down on the television. Ari watched with him, but they would not let me watch. Everyone talked about it at school the next day."
"IMA!" LJ came running into the room from outside. "Tali is hogging the telescope again."
Beth came in the room behind her little brother, "Tali said to get outside, LJ, 'cause it's your turn with the big telescope." He turned and ran outside just as quickly as he came in the sliding doors to the deck. Beth shrugged at her parents and walked back towards the exit to the backyard.
"I was going to offer them each a pair of binoculars," Tony noted, holding up the three sets of lenses in their cases. That's why I came into the playroom in the first place; to get the binoculars. Two telescopes and five kids just isn't going to cut it."
Ziva sighed, "And they always forget that the meteor showers do not need the telescope or even the binoculars; you can see them with your eyes. I think we see more without any lenses when the shower is at peak."
Tony glanced at his watch, "Speaking of peak times, it's after midnight. Isn't the peak starting soon?"
"Yes, 0000 to 0500 is what the websites all suggest; and the peak rate will be between one hundred and one hundred fifty per hour, if we are fortunate."
The couple headed out in the backyard with the kids. Anthony had several pinhole cameras set up around the open areas in the yard to catch the images on the black and white film inside. He'd had to put them on benches or something else to raise the box above ground level because both dogs had been checking out the boxes. He did not want images of dog noses where there should be star trails and meteor arcs. All but Tali were already lying on the lounge chairs looking upward. She was still using the larger of the telescopes to view the night skies.
The parents sat down on one of the double lounge chairs, quickly lying back to gaze upward. Tony wrapped an arm around his wife and she snuggled into his side. Tali glanced at her parents and shook her head slightly; sometimes they acted so silly. She checked the view on the telescope again and then settled into a lounger herself.
The family watched the meteors streak across the sky; occasionally one would comment on the trail left by one of the meteors or the multiple shooting stars that appeared simultaneously. The kids sometimes got up to look through one of the telescopes, but for the most part they were content to lay on the lounge chairs gazing upward.
Around 0430, Anthony walked out into the yard to check on his pinhole cameras. When he returned to the deck, he grinned as he glanced at Ima and Abba. He pointed in their direction when Beth, LJ, and Rivka looked over at him as he returned to his lounge chair.
"Tal?" he whispered to get his sister's attention. "Look at Ima and Abba." All five looked at their parents in the double lounger. The older DiNozzos were both asleep, arms around each other in a tangle of limbs. Both were also snoring softly.
"Should we wake them?" Rivka asked her older sister.
"Nah, let them sleep," Tali decided. "They look too peaceful to interrupt…"
"Besides, Abba is grouchy if he doesn't get enough sleep," LJ added with a smirk.
Anthony nodded, "Yeah, but we lucked out. I think we got the best parents ever, even when Abba is a curmudgeon." The others giggled softly as they nodded agreement with the elder DiNozzo son.
"Yep, even when we get the 'Ima glare' they are still the number one parents," Beth replied to more chuckles from her siblings. "We really did get the best!"