While I wasn’t sad all day, I felt a bit low energy and certainly wasn’t particularly cheerful. When I settled in to watch a documentary series about our solar system, a thought suddenly popped into my head:
I haven’t seen the stars in over a year.
This spiraled into other thoughts like:
I haven’t felt the wind or the warmth of the sun in weeks. I haven’t seen a baby or pet a dog in over a year. I haven’t held my parents in even longer.
But something about not having seen the stars… broke me a little.
It feels silly to write, and it felt silly having to explain to my husband why I was crying while learning about Voyager 2, but, naturally, I have always had a keen affinity for the stars. It’s strange how much my name has shaped me and my interests but I do feel something special when it comes to the stars and the cosmos; a kinship maybe?
“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
– Sarah Williams, The Old Astronomer
Again, it feels embarrassing that such a small and arbitrary thing could affect me like this, a year into the pandemic, but sometimes your emotions just ebb and flow and you can get knocked down by a simple realization like not being able to see the stars from the middle of an urban jungle, and not leaving that urban setting for over a year.
You may have noticed that I love dressing up for a themed party. I even made a resolution to throw my own themed party, and I started trying to figure out Pinterest to scour for ideas for theme that seemed too obvious not to do.
So for my upcoming 25th birthday, I decided to throw a galactic star(r) party! And finally put my previously-useless skill of finding star things to good use! It did seem a bit self-indulgent to have a star party but spoiler alert: I am a little sick of stars now, so we will all be seeing just a bit fewer of them in my life.
An initial challenge was picking the date. Because I have a December birthday so close to the holidays, my party would have to compete with holiday parties and festivities all over the place. I also tried to take into consideration that two of my friends who were key in helping me pull the party together may need to help another friend with his birthday party. I picked the first weekend of December to try to play it as safe as possible with regards to conflict.
Once I had the date, it was just a matter of slowly accumulating things I wanted to have at the party. As a girl named Starr, I have seen and been shown a lot of starry, space-themed, galactic things. Little by little, I started collecting pieces that I wanted to showcase.
Make no mistake: even though I love logistics, this was stressful to plan. I was really unsure of how much food to get, because I wasn’t planning on serving enough to be dinner, but I didn’t want people to be hungry. I wasn’t serving alcohol because I don’t drink, but I haven’t been to a dry adult party… ever…?
I got 2 cakes in case there wasn’t enough. (Spoiler alert: I had way too much cake. Not only did we not touch the 2nd cake, we got through way less than half of the first one. Maybe the biggest mistake of the entire party was ordering that second cake.) A big part of my decoration initially was candy, so then I got to worrying about how many sweets I had. (A lot. It was a lot of sweets.)
I got my first-ever salon manicure in preparation for this, and that was a strange ordeal because the nail tech really wanted to fulfill a vision of different colors with different glitters on all my nails! I was only able to put my foot down so much but I think it still turned out lovely, despite the orange (gr…) and pink glitter bits. She was so convinced that it was a cute polish and she wasn’t wrong. I just wanted… only silver glitter. I lost that battle but I won the war.
I also spent the days leading up the party in a mad panic trying to get the finishing touches and getting express shipping for things that I almost forgot about. Oops. I originally planned to get my hair blown out so I’d have one less unruly thing to worry about, but things don’t always work out the way you plan. There was also the incident where Ben and I spent over an hour searching for an item I could’ve sworn was on the dining table only to later discover it still in the mailbox.
What really came through for the aesthetic of the party was the lights. As nice as the little pieces of decor I had looked, with how large the room was, what really pulled the entire thing together was the 30 strands of fairy lights that I was able to borrow.
Another key show-stopper was my stunning galaxy mirror cake.
A thousand thank yous to Lavande Patisserie and their pastry chef, Chef Andrew for making my dream cake. My friends wanted to do a grand reveal of the cake to me, and I was blown away. It looked even better than I expected!!!
My only regret is that I ordered 2 cakes out of fear that there wouldn’t be enough. As it turns out, people were pretty full and couldn’t even eat 1/3 of the first cake. So… we brought back a LOT of cake…
Oh yeah, and I wore ThinkGeek’s incredible twinkling lights skirt! It was a lot of work to string the lights through it, but I think the result was well worth it.
I am also eternally grateful to my friends who helped me put together the party. Annie, who is a party professional, was invaluable to me, as was Tim, who put together the amazing photobooth.
I wish I had taken more photos of the event, because there were so many starry details that I put together for it. Different lights, different decals, there was an origami lucky star station. The games, the gifts, the wonderful themed outfits my friends wore.
I will have to just cherish all of that in my memory, and I hope my friends will, too.
I’m so grateful that I was able to pull this party off. The best feeling was looking around at all the friends that I’ve made. I have been reflecting a lot on what kind of friendships I have and what kind of friend I am over the past few years, so I am always amazed and appreciative of the friends who choose to spend their time with me.
Thank you to all of my friends who joined me to celebrate stars and space! I had a stellar time and hope you did, too.
There were astronomists and astrophysicists all around with impressive telescopes pointed at the sky. I just missed viewing the sun through a special filter, but I was able to view the moon several times last night. I could see all the craters of the lit parts of the moon and it was beautiful, and this was at dusk. Its brilliance only grew as the sky darkened.
It was incredibly humbling to walk past the Washington Monument, which is undergoing some large-scale renovations to repair the damage done by the 2011 Earthquake.
As it grew darker, we started to see a few stars emerge. I was able to see Venus and Mercury peeking at us through the still-red sky as the sun was setting. Another star would start twinkling at us and then my friend alerted me to the fact that people were focusing their telescopes on Saturn.
Saturn, the 6th planet from the sun and the second largest planet behind Jupiter. It has been my favorite planet for over a decade now; I used to doodle its astronomical symbol in the margins of my classwork. () According to some of my friends, it’s strange to have a favorite planet. Um, my name is Starr, it would be strange if I didn’t have a favorite planet. Or favorite nebula. Or favorite constellation. But I digress.
I love Saturn because of its extraordinary rings and its moons: Saturn has over 60 moons, losing the moon game narrowly to Jupiter. (Although its difficult to accurately count all of either planet’s moons.) I have been fascinated by Saturn since I was first able to name all the planets of the solar system (including Pluto, way back then…).
I stood in the growing line to see Saturn and found myself getting anxious. Would it be just a shining speck like Venus appeared? Would I even be able to see it with my lifelong struggle to look into scopes correctly?
I wasn’t at all disappointed. I looked into the eyepiece, and even though Saturn was moving rapidly out of the field of vision, I could see it. I could see Saturn’s rings, and I could see the shadow that the rings cast against the planet. I could see the Cassini division (the large gap between the rings), and I could see moons. Titan, shining brightly to the left and a few smaller moons behind it.
It was more spectacular that I really could have hoped and I stepped away from the telescope in complete awe. I felt my eyes welling up with tears, and I struggled for a while to understand why I was getting embarrassingly emotional about being able to see Saturn. One of my friends started teasing me: “Is STARR getting STARSTRUCK by the STARS?”
But I was. I was so awestruck by the beauty of Saturn. Was this how Galileo felt when he first saw the rings of Saturn? What was greater, I wonder: the feeling of seeing a planet for the first time and discovering that this celestial body had rings? Or admiring said planet through other people’s eyes for years before being able to look directly at it for the first time?
Even after a minute, I was still stunned speechless. I laid down on the grass, staring up at the gleaming dot that I now knew to be Saturn. The word “mortal” kept entering my mind, as in “How can a mere mortal such as myself behold such beauty in my eyes?” I was still tearing up as I gazed at Saturn, knowing that I was able to see its rings. I eventually got back in line twice for two more looks, and its magnificence wasn’t lost on me a single time.
As I walked away from the event, my thoughts shifted from the magnificence of the heavens to the marvel of mankind. We, as humans, were able to construct a tool that allowed us to look at the multitude of sparkling somethings in the sky and see. I was able to see Saturn, 887 million miles away from Earth, because of the amazing telescopes that were forged by humans, some of which weren’t even automated. Trying to track Saturn as it blazed through space was fascinating in and of itself, but there were telescopes that were programmed to track Saturn as it sped across the sky.
Not only was mankind capable of creating instruments as wondrous as the telescope, but the people at this event were so kind. They traveled from far and wide, many of them citing jetlag from long flights or cramps from hauling their telescopes in their vans. The larger telescopes each cost over $10,000, not including the modifications and maintenance and any repairs. And these scientists allowed the general public to look at the heavens for free. They answered my friends’ questions about why stars twinkle and how did they even get so much cheese on the moon anyway?
I sat on the subway leaving DC thinking about the magnificence of the heavens and the marvel that is mankind.
Be humble, for you are made of earth.
Be noble, for you are made of stars.