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Seeing The Eclipse Through Just The Right Pair Of Eyes

Tom Bullock

Large crowds gathered all over North and South Carolina Monday to view the eclipse.

I chose to watch the celestial show with just one other person - someone who has just the right amount of experience to really see it.

That person is six years old.

"I'm going to be on the radio?"

And more than a bit precocious.

"Oh my gosh! I'm going to be in front of a lot of people!"

Meet our daughter Charlie, though for radio she decided to go with her full first name. "Hi everybody in Charlotte," she says proudly into my microphone, "I'm named after you."

Charlotte Bullock was told never to look at the sun. Because if you do, she says "Your eyes will have eye problems."

Credit Tom Bullock / WFAE
View of partial eclipse through special glasses

But when I pulled out a pair of eclipse glasses yesterday, her response was a happy, "Whah?"

For me, this was more than just a chance to watch something cool with our eldest daughter.

I wanted to see the eclipse not just through my eyes, but also through hers. And it stopped her in mid-sentence. "Yeah, I see" she paused. That silence went on for 20 seconds. Her mouth wide open in unabashed awe.

Then it kicked back into gear. "It looks like the sun has a frown on it."

She's right.

We did not see totality. A small bit of sun peeked out over the moon, making an unmistakable frown.

But Charlotte's face showed nothing but smiles. "Oh my gosh!" she gasped, before asking, "Can this happen with the other planets?"

More questions flooded out. Faster than I could answer.

Credit Tom Bullock / WFAE
The sun's 'frown' as described by Charlotte Bullock

The eclipse was spectacular for sure. But this is what I was really here to see. As we grow up and gain experience, we somehow lose our ability to just sit and wonder. To revel in the joys of just watching something cool. We can still do it, just sadly not in the pure way a six year old can.

With experience our minds become too rigid, too structured. To focused on the "what", instead of the "what if."

After the eclipse Charlotte asked me if she could be a chemist and an astronaut when she grows up. Really, she did. Yes, I said, so long as you let your mind always wonder about "what if."

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.