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Bring the Family: how to make your eclipse experience last for generations

Two children and their mother sit on folding chairs as they watch the 2017 total solar eclipse in a field
Scott Fybush
The reporter's family watches the 2017 total solar eclipse in Marion, Kentucky.

WXXI's Scott Fybush was fortunate enough to travel to the 2017 total solar eclipse in Kentucky. In this installment of his series "What to Expect When You're Expecting an Eclipse," we find out what his family thought of the experience, and how they'll remember it for decades to come.

Want to blow the mind of your nearest kids? Just make sure they’re outside, with eclipse glasses on hand, for one of the greatest shows the sky can put on for them.

“It was very impressive,” says my son, Eli. He’s in high school now, but he was just nine when we drove through the night to get to Kentucky for the 2017 eclipse.

“You don’t really get anything else like it," says my daughter, Ari. She was 14 when we made the trip, and she’s in college now. For both of them, the experience left lasting memories.

“I think that was one of the most impressive things - I got, like, a panorama just all around. Like a consistent kind of sunset view. And that was really fantastic," she recalls.

“I remember the ring of light around the corona of the sun, is that what it’s called, but what I think was most impressive was how it became night. The animals started making noises, and I thought that was the coolest part of it,” Eli remembers.

That’s not exactly what he said at the time, of course.
“It looks like dark magic," he said back then.

We were all shouting and screaming and clapping that afternoon in Marion, Kentucky, and as much as I treasure the pictures I took of the blacked-out sun in the sky, it’s the video camera that I set up on the hood of the car pointed at us watching the eclipse that provided the best record of the day.

I’ll have that camera set up again this year to capture my family as we watch the eclipse at home. It’s a moment we’ve been anticipating ever since we first saw totality in Kentucky.

“I can’t wait to see you again in seven years, eclipse!,” Eli shouted in 2017. Now, he says, “I remember looking forward after 2017 and thinking, wow, I’ll be old, it’s far away, and now I know it’s the present.”

A total eclipse is many stories all at once: it’s what’s happening overhead, which is what everyone sees. But it’s also the individual experience each of us has along the way - the one that’s happening around us on the ground before, during and after totality.

For young kids, it might be as cool as seeing the crescent of the sun near totality, projected through leaves on a tree or the holes of a colander. Anything with holes will work, even a Ritz cracker. For older kids, it can be a deeper science lesson about how the orbits of the Earth and the Moon create an eclipse. For anyone who’s traveling to see the big moment, it’s all the tales of a road trip. For my family, the story we still tell about the 2017 eclipse started a couple of hours before totality.

Eli: “There was a little diner where we had lunch.”

Ari: “We’re making small talk with the locals and everybody was so impressed that there was like a whole crowd there for the eclipse.”

Eli: “The people were nice and then as we were walking out…”

Ari: “And on the way out, heading out from lunch, this old guy -”

Eli: “Actually I can’t remember if he was old, but he was a nice guy, and he walked out and said…”

Ari: “...he said y’all have yourselves a good eeee-clipse”

Eli: “Y’all have yourselves a good eeee-clipse”

Ari: “And it just, it made the day.”

Whatever your family’s eeee-clipse - or rather, eclipse - story turns out to be, young eclipse viewers will have more opportunities to make these memories than our generation did.

That 2017 eclipse was the first time totality hit North America since 1979. But three total solar eclipses will cross the continent in the 2040s and 2050s, and then there’s another cycle 20 years after that. If your kids get hooked on the experience now, this won’t need to be a once in a lifetime event for them. And you can start right now making sure they have memories to preserve for future eclipses.

“I think it will be cool to see the eclipse in New York City in 2079,” Eli says.

They’ll be in their seventies for that one, and I’ll be long gone - but I think of my kids, and yours too, as a sort of living time capsule. They’ll be telling their families about totality in Rochester when they were kids - and about the “good eeeee-clipse” that started it all for them before that.

You'll hear Scott in various capacities on WXXI either as a reporter, or hosting Morning Edition or All Things Considered.