Encased in mummy bags borrowed from our host, we lay side-by-side beneath the stars. Nine teenagers, journeying across the U.S. to various Colorado camps, adventuring to the tutelage of a wanderlust trio: our chaperone and her twin girls. This trio enveloped us with their memories of this wild landscape, eager for us to experience epic vistas and shooting stars, as they had year after year after year.
I was 17. I had worked hard at Shoney’s to save for this month-long experience; endured greasy cornbread and repetitive dreams of refilling coffee to add each dollar tip to my thickening wad. I longed for my own adventure, to see west of the Mississippi through the eyes of the twins whom I adored.
We slept on the floor of friends in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Colorado until finally, we slept on the floor of the Rockies. A mid-summer campout near the Arkansas River beneath the expansive sky was where I saw my first shooting star. We counted them, over and over, until one by one, we began to drift toward sleep.
Whitewater rafting, a near-death descent of a 14,000 ft. mountain, cowboy meals, and an alpine lake plunge became material for the epic recounting of our stories, but they never approximated the extent of the change that had occurred in my soul. Small town Virginia was too small to hold that change. I had slept beneath an exploding sky. A ravenous hunger had awakened. With hard work, a wad of tips, and inspiring friends, I had tasted beauty, story, adventure. I ached with how much space it lay hold of inside.
Less than a year later I met my husband. On the phone. He was already at the Chicago university I was considering and I called to learn more. In the space of an hour we would learn that he lived mere miles from the Colorado floor I slept on, that his mother prayed with our host, that he become a believer through the same student ministry as I had on the opposite side of the country, and that he missed the same Colorado sky that now filled my dreams.
My twin friends would tease me all summer; predict that one day, I would marry this boy and live in Colorado. I would meet him face to face with butterflies already taking residence in my gut, say yes too eagerly to a first date, and walk the aisle before graduation.
The path between that phone call and Colorado address looked more like a constellation than a shooting star and has been the journey of two ravenous souls who both know the havoc of an exploding sky. We would spend every dime on a honeymoon to Italy, move with our one-year old to the Middle East, cruise the Nile months after a temple bomb, explore Israel by ourselves, take a two-month old to Honduras for a wedding, start businesses and nonprofits and keep moving to places where we knew no one.
Together, we tasted beauty, story, adventure.
We would also bury teammates, see the inside of more emergency rooms than any young parent should have to, have seasons when new toilet bowl brushes were a luxury, experience betrayal, suffer anxiety, lose one of the twins to cancer, and finally make a home in the State of our dreams just as our praying mother descended into dementia.
How can we ever know what one yes will yield? Yes to waitressing and yes to the dreaming trio and yes to sleeping under the stars instead of a tent. Yes to Northwestern University and yes to a double date for Italian and yes to a man whose soul ached as much as mine. Yes to risk and faith and vision. And yes to penny pinching, starting over each morning, and to loving a mother who no longer remembers us.
How could I have known, shivering in the Colorado night air, counting them one after another, that the odd sensation I felt was birthing a life?
A yes that has yielded a life. One achingly beautiful life that began with a shooting star.
Beth Bruno is passionate about issues of injustice and a global sisterhood. Often, this looks like curating the stories and work of incredible women and calling her two teen daughters at least once a day to “come watch this.” Married for 23 years, she and her husband share a love for dark chocolate, dark coffee, and bold wine, among other passions. Their son is headed to college so Beth is not thinking about it by nursing an obsession with Turkish hot air balloons and European villages on her Instagram feed.