The Stars Are a Comforting Constant

The first time I saw a meteor, I’d slipped outside to lie in the grass after everyone else had gone to sleep. The daytime commotion of my cousins’ and siblings’ games and my Poppop’s blaring polka music often drove me to tears. As an introvert, I wanted nothing more than to escape the chaos of my childhood and let the quiet of the night sky comfort me.

I grew up in an economically depressed Pennsylvania coal town as the middle kid in a poor blue-collar family. My parents never read to me or talked about the stars; they were too busy working, my dad as a painter in a factory, and my mother as a short order cook. I spent most of my childhood reading anything I could get my hands on, which wasn’t much—tattered and incomplete set of encyclopedias, the odd science book from my school library, and

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