From the time I first ordered it to the day I took
it off the wall while cleaning out my parents’ house, I always thought it was a
pretty good gift. Mom seemed to like it, even if it really was only just a
fancy-looking piece of paper. I mean, she hung it on the wall, right?
Mom’s birthday was rolling around and so I started
thinking about what to get her. A few years earlier Mom had said that I always
came up with unique gifts, a compliment that had the effect of both making me
feel good and really putting the pressure on to top myself. And then I saw it.
You’ve seen it, too. Name a star after a loved one,
the ads say. What a romantic notion, you think, and it is, it really is. And
yet I’m not so brain-addled that I don’t recognize that it’s also the dopiest
damn waste of money in the world. And so, I filled out the form and had a star
named after my mom.
If I remember correctly I paid around thirty-nine
bucks for the thing, and received for my money, as mentioned above, a piece of
paper. It was actually a lovely piece of paper, to be sure, shining with
colorful celestial graphics, but a piece of paper all the same. Also on the
piece of paper was, written in a bold gothic style, my mother’s name, along
with the coordinates you needed to find the star, and the location of the
registry where all this information was permanently recorded. I think it was in
Switzerland. Or maybe it was Sweden.
Ah, but here’s the catch. There was also a small booklet
that described my mother’s star, including the sobering fact that it wasn’t visible
without the aid of a telescope, and a rather powerful one at that. So right
there, any fantasy I had about standing outside with my arm around my mom’s
shoulder and pointing up to the heavens to show her her star was out the
window. And I had to buy a frame, too.
Still, as silly as it seems to be, I think that
having a star named after you could someday have benefits that we can barely
even imagine today. What if, say fifty thousand years from now, Earth is
finally visited by those late-arriving space aliens we always hear about. And
what if, by some miracle, they actually are benevolent aliens and, as such, they choose to bring some of us long-dead
humans back to life?
Why don’t they bring all 100 billion people who have
ever lived back to life? How should I know? Maybe they don’t have the
technology for processing that many. Or maybe they don’t have all fucking day. And so now they have a big decision to make.
Who should we bring back? they wonder. Their world
leaders? God, no. That’s how they went extinct in the first place. How about their
celebrities? Screw them, they’ve had enough fun. If only there was some sort of
list…I got it! All these people on this registry we found in Switzerland (or
Sweden) have had a star named after them. A star! They must have been
absolutely extraordinary to earn such an honor!
And, one more what if, by an astounding coincidence,
these aliens happen to hail from the very same star that bears the name of one
of these long-dead humans? Well, this lucky soul just won the galactic lottery.
Not only will they surely be the very first person brought back, but they’ll be
treated like a superstar for the rest of their life, which just might be
forever. Wow, that would really be something. I hope it’s my mom.