I had the good fortune of growing up in a small mountain town with clear, unpolluted skies. And like much of my good fortune I was too dumb to recognize or take advantage of it, so that when I went off to college I couldn't name any constellations (maybe the big dipper). In college, I made a brief effort to learn some constellations, but lost interest and never got much farther than Orion. By the time I hit graduate school, I was pretty interested in science, and so was interested in things like black holes and the universe in general -- but still never went out looking at stars.
Towards the end of graduate school, while writing my PhD thesis, I thought it would be nice to buy my dad a telescope for Christmas, as he used to do a fair amount of stargazing. So I began researching the issue -- and became so doggone interested, nay, obsessed, that I started to figure, heck with 'ol dad. Not very healthy as far as a PhD thesis is concerned, and Chicago isn't exactly a prime observing spot, but I was able to get in a bunch of good observing sessions, both with friends and alone. (In fact, once I got busted by the cops, for being in a forest preserve after sundown, which made me feel like a REAL astronomer).
Now, it just so happens that I got a job in the same town as dear old dad, and knew I would be staying at his place until I found one of my own, so... well, what a great gift a nice scope would be for dad, right? And those clear mountain skies are just perfect for deep sky observing, so I bought an 8 inch Newtonian scope (Celestron Starhopper, if you're interested) for dad (i.e. me!). Naturally I took it for several test drives before wrapping it up. I mean, this is my dad, right? I don't want to give him something that doesn't even work, right? And I was never alone with Miss Lewinsky, right?
For myself, I also bought a pair of binoculars. You can read about my equipment elsewhere, but between the binos and the scope I have had many thoroughly enjoyable viewing sessions, both in Chicago and in Los Alamos. As a rank amateur, I can only look forwards to all the new adventures and discoveries to come.