When I was little I spent hours designing and drawing detailed moon villages. I even built my dream moon home model out of Lego’s. My Dad appreciated my interest in space exploration so he gave me a blank scrapbook in which to keep the articles and photographs I found on the subject.
In the summer of 1969 when talk of the upcoming Apollo 11 lunar trip was all the news, my obsession grew.
I could hardly sleep for thinking about astronauts Aldridge, Collins and Armstrong having this huge adventure. I wanted to go with them, but only if I could carry my parents, my stuffed animals and my dog.
Lying awake at night in bed, I would wonder what we’d all look like in those space outfits, and where all the pee would go, and if Brandy barked, would we hear it?
I thought the day would never come, but two days before my 9th birthday the U.S. of A. put a man on the moon. The event was broadcast on national television.
We gathered around our little black and white TV set, and my Dad photographed the events off the screen. Mom had taken me to Woolworth’s earlier in the day to buy candy, and Dad popped corn. We snacked as we watched like it was a sci-fi movie and we were at the theater. Only this was real!
(My grandfather died never fully believing that it happened, and truly, it was hard to grasp.)
I remember seeing footage of a control room at NASA back here, on planet Earth in Houston and all those men that Dad said must really be smart. They had flat top haircuts and wore white, short-sleeved dress shirts with dark ties. Some of them had on headphones, and all of them looked a little serious and nervous. It was interesting, but I wanted to see what the astronauts were seeing.
Finally, Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon.
It was magical.
After the broadcast, we went out to the driveway and looked at the moon through the telescope. Of course we could not see much of anything except bright light and a perfect roundness. But I was a kid and I kept thinking maybe, just maybe we’d see the man on the moon.
Dad made jokes about how funny we’d feel if we saw little green people. We were reclining on the lawn furniture, the telescope between us and the expanse of darkness, a billion stars and that beloved moon were above. We shared our wonder at what had taken place and what was left to discover.
It was the only time in my childhood that I felt that my Dad didn’t have all the answers, and that we were on the same playing field with this topic.I mean really, isn’t it mind-boggling to think about what is beyond our solar system? Just how far does the darkness go? Just what’s out there?
Even today my little kid questions repeat themselves in my mind and still, there are no real answers. The mystery is enthralling.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, the conversation on that July night so many years ago was about something deeper than that historical first step on the moon.
That whole event, the chat and the scrapbook were all about dreams and sharing ideas and making historical moments special.
In the fall after the big event, I had an assignment to write a paper on the moon. Dad offered to create a project to go along with it. He coated a large Styrofoam ball with plaster, used various objects to make craters, and then masterfully painted it to look like the real moon.(I wish I had a photo to share with you, but the moon has long since been lost. I think it’s in my parent’s attic.)
Standing before the class, I was very proud while reading my report and holding that moon ever so carefully in the air like a basketball on the fingertips of a Harlem Globetrotter. (My brother, Gary taught me how to do this properly.)
The teachers and my friends were impressed. Mouths were gaping. Eyes were big. I felt complete control. This was actually a very brilliant move on my part. Everyone had their eyes on the moon and not on me, so I could breeze through the report with no fear. I was so wrapped up in the speech that I didn’t notice my balance was going.
The moon fell.
In what felt like slow motion, it rolled off my fingers and hit the floor with a thud. It wobbled and rolled under a desk. The room, instead of being full of laughter, was quiet except for a shared, concerned sigh. No one wanted anything to happen to the moon.
My teacher got down on her hands and knees and found it under Gary Brown’s desk. She handed it back to me with a sympathetic smile. It had a big dent in the side and some of the plaster had fallen off.
I could hardly finish my speech for choking back the tears. I had been given the moon and I had dropped it.
Once home, Dad made a joke about a meteorite, patched it with some more plaster and painted over it. All was well.
Every now and then, I bring out my space travel scrapbook and look through it. There are sloppily glued prints that my Dad made from that TV screen, illustrations from Time magazine and newspaper articles. There are Weekly Readers with stories about futuristic trips to Mars and phones where you can view the caller. (Imagine!)
But mainly what I find in those pages among the stories of an amazing day in history is the sweet memory of sharing this experience with my Dad.
I now realize that although we don’t know what is beyond our solar system, or beyond this very minute of life, that’s what keeps us dreaming.
Always keep wonder in your life (and take a peek at the moon July 21st!)
– Libby Lu
P.S. -Mine Daddy, thanks for making that event so very memorable.