Thursday, July 16, 2009

There's a moon out tonight

Well, today's the fortieth anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.

I was never a huge space buff.

Oh, sure, I watched in awe when Alan Shephard was shot into space, but my awe was equally due to the fact that someone had brought a TV into the classroom. Wow! That never happened. And Alan Shephard wasn't even a Catholic....

And I was interested enough when John Glenn spun around the earth a couple of years later.

Much later on, I did really like the movie The Right Stuff. (Still do.)

But I was never a huge space buff.

I think it ran in the family.

For a while, my father and my aunt had been the paper boy and girl for Dr. Robert Goddard, delivering the Worcester Telegram (or the Evening Gazette) to the Goddards house on Brookline Street. Goddard was a rocket scientist, inventor of the liquid fuel rocket, and the father of the American space program.

None of this inspired awe in my father.

No, most references to the good doctor came when we were taking a "spin" and went up Packachoag Hill. We'd pass the spot where Goddard had done his experimenting, and my father would remind us that the expression of the day when he was a lad was "as crazy as Dr. Goddard."

But on the evening of July 16, 2009, it was hard not to be in awe.

I came home from my shift as a waitress at the Big Boy's in Webster Square, tossed my greasy, reeking uniform - hideous brown cotton skirt, hideous white cotton blouse, hideous orange cotton bow tie - into the washing machine, entered my day's tips in the little red spiral notebook I kept, and sat with the rest of the family to watch "it" on our own little black and white TV.

(If my father wasn't interested in rocketry, he wasn't interested in having a colored TV, either. He'd always say he'd buy one when the color was as good as a Technicolor movie. Well, that didn't happen in his lifetime, apparently, but the family did get one shortly after my father died a couple of years later.)

I don't remember whether we were watching in real-time, or a re-run of the days events, but at one point, my sister Kathleen and I - was her boyfriend with us? what an interloper I was! - went out and sat on the front steps and looked up at the moon.

It was, as I recall, a soft July night.  Very, very black. Our front lawn - my father's pride and joy: who needed a color TV when they had a front yard to groom? - was soft, too. And very, very green. Not a blade of yetchy crab grass. Walking on it felt better than walking on velvet. We were probably drinking lemonade, maybe with grape-juice ice cubes, which turned the lemonade a very, very nice shade of pink.

We all looked up at the moon, as if, if we really looked hard enough, we could see Neil Armstrong setting the flag, and Buzz Aldrin doing whatever Buzz Aldrin did as he followed in Neil Armstrong's footsteps. (Figures, I'm sure we said, that Michael Collins - the Irish guy, and probably a Catholic - stayed in space while the two wasps got to toe the ground on the moon.)

But what was important, of course, was what Neil Armstrong said.

That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.

Forty years one, we sure could use some of both, couldn't we?


valerie said...

You need to write a book -- or a series of books about your childhood. memoir or novel -- either will work. Your memories are so vivid that, endlessly entertaining on their own, they draw mine out of forgotten recesses into immediacy. There's a whole boomer world out there that is slowing down enough to remember rather than strive. And you are a world class rememberer. I'm serious as a heart attack here.

katrog said...

That's "Moony" Goddard to you, bub!

Maureen Rogers said...

I just realized that July 16th was the anniversary of the launch, not the "small step/giant leap". That came on July 20th. The sentiment still holds.