Saturday, July 20, 2013

Moonlanding Day: Witnessing that Small & GIant Step. Thanks Dad.

On July 20, 1969, at 8:00 p.m. I had to go to bed, just like any other night.

But at 10:30 p.m., my father woke my brother and me up. It’s one of the kindest things he ever did for us, making sure that since we were on the planet, we would see this event to top all events live, not just in replay.

I was in a dead sleep when he came to wake me. I remember getting up, completely groggy, and being freezing. We got downstairs, and I was so cold my dad got a blanket to wrap me in. My mom had wine glasses filled with Tom Collins soda for us. The images on the little black and white tv were shadowy, but defined.

I don’t remember us talking much. but it didn’t matter. The family was together, waaay past my bedtime, joining the world in watching a man broadcasting images from the surface of the moon. It’s the kind of first-person experience for which there is no substitution.

I had watched all the lead-up to coverage the whole day, some of which I actually remember. I know it was the first time I saw the Melies Brothers, A Trip to the Moon. 

I don't think I ever fully woke up at 10:30pm. I probably stayed up until midnight and then went back to bed. But I cherish those moments of first witness like no other because it was a celebration of one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments. Most other “where were you” moments are of death and destruction.

Fly Me to the Moon
Ever since Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis, the Sun and the Moon have filled our thoughts and helped to inform our longings. When I see the moon rise in my living room window, I marvel at its mutability: sometimes appearing low and large in the sky, sometimes red and small.

Shelley wrote a winsome poem about the orb, so quietly powerful that it sets the tides and rules the cycles of women:

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

And Van Heusen and Burke wrote a lovely song “Moonlight Becomes You,” that Crosby owned.

“If I say I love you
I want you to know
It’s not just because there’s moonlight
Although, moonlight becomes you so.”

The issues surrounding NASA and the space program are serious ones. But on each anniversary, it’s enough to honor the vision, and accomplishment, of the first humans to visit the Sea of Tranquility.


kathleenmaher said...

Such a rich recollection, M.A.
I would not have noticed the anniversary and can not remember seeing the moon walk at the time.
Perhaps I didn't. It's difficult to imagine my parents weren't interested and usually I paid keen attention to whatever concerned them. But with this, I've seen only re-plays, which never look real to me.

M.A.Peel said...

Thanks Kathleen. That "unreal" look to the footage lead to years of conspiracy theories that the landing happened on a sound stage in Hollywood. Which was the subject of the movie Capricorn One, with OJ Simpson!