Yeah … I remember the summer of ’69. Vividly. That Apollo mission. We were landing men on another world.
For me, it was the stuff of science fiction beamed right into my living room, just as neat and wonderous as any Frankenstein or monster movie or any favorite cartoon of the time. I may have been just a kid, but it was one of those things I’ll never forget: The first man to set foot on the moon.
The images radiated gloriously out the behemoth black and white console television parked in our family’s living room. (And let me tell you: that console was monster huge. When I say “parked in our living room” I ain’t foolin’ …) I remember the knob on the set with its black dial and yellowing plastic channel numbers, the weird interweaved black and tan mesh covering the speakers that smelled of jute, the rich wood cabinet the cathode ray tube was housed in. That particular Sunday night, my father had the volume turned full blast (there were lots of people in the house viewing the landing), tweets and beeps and static coming at us as the about-to-be-first-man-on-the-moon, Neil Armstrong, stated his intentions to step out on the surface of Earth’s only natural satellite. I was cross-legged on the floor, I had a glass of milk in hand with my jaw practically on the floor watching the entire spectacle. It was an amazing moment in my youth — I knew, even then, there was something pretty cool going on. I will forever recall his words.
Years later, I got into modeling. I distinctly remember putting together an official replica of the Apollo 11 lunar module with my father, something I was not only proud of building, but which I spent hours and hours studying, recreating Armstrong’s decent onto the moon. (Was it an Aurora model kit? I don’t know. But I do know it was destroyed time and again when my mother came into my room every Saturday afternoon to dutifully clean, effectively destroying my beloved model with her efforts to rid it of dust.) I can’t tell you how many times I chanted “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as if it was me stepping on the slippery surface of the moon.
There are moments in life that touch you and that you remember, whether they be with fondness or with pain. Today does both: It opens up a specific memory from my youth while at the same time leaving a hole in my heart.
Rest in peace, Neil. Because of you, I still have dreams of heading into space and touching down on some alien surface.