Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


I realized that no summer would ever be like the one when I was nine years old.

You have to realize, I was a space junkie from the time I was old enough to recognize toys. One of my favorite childhood toys was a little rocket that you put water in and pumped it up with what looked like a bicycle pump that hooked to the nozzle of the rocket, adding air pressure to the water. Then you flipped the guard back, and the rocket took off and the water spewed out all over you as it went about 20 or so feet in the air.

I would have played with it thousands of times, but my dog Peetee kept running off with the rocket. I probably went through have a dozen replacement rockets, between the seals cracking on the nozzle at the bottom, and the dog tooth marks in the rocket.

In June 1969, we visited my great-uncle in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Of course we had to go visit the Kennedy Space Center en route. I still have a picture of me, dwarfed by the "creeper" that carried the Apollo rockets to the launch pad. In those pre-Homeland Security days, you were allowed a lot closer to Big Government Things. Although we couldn't go "right up to it", we could get closer to Apollo 11 on the launch pad than people would be allowed to be at the time of launch.

I remember being filled with a sense of wonder that "this thing was going all the way to the moon." The other vivid memory for me was seeing the computer room that would help guide it there. It seemed the entire knowledge of the universe was in that room, with its whirring tape spools, the blinking lights, the analog (yes, analog) number counters all over it, and what looked like adding machine tape spewing out from it. That computer seemed as mighty as God. (Now I laugh about the fact my cell phone probably has more memory!)

Another great wonder they had in the room full of "everyday astronaut stuff" was this magical stuff called...Velcro. I remember hoping that all the rest of us could have Velcro someday! I have to remind myself that now, when I grumble about picking the lint off of Velcro on garments and travel bags. I DID yearn for the stuff!

I HAD to have "space stuff." I drank Tang, knowing "that's what the astronauts drink." I ate some God-awful weird little peanut butter flavored things that looked like Slim Jims that Pillsbury had on the market called "Space Food Sticks." (Definitely a fad food.) On our trip to the space center, I would not have left without two souvenirs--a scale model of Apollo 11, and one of those ink pens that "writes upside down in space." There probably weren't many occasions one needed to write upside down in Macon, MO, but I was definitely going to be ready.

Walter Cronkite and I were buddies--at least it seemed so. He and I sure did a lot of space launches together--I remember watching every detail of the Gemini missions together--including the funerals of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee during an exercise in the ill-fated never launched Apollo 1.

But July 20 became a benchmark day in my life. I have so many childhood summer memories, but they, over the years, have become a blurred line in my brain, only fleeting thoughts--mere blips of time. But pretty much the whole day of July 20, 1969 stands alone in that blurred line.

I remember it was roughly around suppertime when the Lunar Module landed. I had been "antsy" all day waiting for it. I was over at my grandparents' house all day waiting. "Space stuff" was something best shared by my grandparents and me, for some reason. We had the TV on much of the day in case a bulletin interrupted the normal programming. You have to remember leaving the TV on, unattended, was a no-no in those days. It was "a waste of electricity." It "wore out the tubes." It might even catch on fire! At least those were the common admonishments of the day.

Then, of all things, they were announcing this landing at SUPPERTIME! I (successfully) begged to get to eat in front of the TV. We ALL ate in front of the TV this time. I imagine I was the handy excuse. Then they announced it would be "a few hours" before the first lunar excursion. Sheer torture for someone whose bedtime was 8:30 p.m.!

I knew that I was not going to last. As I fell asleep on the couch, I once again begged to be awakened when it started. My grandparents were true to their word. I remember watching Neil Armstrong, at first half-awake, then waking up all the way quickly. The shadowy black and white images seemed so mysterious. It was the MOON, after all!

My grandmother, always a bit of a scoffer, liked remarking, "Just you wait till all those moon creatures jump out and eat them. Everyone thinks they're nothing on the moon, but you wait. Not little green men, either. Monsters." The truth was, the more she scoffed, the more you realized she was interested. After all, this was the woman who pressed her nose right up to the glass at the zoo and looked at the snakes and went, "Yuck." This was the woman who later, in 1999, would remark, "I want to live at least to 2000. I want to see if all the computers screw up and the world goes to Hell in a handbasket or not. That will be interesting."

I had been talking a mile a minute all day, and I think I was so silent during that broadcast, I shocked my grandparents. I like to think now that even then, as loquacious a child as I was, I innately knew when to shut up in the presence of God's awe.

I remember really needing to go outside and look at the moon when it was all over, as late as it was, and as tired as I was. My grandparents went out with me for a while, and we chatted a little, in that understated "How 'bout that" sort of way Midwesterners do, and then they went back into the house to leave me alone with it. I remember just looking at the moon and thinking, "Wow. Right now there are people on the moon. They're eating and drinking and walking around, and even peeing!" I spent a lot of time out there, saying nothing, alone. I wanted to go there. I wanted to know every secret there was to be known in space. When I think about it now, I wonder if that wasn't the first time I learned to just simply sit silent in the presence of things bigger than me.

Tonight, I went outside and looked at the moon, even though tonight it was just a teeny-tiny sliver, thinking about those footprints, and the space detritus still there. How much has it aged, how much has it deteriorated, compared to me? Less? More? There I was, gray and white in my hair now, a few wrinkles on my face...but the awe is still as young as that nine-year-old forty years ago. My, what places it has taken me, thanks be to God.

3 comments:

Great memory. Goes well with your blog banner, too.

The honor of being the first to step foot on the Moon was originally mean for Virgil "Gus" Grissom, the Masonic martyr with strange, semiotic connections to Barackobamun. But Gus fell victim to an allegedly accidental fire aboard Apollo...
Documentary video:Gus Grissom-video

Kirke, it your services sound lovely. I emailed you a Picasa photoshop of the interior of your church lightened up some.

We have a good many faculty from Nicholls State University here in Thibodaux in our congregation, so the university crowd is well-reprented here, too.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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