Tag Archives: Apollo 11

Tearful

I’m a sap.  And I know it.

Charlie Ingram, several years ago, was elated when I reacted to his singing with joyful tears at a voice lesson.  “Everyone knows that when they get you to cry, they are singing really well,” he told me.

At my first viewing of Les Miserables, years ago in Kansas City, I sat in tearful silence during intermission, and proceeded to cry through the second act.  The Nutcracker inevitably reduces me to tears at the final scene.  My niece Anna didn’t understand my body-wracked, Merkel-esque tears and quivers the last time I saw (with her in NYC) the big “Seize the day” dance break in Newsies.

Give me a happy or meaningful moment with a student, a dying moment in a movie, any dog in duress, and I’m gone.

So I’ve spent a few days trying to figure out what about the Apollo 11 anniversary makes me so weepy.  Memories of a happy moment in my childhood?  Wonder at the incredible determination of hundreds of thousands of Americans those many years ago?  Awe at the vital spirit of discovery and exploration?  Loss of a time that was easier, when we believed our leaders and revered Walter Cronkite? Grief over the fact that those days will never come again?  All of the above?


Sunday morning. Two weeks since I’d last worked up the sourdough, so after making and resting the dough on Saturday evening, I baked on Sunday morning.


Why did a whole pot of petunias die?  I’m replacing them with vinca.


Summer holiday is down to ten days and counting.  And I still have so much to do.  My new compost barrel is not going to build itself. And the basement is not going to clean itself.  And the books are not going to read themselves.


I’m hurting today for one of my private students who is in some duress.  Kids can be so insanely cruel.

50 years

I’ll leave it to those more eloquent than me to write paeans about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

And I’ll link an article later.

On this day 50 years ago, I had just turned eight years old.  Space launches were a big deal in the late 1960s, and I remember watching almost every lift-off . . . the thrill of the countdown, the excitement of all that smoke from the launch pad, and then the amazement of seeing that Saturn rocket take men toward outer space.

July 20, 1969 was a Sunday.  I don’t have any recollection of the afternoon, of the live broadcast on all three channels (imagine that!) of a simulation of the moon landing.

But I do remember being ready for bed after church that evening — we attended Fifth Street Baptist Church in Hannibal, and Sunday included two services — but my parents wisely telling me to stay up and watch the telly.  “You will want to remember this, to tell this story some day,” they said.

So I’m telling the story.

Thus it was that on this day, 50 years ago, my eight-year-old self watched Neil Armstrong take a step onto the moon.  And heard those immortal words:  “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

I don’t recall how long I stayed up that evening.  But I do bless my parents for requiring me to stay awake to see this world-changing moment.  As I age, the memory of this moment, now distilled through 50 years and sentimentalism and my own tendency to revere life-changing moments, reduces me to tears. As it does right now, as I write.

I was dimly aware of the turmoil of the last three years of the 1960’s.  I remember asking my parents about Viet Nam and death counts on the news, about Bobby Kennedy, about who they were voting for in the 1968 election (they wouldn’t tell me, but Mom said “I think our votes will cancel each other’s” and I’ve always assumed Mom voted for Humphrey while Pop voted for Nixon), about why students were killed at Kent State.  I was a precocious kid.

And easily moved, too.  The Olympics opening ceremony made me cry.  So did “My old Kentucky home” at the Kentucky Derby.  Still does. Still do.

So the memory of the moon landing and what happened 50 years ago today is emblazoned in my formation.  Thanks be to God.