Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The space between my ears.

One advantage to having children is that you get to do wonderful things that you may never get around to otherwise. Going to the Kennedy Space Center -- to the fabled, exotic, unreachable Cape Canaveral of my childhood -- was extraordinary and deeply moving.

As I reminded Primus, when I was his age -- Valentine's Day was his eleventh birthday -- I was in my first year of the English equivalent of Middle School, and we were riveted by the Christmas lunar orbit of Apollo 8. (The "Santanauts" as Liverpool poet Roger McGough called them at the time.) The first men to come close to the lunar surface, the first men to see the far side (not the "dark side," despite Pink Floyd) of the moon. Primus was, of course, kind enough to calculate exactly how many years stretched between our respective eleventh birthdays.

For me, the Apollo program resonates like no other. I have vague childhood memories of Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn, and I kept my interest up for Skylab and the Shuttle, but it was the moon, the moon that captured my adolescent imgination. To this day, I can barely utter the words "Tranquility Base here -- the Eagle has landed" without choking up. And I remember that summer morning in 1969, when I woke up to see those ghostly, grainy black and white images on our grainy black and white television of Armstrong and Aldrin already out of the Eagle and onto the pallid surface of the moon. The moon!

Today, I ate my lunch under a Saturn V rocket, laid horizontally and suspended from a museum ceiling. Impossibly huge and utterly cool. And I almost wept when watching the highly effective simulation of the Apollo 8 launch, as experienced in the interior of the actual launch control room.

And it's while I'm lost in reverie as I'm calculating the best possible setting for a hand-held, low-light photograph of the casts of the hands of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins that I hear those immortal words whispered in my ear: "Dad, I need to use the bathroom."

One disadvantage of having children . . .

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