I was ten years old when astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made their historical Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. It happened on a Sunday, between morning and evening church services, which is fortunate because had it been a few hours earlier or later, I'd have missed it. Moon landing or not, nobody in our house ever got to skip church unless they were sick. And by sick you either had to have a fever over 100 degrees or throw up, both rather hard to fake.
I know this because I tried many times to fool my parents so I could stay home to watch Wonderful World of Disney. One time I went so far as to eat pickles and ice cream, then let my sister spin me around in a plastic sledding saucer because The Wizard of Oz was going to be on. It didn't work, other than to make me queasy for the next couple hours which, of course, I spent at church. As if the upset stomach wasn't torture enough, I still had to listen to my peers going on and on about the amazing movie at school the next day.
Not only were the astronauts kind enough to land on the moon at three in the afternoon, but they waited to take their moon walk until after evening services let out. I raced across the street and gathered around our black-and-white set with my parents and six siblings. I knew this was a big deal. Not just because we'd read about it in our Weekly Reader or because I was allowed to stay up past my nine o'clock bedtime. It was a big deal because my parents usually spent Sunday evenings lingering over coffee and pastries with one or two of the deacons and their wives, but on this night they came straight home after the last Amen.
My dad wasn't too keen on the whole space exploration thing. He believed that if the good Lord wanted us to walk on the moon he would've put us there in the first place. I don't recall much about what I saw on TV that night other than the squeals and shushing between my siblings as the big event unfolded. What I remember most is laying in bed afterward, worrying about those two men up there so far away. How the heck they were supposed to make it all the way back home? What if a whale swallowed their tiny pod when it crashed into the sea, just like the one that swallowed Jonah in the Bible, perhaps punishment for going against the laws of God?
Of course they did land safely and the rest is history, but I remain fascinated by the idea of we humans having the ambition to send a spaceship to the moon. Nearly fifty years later I realize every grand idea starts with a small spark of imagination. For some, it's the idea of planting a flag on the moon. For others, it's merely planting one word in front of the other, day after day after livelong day. Y'all are my rocket fuel. And when that book finally hits the shelf? That's my eagle landing. That's my flag. One small step for a woman. One giant leap of faith.
What about you? Where were you when Apollo 11 landed?* What small steps are you taking to launch YOUR dreams?
*For those of you born too late, ask your parents. ;)
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