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September 5th, 2012

That was one giant man, taking that step

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

            “I’m gonna go up there someday.” The young man crouched in his parents’ backyard, squinting into the eyepiece of a telescope.
            His mother followed his gaze, up to the bright globe hovering over their back yard. “To the Moon?”
            “Sure. It’s 1962, Ma -- they’re sending up rockets and such. And I’m a pilot -- who’d be better for flying that far than a pilot?”
            She shook her head, still looking toward the Moon, her mouth downturned. “As if your life wasn’t dangerous enough, you want to go out into space. Sometimes I don’t think we raised you with a lick of sense.”
            He grinned, and enveloped his mother in a hug. Neither was much of a talker, but they understood each other.  “I’ll bring you back a Moon rock. Or cheese.”
            “Just bring me back yourself.” She turned away from the gray orb, back toward the comforts of her home and the things she knew and understood. How things had changed since her son was born: World Wars, Cold Wars, rockets into space, that crazy interstate highway idea. And her little boy flying around in jet fighters, fending off the Red Menace.
            “That’s gotta be the first step, Ma. You’ve seen the movies -- we’re destined to go out into space, someday, explore the stars. We’re headed up a ladder, and the Moon is the first rung.”
            “Well.” At the door she turned back, to see her son standing there in his uniform, still staring up. Maybe he’d be safer in a spacesuit, after all. “If you’re going to do all that, you need to keep your strength up. You get in here and eat your supper before it gets cold, Neil Armstrong.”
            Neil’s smile seemed to say that no matter what he accomplished, his mother would always be his mother.
#

I wrote that for a writer’s group a few years ago, trying to capture what it must have been like for a young man about to push the edge of technology, to become a true pioneer. I don’t know if any moment like that ever happened (the real Armstrong was already married at that point), but if so, it would have happened just a couple of hours drive from where I grew up, and from where I marveled at his accomplishments as a kid.Collapse )

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