In the summer of 1969, my family drove from southern California to the state of Washington. We were going to visit my father’s family and have a good long stay. My uncle and aunt lived in a very small town. It had a tiny grocery store with a post office, a school and not much else. At the front of their house, there was a screened porch  with a few old stuffed chairs. This was where I read Charles Dickens’ A TALE OF TWO CITIES. I have no idea why I read that book that summer. It was not on a reading list, but it was a book that I embraced and it certainly took me away from life in rural Washington. This was farm country. There were not too many television stations, but the big hit was Hee Haw…a variety show for those who loved country music and country humor.

It was hot. You could walk the creek barefoot and start to feel a little cooler. It was a summer of little boys playing baseball and of us sitting in the stands cheering on our cousin. It was the perfect time for watermelon seed spitting contests. There were sleepless nights because of sunburns on our backs and waiting for the skin to peel. And it was a time for the moon to become a parking lot.

On the night that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, all of us were in front of the TV. We were watching Walter Cronkite explain what was going on and why this was such a big deal. My mom jumped up and said to my sister and I and our four cousins “come outside and let’s see history.” We all followed her to the front yard and we stood there wondering what in the world were we doing. My mom pointed up to the moon and said “oh my god, I can see him….can you see him moving up there?” The six of us stared up at the moon following the angle of my mother’s finger and we finally realized what we were looking at. “yeah, we can see him!” My mom said “we should wave at him…if we can see him, then maybe he can see us.” And so we waved and jumped up and down. The older cousins knew how ridiculous this was, but it didn’t matter, we were waving at an astronaut. We were barefoot and hot on this July night and we thought the moon was smiling upon us.

The death of Neil Armstrong made news around the world. The Dutch press have given a lot of time to what Armstrong did and why it is important to remember him. His death has brought us back to that extraordinary summer and it is a good thing that we remember men bouncing on the moon. When I heard of Armstrong’s death, I thought of us looking up at the sky and listening to my mother cheer on the landing on the moon. And who really knows the truth? Maybe my mom was right, maybe Neil Armstrong did see us waving at him. And maybe, just maybe, he waved back. We will never really know, will we?

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  • Sandra  On August 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Thank you for the good summer story and tribute to this great astronaut. Your mother sounds pretty great too.

  • Jean Langley  On August 31, 2012 at 1:53 am

    That moon walk was one of those events that people remember if they were fortunate enough to have been alive then. It was one of the rare events that was positive and exciting.
    It’s hard to know while in the U.S. what things are deemed newsworthy in other nations, so thanks for sharing that the Dutch made note of the significance of Armstrong and his accomplishment. I hope Armstrong gets to play out there in outer space all he wants, now. Maybe he’ll drop in on Curiosity.

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