I had a conversation with my dad earlier this evening about that day, just to make sure of the tangle of memories I have . Here is what occurred. My grandmother, Cameron who was my fathers mother, was in town and staying with us; Lolo,who was my maternal grandmother, lived with us - or rather us with her. We had moved in with her very shortly after I had been born, into the huge old house where my mother had been born decades before in the upstairs room.
So we were all there together, both my grandmothers, my parents and me, in one room, watching television. I was immobilized in a leg brace due to the diagnosis of a childhood illness - little did any of us know that I would not walk for four years because of this. It had already made me into a quiet precocious child, reading before I ever got to kindergarten, more aware of the world outside me than most 7 year olds. I had a few toys with me, that I was playing with - a little toy astronaut of sturdy white plastic, and the toy Lunar Landing Module that went with it. I had the astronaut bravely exploring around the blanket I was on, in the shadow of his Lander.
On the screen before me, tiny and reduced to a small moving figure, an astronaut also bravely explored the ground in the shadow of his Lunar Lander..."One small step for man, one giant step for mankind. I was happy, excited, understanding that this was an enormous event in history - I was enthralled with space and the moon - Dad and I had looked at the moon through a small telescope that he had bought us, both of us hanging out my parents bedroom window late at night when there was a full moon, to the amusement of my sleepy mother. I believe even then, at 6 going hard on 7 years of age, I grasped the momentous meaning of what I saw that day, had followed what was happening when I watched the mighty Apollo rocket lift off to take these men to the moon.
What I came to understand later over the years was how momentous it was to two other people in the room that night - Hannah and Cameron. These two women were born in the days of horses and buggies, kept chickens, farmed, raised families when there was no TV, or space ships. Hannah was, unknown to us, nearing the end of her life - she would pass away before the end of the year.
Cameron was to live into the 1980's, reaching her 100th year. Cameron, known to me as Grandmother, had raised 9 children to adulthood, through the horrors of the great Flu epidemic. Deathly ill, and told that neither she, nor her children would live through, she put her children in the bedroom with her and rose from her sickbed hourly to nurse each one - she and all of them pulled through. Now with her children grown, she loved to fly and travel, constantly visiting her scattered family from state to state. This night she sat with her youngest son, my father and his family.
Hannah was a determined career woman, in these decades when women did not hold such jobs. She was county payroll master and a federal marshall - her memories of my home town extended back to it being a muddy main street with patient horses pulling buggies up the steep hill, and later the installation of a street car, sparks flying, whose track now lie buried deep beneath years of pavement. She was a firebrand who's temper was well known, as well as her deep compassion - on top of all this she also raised four children to happy adulthood. Her youngest daughter, Jane, now sat near her with her family.
Both of these women remember this town, this planet when it was a different earth - when men did not pass though unbounded space to reach out and touch the very face of God. They remember milking cows, and dealing with unruly horses, chickens that came not pre-prepared at a store for supper, but instead must be caught and dealt with in the morning, live and flapping, to be dinner that night. They remember a world where science fiction was fantastical; when in grand imaginary stories men told that Mars had canals built by strange in habitants or the Moon was a Nazi base unbeknowst to heroic Allies. These two women lived through the very real horrors of the great World Wars, the forgotten anguish of the Korean War, the shame of Vietnam raging even then as we watched the TV that night 40 years ago.
And that night, these two women, their children, and their granddaughter, me, watched with the rest of the world and marveled as we - the human race - journeyed further than anyone had ever dreamed possible, to set foot upon the Moon. The Eagle had landed.
Remember this day.
Words and Music by Leslie FishWorlds grow old and suns grow cold
And death we never can doubt.
Time's cold wind, wailing down the past,
Reminds us that all flesh is grass
And history's lamps blow out.
But the Eagle has landed;
tell your children when.
Time won't drive us down to dust again.
Cycles turn while the far stars burn,
And people and planets age.
Life's crown passes to younger lands,
Time sweeps dust of hope from his hands
And turns another page.
But we who feel the weight of the wheel
When winter falls over our world
Can hope for tomorrow and raise our eyes
To a silver moon in the open skies
and a single flag unfurled.
We know well what Life can tell:
If you would not perish, then grow.
And today our fragile flesh and steel
Have laid their hands on a vaster wheel
With all of the stars to know
From all who tried out of history's tide,
Salute for the team that won.
And the old Earth smiles at her children's reach,
The wave that carried us up the beach
To reach for the shining sun.
Apollo 11 commemoration ("Hope Eyrie")