Monday, July 20, 2009

one giant leap for mankind...


40 years ago today, I was 8 years old, staying at a rented cottage near Haliburton, Ontario with my Mom and Dad and my two younger sisters aged 3 1/2 and 3 months. At that point in her newbie life, my youngest sister was the baby from hell. I think Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin could probably hear her collicky wails from the moon. Our temporary cottage neighbours definitely could. Luckily one of them was a doctor and prescribed a drug to calm her down. I think it was a narcotic. Nowadays, we grin and bear collicky babes. Back then, we drugged them.

Our vacation that summer continues to be dredged up during conversations when nostalgic family vacations are served up. The unnerving wails that literally kept us awake, especially my Mom night after night was only part of it. The cottage, nestled on the shores of Blue Lake turned out to be a sham of sorts. It had been advertised by the owners as a comfortable haven with all the amenities including a fresh water clean lake perfect for swimming. I think they even sent my Dad photos. Needless to say, it did not live up to its description. The cottage was pretty bare and all of the furniture was primitive uncomfortable. No comfort was found. And the lake? It was the colour of murky green algae complete with slimey reeds and muck on the bottom. I recall a water snake hovering around the dock too.

This was my Mother's worst nightmare, and I think it was the last nail in the coffin of ever considering the idea of buying a cottage.....something my Father has lobbied for years. Blue Lake continues to be the benchmark for how a vacation destination can go awry. Everyone laughs about it now ..... and I bet it was discussed today in my childhood home as the world recognizes the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11's successful landing on the moon. It was most certainly what I've been thinking about today. Why? Because the other memorable part of this trip was watching the fuzzy screen of our black and white TV which had accompanied us for the sole purpose of watching Neil Armstrong take that first step on the Moon's surface.

The TV reception was very poor.......you could just make out a blurry outline of Armstrong and every now and then the picture would clear a bit more. But, we had sound.....and we were connected to millions of others who were also absorbing this unbelievable feat.

It's difficult to describe to anyone who wasn't born then how monumental the event was at the time. Given that the space program basically fizzled out and trips to the Moon and proposed attempts to reach Mars was shelved after Apollo 17, this remarkable feat lost its grand enormity in the annals of history. Plus, there's an almost lax attitude, 40 years later...... one that almost dismisses the importance of the event. But, on that day when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin donned their big bulking space gear and bounced off the steps of the module..........the whole world held its breath in awe and excitement.

Anything seemed possible then.....even quieting a collicky baby.

ps. My baby sister, who had her own 40th birthday this year did stop crying is the quietest of us all. I guess she got it out of her system early. :) She and her family are coming east for a visit next week. I can't wait to see them all. I hope we'll have a chance to sit outside to enjoy the nightsky together....and I will rehash the story she has never been able to live down.

7 comments:

Gilly said...

Yes, I remember that day so well. We had given up on a very wet camping trip, thrown everything, soaking wet and all in the back of the car and dashed home specifically to see the Men on the Moon. Small daughter was jammed between us on the front bench seat of the car - highly dangerous but seat belts were unheard of then (and she had colic as a baby, and a wonderful medicine that "cured" her!!) We thought it awesome, it was so momentous an occasion, and the moon seemed so much closer!

Nick Phillips said...

Wifey and me have always dreamed of having a nice cottage by some river one day when we grow old, a place where we can sit and just relax and spend out old age together ... but of course there must be some sort of broadband connection ... LOL!

Romany Angel said...

On that day my whole family were watching the moon landing in the reception area of a doctor's office in the big smoke. We were getting our immunisations to go back to England for two years. I can remember it like it was yesterday.

Awareness said...

Gilly....great story. I think everyone who experienced it knows exactly where they were and what they were doing on that day 40 years ago. Lindsey, my sister didn't have a car seat either! She had this yellow bouncy chair thing that we placed her in, even on car trips!! And in fact my mom kept it and I used it for my two kids..... though they had car seats too.

Nick....oh, I would love to have a cottage by the river or a lake too. However, NEVER at Blue Lake! It was so yukky! I want my cottage to have a big old front porch with a hammock and a view of the sparkling water through the pine trees. uhuh, uhuh..... or and WIFI as well.

Gypsy....Isn't it amazing how clear the memories are of that day? Where did you live in the UK?

Carmi said...

I was 2, and I was apparently on a beach on Long Sault, ON the afternoon they touched down. My parents have a picture of me on the sand, but like most visual memories of my childhood, they're deeply buried in shoeboxes.

I don't have a direct recollection of that day, but I DO remember Apollo 17, for some strange reason. I guess I was JUST old enough at that point for it to have some significance to me.

Ironically, when I worked in radio, I was lucky enough to snag an interview with Harrison "Jack" Schmitt - who along with Gene Cernan were the last men to walk on the moon. Dr. Schmitt was an incredible interview, and I still have the tape to this day. Happy sigh...

Awareness said...

Funny, I don't have any recollections of the Apollo flights after 13, but I was away at summer camp after that and probably missed them.

I was thinking last night how much of a turning point the moment was in history....away from innocence. It seemed to happen right in the middle of real social transition....from music, to our trust in politicians and how we look at politics, to the media's influence, the rights of all people, to women's liberation. Encapsulated all within a couple of years. Maybe that had something to do with how it kind of faded away in importance?

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

It is amazing that you were eight, Dana...I had just turned 38! Lord!
And I was in France....! It was a very exciting time, that's for sure!