The Moon at Midnight

James H. Burns: I was seven, on this special evening, forty-six years ago.

I had broken my arm, just after school let out for the season, in

June. A crummy way to start the summer, certainly. But while there must have been many missed days at the beach, and elsewhere, my mind is filled now, only with the recollection of family barbecues, and reading comic books, and how good it felt, when the cast finally came off!

(Which meant somewhere, there was swimming, later in the season.)

I was a space adventure veteran, having traveled with Flash Gordon for a few years, and flown with all of those terrific super hero cartoons we got to see in New York, a boon of syndication, both American animation, and Japanese (The Marvel Super Heroes, Astroboy, Gigantor, 8th Man, Prince Planet….) Scott McCloud Space Angel was a particular favorite, a daily five minute serialized adventure about a planet hopper. I had already seen 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes…  (But becoming a fan of Star Trek, although I had seen bits and pieces, remained a few years off.  Now, I realize, I even saw a few moments of the original broadcasts of The Outer Limits.)

For my father, only forty-four that July, the moon landing was the fulfillment of a promise he had first heard whispered in his own childhood, as a burgeoning science fiction fan.

It was only because of him that I saw Neal Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.

I wonder now, if people remember how late in the evening the walk came, late at least for a little child, anyway, just a few minutes before 11 p.m.

My parents had promised to wake me, in time. But I was steadfast in slumber. In those days, most often I’d be dreaming with Amy, my Siamese, by my side, and Peter, one of the greatest dogs ever, by my feet. (It was only as an adult that I realized that Pete had taken it as his responsibility to protect me.) Henry and Nicky, our other cats, were surely nearby.

Apparently, the family had given up on rousing me, but my father wouldn’t give up on his word.

After all, he had also flown, with Flash and Dale (and Doctor Zarkov).

I also wonder, if folks are honest, how many people remember how tough it was, to make Armstrong out, on the lunar module’s ladder, at least from the perspective of a nineteen inch TV…..

I won’t write now of the sadness that the cancellation of our manned space program presented. (Heck, maybe I’ve written about that enough, including here and here.

Today should always be about a celebration of what can be, when imagination, intelligence and determination are magnificently combined toward a  goal of worth, and grace.

Centuries from now, the time that passed between our trips to the moon may well seem like the blink of an eye. And this night — that night, on July 20th, 1969 — will always be the beginning.

For years now, on evenings that are illuminated, I’ll look up at our moon, wondering what it would have been like, living there, gazing at an Earth that would have had to have been different.

And I smile, knowing that if not now, sometime soon, someone else will be smiling back.

8 thoughts on “The Moon at Midnight

  1. Aaron wrote:

    “I hope that this is regarded with the same amazement that people currently regard people who were born before the Wright brothers flew.”

    Nicely said, Aaron.

  2. That is honestly the earliest memory I have. I wasn’t even four then, I was born in the fall of ’65. But I remember being in front of the TV, seeing people descend to the moon.

    And if nothing else, even if we perish in the next century or we fall into perpetual primitivism, at least there will be this: we slipped the bonds of Earth, and ventured, however tentatively, into space. As a high point of a civilization, that’s not bad.

  3. Oh, I wasn’t even born at this time, but my father was following the moon landing. One thing I really have to thank him for is that he saved the newspapers from that day. That way, I got some of the excitement second hand by reading them 10 years later.

  4. I was four-and-a-half years old. I watched the moon landing, and I do remember it (although, to be perfectly fair, I sometimes wonder how much is reconstructed memory from the famous news clips), but I have to say that my strongest memory is of my elder sister, whose tenth birthday it was, telling me, “Remember this! This is IMPORTANT!” And what my sister told me was true, so I remembered.

  5. I wasn’t born either but my grand mother saved all kinds of magazines related to the Space program. I spent hours reading them and admiring the pictures which turned me on to science and science fiction. The photos in the old Life magazines due to their large format really glorious.

  6. I was two months and a day old when they landed on the moon. My parents woke me up in the middle of the night when Armstrong stepped off the Eagle so I’d be able to say I saw it. Thanks, mom and dad.

  7. Today should always be about a celebration of what can be, when imagination, intelligence and determination are magnificently combined toward a goal of worth, and grace.

    So well said. Thank you for sharing your story.

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