Friday, May 8, 2009

post card from the moon

When I was ten years old, our family took our first vacation ever and we drove up to the scenic Wisconsin Dells. Sandwiched in between my two older brothers in the back seat of our Olds Delta 88 I had a lovely eye level view of the green vinyl back of the front seat all the way. It had a sickening smell like a dentist's office back there too. Lovely memories.

When you're in the middle, and the youngest, and nervous to boot, of course, you have no control. Flying elbows everywhere. To escape, I’d close my eyes and pretend I was on the way to the Moon. The month before, in that historic July, my heroes Neil, Buzz, and Mike, had made a hazardous close-quartered trip of their own. So, I thought, if they could handle wayward elbows, odd claustrophobic smells and motion sickness, I could too. I even took along and kept in my back pocket a baggie and twist tie to gather some rocks and dirt.

Houston: “Don’t forget to take a contingency sample, 88!”
Delta Lander: “I won’t, Houston, over.”
Houston: “ We’re counting on you!”
Delta Lander: “Roger! 88 Out!”

I don't know why, but I remember constantly jutting my head over the seat asking my dad if we had enough gas to get there. Maybe it was because I had read the owners manual to our first air-conditioned car ever and remembered the warning written in bold red font about how that luxury reduced gas mileage.
"Yes, we do," he'd answer for the one hundred and eightieth time.
"How much left, dad?"
"Three quarters of a tank. Sit down," he'd deadpan. Mom just looked back and smiled at me, her eyes hidden behind those dark green lens in white frames, and wrapped in her pink sweater so close to the cool vents.
Ten minutes later I'd ask again, and he'd answer back in a way that I'd just soon not write down here that has left me with a permanent twitch in my left eye. I wasn’t the only victim. Later, my brother told me the vibration snapped the small rubber bands on his retainer.

The Dells were glorious. The beautiful layered rock formations we'd view up close from a slow shady boat, lush waterfalls spraying fine mist over stone ledges, and Native American folk dances kicking up red dust in a miniature amphitheater. To this day, I can still smell the black thunder off at a distance in the night sky. Near a roadside picnic table where we stopped to devour sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, I meticulously scooped some of Wisconsin’s finest dirt and a couple small rocks, spun the baggie, and secured it snugly with the space age tie. I held it up to show my mother and she said it was nice and to wash my hands for lunch. I walked into the visitor’s bureau restroom and thoroughly cleaned the moon dust off my hands.

When we arrived home four days later, under the fiery hot reentry of that August day, and with the fuel gage under the ‘E’ (just like Neil and Buzz!) and we were unloading luggage out of the trunk, my dad asked me good-naturedly if I had had a swell time.

I nodded and twitched.


Blogger Bob of Holland said...

Intriguing story, beautiful card. And I like your taste in films too.

5/09/2009 1:43 AM  
Blogger marc aurel said...

Lovely. Makes me want to write about memories of family in cars, but I think I'll just savour my memories and admire your's.

5/09/2009 2:59 PM  
Blogger Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

Great storytelling - such a pleasure to read!
Evelyn in Montreal

5/09/2009 5:08 PM  
Blogger Marsha's Mpressions said...

Stumbled across your blog today. How intriguing and insightful. Enjoyed reading.

5/14/2009 5:40 PM  

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