Nobody who was alive at the time can forget the sights and sounds of this weekend in 1969.
The loud voices of "Houston" gently guide the lunar module to the assigned parking lot on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin drift with each step like children in one of these aptly named Moonwalk inflatables that are ubiquitous at children's birthday parties. And the immediately iconic remarks: "The Eagle has landed" and "This is a small step for man …"
This life-changing technological event occurred on screens in living rooms across the country. In the living room of my family there was something special: The TV had landed.
We did not have our own TV. We may not have been rich enough to afford color television at the time, but at least we could have had a little black and white like everyone else. But our parents, like some technological Bartleby the Scrivener, simply crossed their arms in the onslaught of the television age and said, "I'd prefer not." So we were in a suburb of New Jersey I felt like the Beverly Hillbillies before they came across oil and could only dream of Jeannie . Before we even had a grid, we lived off it.
The idea was that my sister, my brother, and myself, protected from the temptations of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, would spend our childhood reading. And read my sister did. My mother bravely tried to make me a young reader, and I can only imagine that as the founder of the local library she was ashamed and forced to sneak around with a literary criminal son.
My father, an amateur poet with an impeccable memory of verses, wrote poems to the refrigerator door that we should remember. After a few years, I have committed myself to remembering much of Robert Frost's poem about a snowy evening, a horse and a long way home. Or maybe that was a metaphor.
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Our mother was strict but creative. On a rainy day when her children were probably pushing her to the wall with a request for a TV, she sat in front of the stove and switched on the light. She told us to introduce the small oven window as a TV and tell her what we saw.
I think I said "pot roast".
But then came the moon landing and suddenly it felt like my family was living on planet Earth like the rest of America. We had a TV. Well, we had one for a weekend.
It arrived one afternoon, an intruder who had to be viewed carefully. Books and newspapers were removed from the coffee table to make room for the TV. And there it sat, the rabbit ears upright, and its little convex screen was a window to the forbidden world.
Of course there were restrictions. The TV was there to watch the moon landing, we were told. Period. Inevitably, we watched everything day and night and in a few hours proved the addictive influence of television.
My dad was particularly adept at the complex workings of the alien mechanism. Perhaps surprisingly, he briefly made a living as a Zenith seller when he needed a job after marrying.
As the events of the mission unfolded, we did it like the rest of our neighbors: We pointed our antenna up to the sky and watched in amazement. At the time of the moon walk, my brother slept on the couch and missed a story.
But he was well rested the next morning and ready to attend another historical event in our family: cartoons in our pajamas. My brother has a successful career, not as an astronaut, but as an author for children's television. (For example, he wrote for "Hey Arnold!" – not "Hey Armstrong!")
We have more history than we expected for this weekend. As a harbinger of our time of news overload, the moon landing coincided with the slowly unfolding scandal surrounding Chappaquiddick – the drowning death of young congresswoman Mary Jo Kopechne in a car, Senator Ted Kennedy, who later pleaded guilty to leaving the scene.
It was a thrilling drama of a different kind. The brother of a murdered president and a presidential candidate went into flight, if not a lie, because of the death of a young woman.
Would Mr. Are Armstrong and Mr. Aldrin actually on the moon? Would Kennedy, being prosecuted, possibly go? It was three days of human exploits and omissions that all took place in our house – on TV!
Then suddenly it was over. The eagle returned to the Apollo spaceship and our TV returned for rental.
My father lived in this house for another 48 years until he was 94, and my mother still lives there, a month before 93. Never again did a TV appear.
My sister, the reader, has no television despite her technological work as a software administrator. My brother, the television writer, has made a profit in his rebellion.
I have a TV, but I was known to watch sports events with the sound off and the book open in my lap, so I can reasonably say I'm actually reading.
The other day I'm sitting with my mother In the same living room where the story of man and family took place 50 years ago, I asked why we never had a TV. My mother looked up from her newspaper pile and said, "They had strange parents."
And why did they break the rules for landing the moon? "We thought," Oh my god, they're going to the moon, "she said." We were excited. We thought it important. "
" And you could actually see it, "she added.
But not through your oven window.