Monday, July 20, 2009

“The Birthplace of Aviation”

July 20, 1969…It was my 7th Birthday but not like just any other birthday occurring once a year. Today the astronauts would land on the moon, making history. We all huddled around the television for hours, waiting and watching on a black and white monitor of vast nothingness that was our first glimpse of “space”. Being MY birthday, I was irritated at the fact that the attention was diverted from me. The day was dark and the weather was stormy, downright ominous. I couldn’t help but wonder if Mother Nature was upset with people for walking where they shouldn’t have. Somehow, it didn’t seem right. The rains continued to fall and the sky remained dark as night while Dad drove us down the road to the Chagrin River where we watched it rise. We parked on the bridge at the bottom of the street, spanning the feeder creek that ran through our back yard. The water was muddy, moving rocks and boulders with its might and now rushing wildly over the bridge. As it reached the bumper of our 1968 Plymouth Fury III convertible, Dad decided it was time to leave. We returned home with the force of Mother Nature echoing in my ears, scolding us with her powerful wrath only she could conjure. I was convinced “she” was acting as a parent, disapproving of this most unnatural technological event.

I opened my gifts and had cake, Hough bakery cake. I got a tennis racket I still have to this day. Later that evening, when the air cleared enough to catch a fuzzy glow of the moon, I strained my eyes hoping to locate movement of the now heroes who had blasted through time and space. I asked my Dad why we could not see them and he gave me the only answer a Father would give a silly soft 7 year old girl; “Because they’re on the other side” he remarked convincingly.

I have since had a much different perspective of that day in 1969 when the astronauts of Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Every 7 years became a significant birthday to me. For my 14th, I was old enough to spend the day at Geauga Lake Amusement Park with a group of my closest friends. At age 21, I was a newlywed living in Dayton, OH, home of the Wright Brothers, and celebrated my birthday dinner at the top of a tower hanging in the night sky overlooking the lights illuminating the city. In the next room, Wright Patterson Air Force Base was honoring the first girl to walk with muscle stimulated assistance, pioneering a method of overcoming paralysis. At age 28, we relocated to the Outer Banks, NC and lived down the street, just beyond the Wright Brother’s Memorial. “First in Flight” read the license plates. I anxiously took the airborne tour in a single prop plane above the same dune, nearly 100 years later, from the same perspective. I was awarded a certificate in honor of sharing that historic event. In 1997, the summer my Mother died, she had marked in her calendar on my birthday, “Beth walks on the moon”. That July 20th, I found myself in the Science and Technology Museum at the Smithsonian. When I hit the Mall, I immediately made a beeline to see the very space capsule that had become a symbol of pride, adventure and our future. A little more than a year later in early November, I landed on the same spot but this time, behind a velvet rope with a small gathering of people, glued to a monitor where we talked with Astronaut John Glenn from space, as he took his tour once again of the moon (coincidentally he was 77!). They presented a moon rock we lined up to view and touch in person. It was a completely spontaneous trip and event that was an absolute thrill and honor. Now its 40 years later and once again, its my Birthday, my 47th Birthday, and the lunar landing has become personal. I plan to commemorate the day much the same way America and the world did 40 years ago. I will celebrate with family and eat cake, while looking forward to my next “every 7th birthday” in a couple of years when I turn 49. Who knows what surprises await-maybe that will be the year I finally travel space. Happy Birthday to all the aptly named “Moon Children”…Happy Birthday John Glenn!

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