Nikayla at the park and man on the moon


It was a nice October day today, which was a little odd, since it’s July. But, while the women of the family (besides Nina) were out doing wedding-related shopping (Theresa gets married next Saturday) Nina and I walked Nikayla to the park.

She loves to swing. I don’t know why, but she likes most “motion,” from being swung in the air by a grandparent or aunt or uncle to sitting in a toddler size rocking chair, rocking back and forth.

Nikayla started walking recently; as Ben says, having her follow you down the hall is a bit like being pursued by a zombie (we just watched “Sean of the Dead”). She “declaims,” that is, she babbles syllables while vigorously gesturing, but not a lot of words, yet. A few, however—she says “wiggle” and seems to be adding “giggle” to her vocabulary. Men she knows and likes are all “dada.” She says “book” and “yeah.” When tired, she responds to “ni-ni.”

But she seems a pretty happy, normal little bumbling toddler. Words will come soon, in their own time, and she’s enjoying life at 15 months.

Anyway, Nikayla clearly understands much more than she says. She gets excited if you suggest going to the park and/or “swings,” so she clearly has an idea of what’s coming.

She enjoyed a good “swing” at the city park on north C Avenue, a medium walk from our house. After a while, when the charms of motion paled a bit due to repetition, I put her on one of the playground sets—a plastic thing with slides, built for young kids. She doesn’t really slide much get, but enjoyed climbing around on the equipment, and, in this case, playing with Nina’s face through some bars. The plastic “floor” of the set has some holes in it, and Nikayla was crawling (for once) when she put her hand unexpectedly in a hole and did a face plant.

The crying was intense and sincere, but fortunately short-lived. She let me pick her up and then wanted Nina to hold her for a while, and then came back to me—there was a bit of theatrics, I think—she has the capacity to be a drama queen when she wants.

Anyway, another quick swing and she was A-OK.

I don’t think an interlude at a park with a toddler is ever a waste of time. It’s a reminder of how important simple pleasures can be, and what a wonder the world is.

Speaker of wonders, of this world and others, 40 years ago in a couple of days, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. No women have walked there yet, and only a handful of men.

Will Nikayla get a chance to reprise her zombie walk on our nearest planetary neighbor? Will she leave permanent boot prints on the dead surface while looking back at the blue marble in the black sky that holds the bulk of humanity?  I know we need a good reason to spend public money, but I hope so.  It’s a shame we don’t have any good telescopes or radio scopes stationed at a permanent base on the nearest convenient airless planet.

My sisters have been sharing memories of the moon landing. I don’t know if we watched coverage on CBS—the local NBC affiliate, channel 6, seemed to have the strongest signal when we lived in Clinton. But in popular culture, Walter Cronkite is most associated with the moon landing.

I can remember images and impressions from that first landing, but not details. I don’t remember the time of day, for instance, one detail my sisters have been asking about. I don’t remember if it was the NBC or CBS news people who were reporting in our living room.

But I do remember the sense of awe.  It was one of those “unbelievable” experiences, a clear turning point in history, even to a 10-year-old–and one of the oddest things about it was being able to see it on TV.  I wish my memory of it were clearer, but I do remember the “first step” on the moon, and I remember asking what Neil Armstrong meant by what he said.

In the paper today, an engineer was quoting saying that Armstrong probably really did say “one small step for ‘a’ man,” but the “a” wasn’t picked up due to the delay of a voice activated microphone.  If they really faked the moon landing, I think they would have had better sound quality.

Taking a toddler to a park is also good for random reflections. Probably much more will be made of Michael Jackson’s life and death than Walter Cronkite’s. That’s a shame. Cronkite was a more substantial, important and influential figure.

He wasn’t the story. He didn’t bring us to the moon—the men and women of NASA did that. But he did bring us the moon story.

That’s the way it is, Saturday, July 18, 2009.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Nikayla at the park and man on the moon

  1. Pat

    They were saying on the radio that the moon walk was about 6 hours after the landing – that makes sense for an afternoon landing and a late evening first step. Probably the first step is what I remember waiting for, sitting on the living room floor trying to keep my eyes open.

    • crgardenjoe

      I think you’re right–the TV image that sticks in my mind the most is the “first walk” and the Armstrong quote. I also remember, although I’m not sure if they did it on Apollo 11 or a later Moon mission, how disappointed I was watching the lunar module blast off from the moon. All the network animations showed clearly defined trails of fire from rocket engines, but the vehicle was light enough the the physics in low gravity/no air such that when the rocket fired, the lunar vehicle simply popped out of view with barely a spark visible. I noted on “wechoosethemoon.org” that their animations had sound effects, such as a “whoosh” when Apollo 11 appears to fly by the “camera.” Odd. Very Star Treky. No sounds in space …

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