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Ask Me Anything #6: The Moon

Future Landfill asked “Did you go outside and look up at the moon when Neil Armstrong went for a walk there in ’69?”

I wish I could say that yes, I did go out and look at the moon, but the truth is I don’t remember actually doing that.

What I do remember about the moonwalk is humiliating myself in front of all my new classmates.

I was 10 years old. We’d recently moved to Kinburn, Ontario, which was a rural community about 30 miles west of Ottawa. They didn’t get a lot of newcomers in Kinburn, and everybody else had known each other forever. I moved there in the middle of Grade Five, and it was my fifth school.

Changing schools often meant that sometimes I covered the same material twice, and other times I missed something entirely. For example, when I moved from Quebec to Ontario after Grade Two, I missed cursive writing. We hadn’t started it yet in Quebec, but they’d already learned it in Ontario. I was mortified to be the only kid in Grade Three who still printed. I somehow got it into my head that writing was incredibly hard and I built up this big mental block about it. Same thing with placeholder zeros. I didn’t think the placeholder zeros made sense, so I refused to use them. The result? Lots of wrong answers and lots of “remedial” time with the teacher after class. I’m sure Mrs. Shields found it just as frustrating as me, since I clearly could use placeholder zeros but I wouldn’t because they didn’t make sense.

(Eventually I started using placeholder zeros, and I learned cursive writing.)

Skip ahead a couple of years, to Grade Five in Kinburn. Apparently the Americans were sending men to the moon! This was the first I’d heard of it, since we didn’t have science in Bayshore. In Kinburn, this was big news and they’d been studying it all year. But I started in the middle of the year so I’d missed the foundational pieces.

(This is all a big lead-in to try to mitigate the humiliation of what I’m about to tell you.)

My regular teacher, Mrs. Cavanaugh, hated kids and hated teaching. She was miserable and twitchy and she was a lousy teacher and she wasn’t very nice. I never once saw her smile. Nobody liked her, but I felt sorry for her.

For science and math, our class went to Mr. MacIntyre’s room. Everybody liked him, but he didn’t like me. (On my first day at that school, the other kids convinced me to say something to Mr. MacIntyre that turned out to be wildly inappropriate, but I didn’t know it was inappropriate until he became enraged and made it clear that he would never like me.)

But I digress. It’s because I’m procrastinating about telling you the really humiliating thing about the moon.

We were in Mr. MacIntyre’s class, talking about the rocket ship passing through the atmosphere. There was a little model of the solar system, which I found really confusing.

I’d always just assumed the earth was a hollow ball and we lived inside of it. And now here’s this model of the solar system and it seems to be suggesting that the sun and the moon aren’t inside the earth with us after all. So how could we even see the sun and the moon through the earth’s crust, and was the rocket ship just going to blast through the crust or what?

I actually put up my hand and asked these questions. All the other kids laughed at me, and Mr. MacIntyre looked at me like I was a special kind of stupid.

I was mortified.

And that, Future Landfill, is what I remember most about Neil Armstrong walking on the moon! Thank you for dredging up that painful childhood memory for me. :) (But I’d love to hear what you remember thinking about as you looked at the moon that night.)


The Ask Me Anything series will continue for the next little while. If you have a question, ask it in the comments or by email at zoomery at gmail dot com.

18 comments to Ask Me Anything: #6 – The moon

  • Bonnie

    Great post Zoom! I love when you write about Kinburn. Brings back many memories. Thanks for sharing this humiliating event :-)

  • Was the moon even visible that particular day? I don’t know. I know my mom let me stay home a bit to watch it on TV, so I was late to school. Imagine my surprise to find my whole class also watching on TV – someone had wheeled one in just for this occasion. The teacher yelled at me for being late, refusing my excuse because I should have known they would be watching it in school. If she had mentioned it the day before, I missed it (not entirely implausible, given my penchant for day dreaming).

  • I’m too young to have watched the moon landing (10 years too late…) – but I know what you mean about switching schools.
    In Grade 8, I moved to a school where the kids had been playing instruments for two years already. I couldn’t even read music, let alone toot out a simple melody on the alto sax I chose (because Lisa Simpson made it look so easy…). I did however, smoke them all in French, because I had already conjugated all those verbs two years earlier!

  • OMG I also thought we lived inside the earth! I think it was during a solar eclipse in grade three that I was set straight. I don’t remember feeling humiliated about it, just very confused. How did it not feel like we were dangling off the side of a ball over space?

    • Yay! A kindred spirit! I remember when they set me straight, I was astonished that nobody in my class was under the same misapprehension as me. I think the reason I felt humiliated was that they all laughed at me and made it clear they thought it was the stupidest thing ever, which is hard when you’re the new kid. I guess I just didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. (Which reminds me of a t-shirt: Gravity: It’s not just a good idea. It’s the law.”

  • future landfill

    I always wondered why we didn’t get flung out into space if the earth was whirling so fast – what? a thousand-plus mph. Try that on the whirlygig in the playground! Until we saw the gravity movie in grade 10.

    Was a Sunday night in July 1969, me and Bradstreet were up to see Peter and Rosalie in Willowdale – betcha it was 235 McKee Ave. Holy toot! I just street-viewed that address and it’s still the same, surrounded by god-awful trophy homes. I wonder if it’s gone since Google went by? I know Peter has died and Rosalie long since living elsewhere. Man, that’s spooky, the big weeping willow in the front yard is gone.

    P & R were huge folkie fans, Peter had a guitar Johnny Cash sold him in the early 50′s, they had Tim Hardin up for dinner and wondered why he spent so much time in the bathroom, but he left some scribbled lyrics on a page that their daughter Virginia lent him.

    It’s possible, likely?, that hand-rolled cigarettes were smoked down in the basement. Somewhere along the line, while songs were being traded back and forth and Rosalie had done up some honey slides and tea, we watched the moon thingie on the tv. Almost no recollection of the actual news event but I remember us all agreeing that if America was so friggin’ great as to be putting a man on the moon, what the hell were they still doing killing Viet-Cong for no good reason?

    Still, I gave a little nod to the moon when we left to catch the subway home. I think it was about 3/4 full but I could be mistaken.

  • I remember the day very well. My dad set up a super-8 camera to film off the television (my kids once asked me why we didn’t just tape it). I stayed up till 2 AM to see it and was amazed and in love with the whole idea of someone being on the moon. The Mars rovers make me feel the same wonder and amazement.

    The next day we went on a picnic and my mother backed over me with the car but that is a different dramatic memory.

    And I went to 4 different schools in 5 years so I get it. I was always the new kid and remember getting reprimanded in front of the whole class for reaching across the table. Evidently that was just not done.

  • Mikatana

    I remember watching it on grainy black and white (of course) TV at home. I remember getting into a big fight with my brothers cuz I said I wanted to walk on the moon and they said stupid girl, girls don’t walk on the moon. And. sadly, to this day they are right.

  • Yes, I went outside and looked up, and was just about fizzing I was so excited. I remember thinking that we’d cracked our “shell” of atmosphere, and were busily hatching out into the universe. Now I think the ol’ planet needs a cosy….

  • Tom Sawyer

    Please digress some more, for the question begs: What did you say to Mr. MacIntyre that was “wildly inappropriate”?

    • Tom Sawyer, I thought you’d stopped reading my blog years ago! Where’ve you been? How’s it going? I will add your question to the Ask Me Anything list. :)