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.