NOTE: Imagine sitting in a front-row seat to land a man on the moon. Kay Cox lived that as a family adventure with her NASA engineer-husband, Ken, and their children. In this special edition of RoadBroads, we honor that first lunar landing a half-century ago with Kay’s extraordinary memories of what is, no doubt, the wildest journey of all: space travel.
Guest blogger Kay L. Cox writes poetry and stories from her San Antonio home. She’s an experienced blogger (check out her writings on www.picklesandroses.blogspot.com). Earlier, Kay worked as an art and family therapist, teaching graduate-level art therapy classes in the US and abroad.
Thank you, Kay, for crafting this powerful creation: our first-ever RoadBroads poem!
When the Moon Calls
the last space shuttle went up mid crowds and cheers
but I feel a door closing
leaving me with only memories of the challenging times,
of the countdowns, the takeoffs, the fires, explosions and splashdown celebrations,
the Gemini, Apollo, Soyuz, even the more recent shuttle programs.
I was 27 years old with a two year old and a nine month old baby
in a one and a half story Olde English style home,
white cottage curtains on the windows
in a neighborhood devoted to space exploration
beginning what I perceived as a very ordinary life.
tour buses drove down my street
pointing out astronaut homes
while I changed diapers, made Kraft mac ‘n cheese lunches
peeled shrimp, ironed my husband’s shirts
and took the children to the pediatrician.
I valiantly tried to give NASA office parties
but after 3 different fires…
in the oven one year, a chafing dish the next,
and finally the table décor that went up in flames, I gave up.
I somberly drove home from the grocery store
around hordes of TV cameras and journalists
camped out in front of Roger Chaffee’s house
after the tragedy at the cape,
a terrible reminder of the immense danger in going for Earth’s orbit.
on Christmas Eve my dad made eggnog in my kitchen
while I stood anxious and breathless with astronaut friends
in front of the TV waiting for communication
from Apollo as it circled around from the back of the moon.
my ordinary life was feeding the dog
while waving to astronauts in helicopters
buzzing over their wives and kids
around the corner in their own ordinary lives.
I put the kids to bed
with stories and kisses
while their father was having dinner in L‑A
after a long day at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
and I spent another night alone with TV.
I watched our neighbor, Buzz Aldrin,
follow Neil Armstrong down a ladder
and plant a U.S. flag on the pale and dusty surface of the moon.
Now he dances with stars.
the phone rang at two a.m.
calling my husband into work
telling him Apollo 13 was in big trouble,
not telling me I wouldn’t see him again for days.
with only a 30 minute warning,
my husband brought a Russian delegation home for drinks.
I plied them with vodka,
made a run for much more
while a sympathetic neighbor supplied sausage, cheese, and crackers.
I sat with my engineer husband on a hotel room floor at midnight
sipping Armenian brandy through the smoke of Cuban cigars
watching Russian and American delegation leaders
sign an agreement to collaborate on the Soyuz mission.
I watched Challenger disintegrate shortly after launch,
Columbia fall apart and scatter over a Texas countryside.
I wept for the loss of crews I cared for as President Reagan
greeted grieving Challenger families in my husband’s office.
with great joy and relief
I celebrated with friends,
with wild splash-down parties
at the Flintlock Inn, Maribelles, and the Outback.
The space program, like me, has aged and dwindled
but I have come to realize that my ordinary life
might be considered extraordinary,
leaving me to hope someday
other young families will participate
in another planetary project,
something much bigger than themselves.