Man In The Moon by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Until that hot July, adults told children that the moon was green cheese. Some kids believed it. I doubted that the moon — that shining, silvered orb — was some class of stinky cheese, but I did believe in the man in the moon. After all, I could look up from the side yard where the clover grew thick and green beneath my feet and see his face, distinct and somehow friendly.
He was magical and mystical although no one, including me, could define him or his purpose. My black-and-white checked copy of Mother Goose had him coming down out of the sky long enough to burn his mouth on porridge. My grandmother said he carried a bundle of sticks on his back. Whoever he was, this Man, I liked to see his face and form on the surface of the full moon.
Sometimes my mother read me a little poem that said the moon was the North wind’s cookie that got eaten each month. The South wind, so the story went, baked a new cookie, devoured again in an endless cycle.
My dad said that we could tell the weather by watching the moon. If the half-moon appeared to be turned up like a cup, it would rain. More often than not, it seemed to be so.
On a July afternoon, however, when I would rather have been outside playing or picking on June bugs or hanging out in the vacant garage apartment at the Woodwell’s house, everything changed forever.
On that day, 20 July 1969, man walked on the moon for the first time and because my favorite aunt — with whom I was staying at that time – believed that they would ask me about it in school, I sat parked before her television set and watched against my will. It was hot that day, a searing heat that cracked the sidewalks and made her old frame house feel like an oven. Scant breezes wafted the curtains at the open windows but not often enough to make a difference. None of the other children, not my siblings or her brood, had to watch because they were all younger and did not yet attend school.
Although I now understand that it was history in the making, a major moment in the timeline of human accomplishments, I thought it was boring, even more so than watching the rocket launch into space days before. That was interesting, a bit, because it reminded me of the just past Fourth of July where our small bottle rockets soared high before exploding and falling back to earth.
I heard the words now immortalized, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” and wished I were outside with the younger kids, maybe digging in the sandbox or running around the pear tree pelting half-ripe pears at one another.
What I hated was Science stole my with hard facts, not green cheese
History happened that day, but it was the end of innocence for my generation. As one of the tail-end members of the Baby Boomers, I saw
the loss my dreams, the debunking of the stories. dreams, the stories, and the mystery, replacing them not myth. There was no man in the moon, and it was but some kind of space rock.
that with clarity despite my youth. We were the last of the kids who believed in the Man in the Moon. We were the last who wondered whether or not the moon was made from green cheese. And we embraced reality, kicking and screaming, like it or not.
With The Man in the Moon reduced to a series of craters and mountains on the lunar surface, the other mythical things we cherished soon faded from our imaginations as well. If there was no Man in the Moon, then perhaps there were no fairies hiding in the flowers, no elves making shoes – or even baking cookies in a big tree. If he did not exist, then were the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny real?
My children laugh and cannot envision a time when kids looked up at the friendly face of the man in the moon with awe and wonder. Their world is far too real for such things and to them, it has always been. Theirs is a world of terrorism, ecological disasters and even stranger dangers.
July 20, 1969 was a giant leap for mankind and a sad day for the innocence of children everywhere.