It was 1969.
I was 13 and visiting my nana in Connecticut. I was tired, sick and had gone to bed early. Suddenly I was being shaken.
“Wake up! Don’t you want to see if the moon is made of green cheese?”
I groaned and rolled over.
My nana was famous for holding on to what I considered antiquated beliefs about the world.
In Tucson, we had already celebrated our first Earth Day earlier that spring, knowing that our generation was going to end the pollution and protect our Mother Earth.
We were enlightened.
We were already watching out the windows of Mansfield Junior High as students at the University of Arizona staged a march to protest the Vietnam war. That march ended with a sit-in.
We were hip and aware. And had nothing in common with our parents’ generation.
The shaking continued.
“Come on! Get up — you have to come see if there are any little green men!”
Now that my teen dreams of Bobby Sherman were so rudely interrupted, I consented.
I stomped out into the living room, and plopped myself on to the floral couch covered in plastic, leaning forward to focus on the black and white television set. In the darkness, the glowing light from the set was more reminiscent of watching an old rerun of “The Twilight Zone” than my beloved “Star Trek,” but I became hooked as the suspense grew with every passing second.
The voices crackled. Intermittent beeps kept us alert.
Finally, the moment had arrived.
I became one of 600 million people watching as Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module’s ladder, down onto to the surface.
With that footstep, he fulfilled the task that John F. Kennedy charged our nation with eight years earlier — to be the first nation to put a man on the moon.
And my jaded, wanna-be hippie self-danced around the room in flower-power jammies.
My nana was sniffling.
A tough Irish woman of 81, with a tongue that could clip a hedge, she rarely showed emotion but she said: “I was born in the 1887. We didn’t even have cars, or phones, or electric lights. And yet I’m watching television pictures of a man on the moon. Can you believe it? I wonder what you’ll see by the time you’re my age in yet another century?”
It’ll be another 18 years before I find out. But I wonder even now.
Will a grandchild of mine curse the previous generation’s lack of progress in cleaning up the planet, or smile at my naiveté about what life on another planet might look like?
Will the next generation swear to be better stewards of our environments, our peace, our people — only to be absorbed by CEO responsibilities, stock markets and politics — and like me be disappointed in themselves 50 years hence?
Fifty years ago, my generation dreamed of civil rights, an end to hunger, women’s lib, world peace and a shared planet fit for all species who inhabited it.
As one of the 600 million people who watched that first man walk on the moon, I imagined anything could happen.
Maybe only the next generation will find out if it still can.
And then they can come together to watch a momentous event of their own.
At least we know it won’t involve little green men and a moon made out of green cheese.