as a kid, like so many kids out there, I was fascinated by the space program. I never saw the movie Space Camp, but somehow in my little Midwestern childhood learned about it, and suddenly my eight year-old self got hell-bent on going. my father, the hard-working, earn-your-shit immigrant that he was, demanded I earn my trip there. cut to me, scraping pigeon shit out of his lofts for a months, clocking every hour until I had earned enough money to pay half of admission and my travel.
I think my flight there was one of the first times I was on a plane. when the plane took off, and I felt the machine rumble underneath me and my little scrawny body got pushed hard back into the seat, I closed my eyes and became an astronaut on the shuttle, booster rockets firing underneath me. I was suddenly so big and so small.
space camp was awesome. I saved up extra and bought a flight suit (that I still own to this day) and wore it proudly on the bus trip to the launch area. my god, it was all so big. so so big. and wonderful. and a testament to what people can imagine, can do. the ability to dream like that, to fling our fragile beings into this great unknown… how can you express that in words? let’s just say that as I type this, I still swell up and get chills.
I went home and built models of the shuttle in our basement, that damn model glue sticking my fingers together and getting into my hair. I was in Florida when there was a launch and even across the state in Tampa, I could see the plume of shuttle streak proudly across the sky and I jumped up and down and shouted to my parents, so thrilled that they were going “out there” again. I poured through space books until they literally fell apart, tried to build a scale model of the solar system in my backyard (yeah thanks for fucking that up Pluto) and, to this day, the best Christmas of my life was when I discovered a red telescope from JC Penney under the tree. I loved the dream of it, the bigness of it, the bravery of it. life got so big.
We dreamed. I’m so grateful Kennedy had the balls to demand that our country dreamed. It wasn’t about sending people into space; it was about prodding all of us to think of what we could do that was bigger, more audacious. I hope we can dream like that again. It seems like we need that now more than ever.