One time I went to a Christmas party at an astronaut’s house.
I was thirteen years old and the thought of a world existing outside of my egocentric teenage bubble seemed unrealistic, maybe impossible. I remember standing in the astronaut’s gigantic kitchen staring at a shadowbox on the wall, it reminded me of the exhibits at the Air and Space Museum I had recently seen on a field trip. Inside the shadow box was a breathtaking, close up picture of the moon, and below it a rock that was clearly not of this planet.
A man came up behind me and with a playful smirk, yet humble eyes, said “do you like that picture? I took it.” Several pairs of adult eyes shot towards the man and I, they were trying their hardest to maintain their conversations while eavesdropping on us. I giggled and with a doubtful tone said “you took this??” The man nodded his head and said “yes, I’m an astronaut.”
My giggling came to a screeching halt. My eyes bulged, my mouth fell open, and I said “like, in outer space?” I may as well have been smacking chewing gum and twirling my pig tails, oh the idiocy.
The room suddenly erupted in laughter, the eavesdroppers had blown their cover. My mom and dad laughed too as the astronaut confirmed that yes, he was an astronaut. In outer space. I knew that astronauts went to outer space, but I also figured that there were probably people who sat in offices all day, worked for NASA, and could technically call themselves “astronauts.” I didn’t really put it together that the man throwing the party was an actual moon walker. I was starstruck (heheh).
There are many possible responses that could follow the statement “I’m an astronaut.” He’s probably heard thousands over the years ranging from how did you become interested in NASA to what happens when you fart in space? I’d like to think that my naive response made that veteran astronaut’s day. In fact, I’m pretty sure it did from his deep belly laughs. Sometimes we get so accustomed to the thought of moon walking and space travel that we forget how truly amazing it is. Maybe he was tired of talking about rocket science and astrophysics with the adults, maybe he was thrilled to have someone’s world completely ROCKED by the fact that he had been in outer space and lived to tell about it. It’s what I tell myself anyway so I can feel better about the whole incident. It’s almost as embarrassing as the time I was thrilled my senior year of high school when I learned that you could check out books from the school library. Who knew?! The high school years weren’t my best- I lacked both street and book smarts.
I remembered my astronaut encounter last night after seeing the movie Gravity. Have you seen it? If not, do not wait for it to come out on DVD. If you see one movie in the theater this year, make it Gravity. It was one of the most captivating, cinematically beautiful, thought provoking, intense, emotional films I’ve seen. That’s how much I enjoyed it, I don’t even want to call it a “movie”, it deserve the more prestigious title of “film”!
After seeing it, I suddenly had ten-thousand questions about outer space for my poor date, Isaac. He usually knows the answers to all of my random questions about life- it’s one of the reasons I married him. Whether I’m asking him about human anatomy or global wind patterns, he just knows stuff. It’s so annoying, in the best way possible.
Anyway, turns out outer space is one thing he doesn’t have all the answers to. So today, he ordered me two space books that I am dying to get my hands on! Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Maybe next time I see the astronaut from the Christmas party, I’ll be able to have an intelligent conversation with him about his profession. Or maybe I’ll just ask what happens when you fart in outer space.