Partying With Astronauts

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). 

tumblr_mngnwfrDIb1qiaxzfo1_500There 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.

facepalmI 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.

17 thoughts on “Partying With Astronauts

  1. Pingback: 2013 In Pictures | The Other Courtney

  2. Courtney, thanks for writing about this. I think about it more often than you might think — one of my favorite stories about you. And yes, Charlotte, you were there — the Payton’s were incredibly nice people. In fact, Sue was my boss at the time (the astronauts wife). She insisted your Mom and I bring all the kids to their Christmas open house.

    • Looking back, it’s so amazing how gracious they were to open their home to so many people! Oh how I wish I could go back and redeem myself to the Payton’s 😀 I remember how much you loved having her as a boss. Good times, Pops, good times!

  3. Nice thing to know you have met a real astronaut!

    I have watched the movie Gravity recently, it is intense and I will call it kind of a horror movie. It has shown some extreme situations.

    I wanted to be an astronaut, but now I am something else. Sometimes I try to link, how can I move closer to being an astronaut from what skills I have currently 😀 .

  4. What an awesome story! I used to want to be an astronaut SO Badly when I was a kid…then I learned I’d have to be good at math. Still, I’ve never stopped feeling amazed by the exploration of space. Going to go see Gravity now!

    • Haha I was the same way about wanting to work in the medical field. It’s a little hard when math and science are like a foreign language to you! Have you seen the movie yet?!

  5. This is all sounding so vaguely familiar, was I there too? I love your memory, wish I had half as good a memory as you! Thanks for the recommendation, poor Alex has been waiting to see it for a LONGGGG time, we will have to make a date this weekend perhaps since we might have some willing babysitters;)

  6. I really want to see that movie! I just need to find a baby sitter! haha! I’m sure in your mind the Astronaut party comment was worse than you think… pretty funny though!

    • You’re probably right, everything feels a lot more devastating as a teenager. It’s still a story that gives my family and I laughs though! 🙂 Hope you can find a sitter, it’s totally worth it.

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