It’s Nappie Awards Week at Lagniappe, which means we honor all 263 of our Readers’ Choice Awards winners in this issue and at a rowdy, and at times inappropriate, ceremony at the end of this week. Thanks to all of our readers for taking the time to vote and vote and vote again and congratulations to all who came out on top!
But this week also marks another year of publishing this newspaper. Lagniappe turned 17 on July 24, which doesn’t seem that remarkable of an occasion since it doesn’t end in a “0” or a “5,” but since I had my doubts we would make it to our first anniversary, I cherish each one. And I thank all of our readers and advertisers — some of whom have been with us from day one — who have supported us all these years.
Since the Nappies are centered around our anniversary, it always gets me thinking about others. And there was another big one this year.
Earlier this week, my mother-in-law decided to have a little dinner commemorating the 50th anniversary of the landing of the moon. I could tell she was unusually excited about this event. She’s not one to really decorate for just any occasion outside of the normal holidays, but she had space-themed plates and napkins and pulled out a globe and a model of the moon she has had for almost as long as Neal Armstrong’s footprint has been on that big ball of cheese in the sky.
And she served us Tang in wine glasses, you know because that’s what the astronauts drink. My kids thought it was gross, but the rest of us enjoyed the sweet orange taste of nostalgia. It’s not even gritty anymore, if you get the liquid stuff. And probably would be pretty tasty with some vodka blasted into it, which we would obviously call the “Buzz” Aldrin.
Over a dinner of moon-burgers, she told my kids how she and their grandfather stayed up all night watching this momentous and exciting occasion for our country. They remembered exactly where they were, and they knew they had saved the front page from The Washington Post with the headline reading “The Eagle Has Landed: Two Men Walk on the Moon,” though they could not put their hands on it for our festivities unfortunately.
Perhaps this event is so imprinted on their brains because of the gravity of it, or lack thereof, in this case. (Apparently, the gravity on the moon is one-seventh of the gravity on Earth, according to my MIL. If any astrophysicists want to argue that calculation, you can take that up with her.) Or perhaps it was because they both knew my father-in-law would be leaving for Vietnam just a few days later, and they would remember every moment of those final days they spent together no matter what. Probably a little of both.
Luckily, he returned home so they could see a few more men reach the moon. No women yet! Arghhhh!
All of this reflection did get me to thinking though, in my lifetime all of the major events that have happened as a country have been tragedies. Sure, I can think of a few national events roughly half of the country was pleased about, like presidential elections or Supreme Court rulings. But there hasn’t been a major unifying event for all of us that I can remember that doesn’t involve tears.
My own space memory was the Challenger disaster. I was in fourth grade and I just happened to be home from school and staying with my grandmother because I was sick. It was so exciting because a teacher was getting to go. I didn’t know any astronauts as a 9-year-old, but plenty of teachers. As such, it kind of felt like you knew someone going to space.
I remember watching it explode barely a minute after it launched and not really understanding what was going on at first. It was almost like that’s just what rockets blasting off should look like. But then, of course, we all realized what had just unfolded on the screens on the cabinet TVs in our dens. And it was obviously just devastating for the astronauts’ families and our country as a whole. The name Christa McAuliffe has never escaped my memory.
Fifteen years later, on September 11, 2001, when I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin, I watched the second tragic event of my lifetime unfold on a screen in the lobby of the communications building. We all remember where we were on 9/11. I can actually still remember more details of what I did on that day than what I did on any given day last week. I’m sure we all can. It was our Pearl Harbor.
In recent years, I have seen a meme floating around where it says something to the effect of obviously we wish 9/11 would have never happened, but how nice it would be if our country could go back to 9/12, when we were all flying flags and being a little nicer to one another because we all felt united and like we were Americans first above anything else.
Sadly, at this point, I am not really sure anything will bring this country back together. I feel like if something as horrific as 9/11 happened again, people would just jump on Twitter or Facebook five seconds after said horrific event and start spouting off conspiracy theories in real time, blaming politicians and screaming at each other.
But I do hope there is some other magical, joyous moon landing like-moment in my lifetime in the very near future so I can throw a dinner party someday and tell my own grandkids about it, as I serve them neon-colored juice-like substance out of wine glasses.
But I’m not holding my breath, even in a space suit.
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