We spent most summer evenings outside, as did all of our neighbors on the street.   The lack of air-conditioning made all of us more neighborly in the summer of 1969.   But once the sun set, we would migrate to our basement, again in an effort to escape the heat.  We had only one television and we would actually move it into the basement for the summer.  We had some chairs and a sofa down there and there was even a second refrigerator.  The cave-like environment did indeed provide some relief.

I had just turned 12 a few months earlier and really have to thank my older brother for making all of us stay glued to the television for Neil Armstrong’s life altering walk on the moon.  It was a reasonably clear evening and I remember all of us – kids and parents – casting occasional glances skyward as we contemplated the adventures of two men a quarter of a million miles away on the surface of an object whose sliver we could readily see.

Following space missions had become standard practice at least in part because  NASA had been so active in the space race and because there were only three TV networks and they all covered the same news.  That era stands in stark contrast to modern times with so many entertainment options available and particularly so many of them being those faux-unscripted reality series that aren’t real at all.  It could be said that a lunar landing and subsequent walkabout by astronauts was the penultimate unrehearsed reality show.

My immature 12-year-old self was so impatient.  I couldn’t understand why they landed shortly after 4pm and weren’t planning on leaving the lunar module for at least six hours.  That was not how we did it when we made a trip to the grocery!

In between what seemed like incessant chatter between two astronauts and mission control with frequent sidebars from network commentators, we caught lightning bugs, played badminton, drank some Kool-Aid (made with real sugar) and the evening played out like so many before that landmark event and so many after as well.

As the temps cooled, and the sugar rush waned we bid our neighbors “goodnight” and retired to our basement to watch TV.  Only minutes after plopping down in my beanbag chair, I began to drift off.  But my brother, 16 years old then and so engrossed by space exploration and maybe even understanding the gravitas of the situation jostled me awake so that I, too, could witness those first steps on the moon.  Both my parents were there, as well as my older sister.  None of them needed waking in order to witness history in the making.

And I am so grateful that my brother took that one small step to make sure I was awake for it all.

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