I was sitting here in my big, manly, comfortable black leather pappa chair in my living room listening to our little 3 year old Cecelia sing, when the news about Neil Armstrong’s death came in. The song she was singing was a three year old’s happy, but very careful version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, How I Wonder What You Are.” It was the absolutely perfect song for the occasion. Cecelia is only 3, but she sometimes amazes us with the things she wonders about. Most of the time she’s a bundle of bounces and non-stop noise. But I’ve also seen her sit very quietly on our daughter Kris’ lap on a Summer evening, and look up at the stars…and wonder…what they are.

 Neil Armstrong was only a little older than our Cecelia when he had his first plane ride. It lit the fuse on his life long rocket ride into the history of the entire universe. He was just a little kid when he told his parents and all his friends, “I’m going to be a pilot.” A few years later, he got a job at an airport…fueling planes, and generally working to earn flying lessons. He grew up to fly Navy jets in Korea, and then he became a test pilot. The test pilot gig was at least as dangerous as flying in combat. Think about it. An airplane designer geek does all kinds of math, and runs wind tunnel tests, then he turns his brand new, untried, hot rod jet plane over to the test pilot and says, “Here. I think this will work ok. Why don’t I go hide in a bunker while you fly it and we’ll see.”

I’m a pilot too. Certainly not in Neil Armstrong’s league. But all pilots have a little kid inside who can’t help saying “Whoopiee…look at this…I’m flying.” It’s wonderful. We’re all three year olds wearing Ray Ban sunglasses. And we all have some un-forgettable memories of times when we wondered, What the heck am I doing here ?” My first flying “What am I doing here” moment was on my very first flight lesson, when the little airplane went zooming down the runway, and I could feel the wheels lifting from the ground. I remember wondering, “Oh my God, there goes the ground. What am I doing here?” Most student pilots are scared when the instructor pilot steps out of the plane, and says, “Take her around the pattern three times by yourself.” That’s called “First solo.” I actually enjoyed my first solo, because I’ve always been a little over confident.

Somehow I don’t think “What am I doing here” is a big enough thought to cover the kind of wonderment that must have been going on in Neil Armstrong’s mind as he opened the hatch of Apollo 11 and looked down at the surface of the moon, just a few feet away. It was Buzz Aldrin’s “What am I doing here?” turn next. But Michael Collins must have had a very different kind of “What am I doing here” thought going through his mind. He made the trip all the way from the earth, but he had to stay up in moon orbit to pilot the return rocket. So he came all that way from Earth, but he never got to set foot on the moon. I’ll bet he always wondered what it would have been like. All his life…wondering how wonderful it might have been.

Dick’s Details Quiz. All answers are in the current podcast.

1-      What’s fishy about Congress ?

2-      What kind of suckers are we ?

3-      Why should you go soak your head ?

Dick’s Details. They take your mind off your mind.

There’s all different kind of wonderful stuff going on all the time. Some people wonder how I can almost always find a good parking spot. I don’t have the answer for that, except that I’ve come to expect it now, and maybe that helps. I used to wonder what the kids got away with doing behind my back. They used to laugh about it, look up at me, and laugh with each other some more. What they didn’t know is that I also did stuff behind their backs. My Lady Wonder Wench and I weren’t always just taking a nap.

And don’t you ever wonder what will happen when you die, and friends and relatives will have to go through your stuff? I mean what will they find that will make them laugh. What will they find that might shock them? What will they find that might break their hearts? And I wonder if whoever wrote the alphabet song realized it’s the same tune as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Think about it. And I’ve often wondered why the letters are in that ABC order, instead of some other order like Z E G F U K Y…or any other order. And don’t you wonder if whoever put the letters in the ABC order had any idea how much of an impact that was going to have on our lives ? I mean can you imagine trying to use a telephone book that’s not in alphabetical order ? And do you ever look in the mirror, and wonder who that person looking back really is? There’s a story about that in the lovin touch Personal Audio CD, and in the current podcast. If you like it, you can just keep the podcast, or you can go back to the lovin touch icon on the home page.

Three year olds love to wonder…including those of us who put on Ray Ban sunglasses and go flying. And it seems to run in the family. When Neil Armstrong’s family announced his death, they said: “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil and give him a wink.” The dreary drones won’t do that. Too un-dignified. And the Pimple People are always too busy texting.

But little Cecelia, my Lady Wonder Wench & our daughter Kris went out in the yard with me last night and we winked at the moon. Little Cecelia winked both eyes. And then very softly, we all sang it together…Twinkle twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are. 

It was wonderful.

2 Responses to “Wonder-Full”

  1. Betsy says:

    Loved the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star story Dick, and it’s ironic you’d mention what people will find after we die. Just the other day I found this in my mom’s “things snipped to keep” and thought it was such a beautiful poem I’d share it on the blog. I’m sure many of us Louie Louie generation folks can identify with it.

    (To My Mother)

    Your desk is nearly clear. I have disposed
    of letters saved, old bills, receipts,
    empty envelopes tied in neat
    slim packets, stamps haphazardly enclosed
    in cardboard boxes, their full, garish hues
    mocking the hollow grayness in
    my heart. Gone are your favorite pen
    and scissors, mailing labels you would use
    to send grandchildren cookies, off at school;
    gone ruler, staples, paper clips,
    things snipped to keep ( old cartoons, quips,
    news items more than topical), small tools
    for tightening your spectacles — these all
    given away to neighbors, friends,
    as also are the odds and ends
    of pale blue stationary, paper pale
    and blue as the forget-me-nots I laid
    upon your grave.

    And so the drawers
    are empty, empty as the hours
    we planned to spend together, hours we said,
    in careless confidence, we’d keep, or spend,
    as though time, like a purse, belonged
    to us, forgetting Fate makes wrong
    such arrogance, decrees what it will lend,
    and at a whim slams shut the doors that we
    assume will never close.

    As if
    to underscore the point, what’s left
    are keys — large, small, complex and simple, keys
    for luggage, cupboards, cars, keys that allowed
    access to homes you owned — in short,
    keys to fit locks of every sort
    except the one that separates us now.

    — Elizabeth Marion

  2. Bob Littler says:

    I remember a hot night in 1969 when I sat with my new wife on our couch in our new little cottage up the street from Wollaston Beach watching a black and white Philco TV when that grainy picture cast before us. A man, an American was actually standing on another planet! It was a moment as powerful as the fall of the Berlin Wall. It feels sometimes that all of the really big things have all been discovered and invented. Stepping foot on Mars will never have the same impact as Alan Sheppard or John Glenn or Neil Armstrongs rides to immortality. Our children will never know how important it was when President Reagan told Gorbachov “tear down this wall”. For the people of our parents generation, they understood that we will never know how good it was when the Japenese surrendered or when Hitlers body was found or the bread lines of the twenties and thirties were no more. Our generation will hopefully never know the fear of nuclear holocaust, or polio, or tb, and how huge it was in our lives when those threats ended. So restin peace Neil Armstrong and know you were an icon to us and will be in our thoughts until the end of our time.