Last week my husband, Paul, took our three boys on what might be a once-in-a-lifetime outing. All of the stars had aligned perfectly as far as he was concerned, because in Florida the weather had been windy and rainy for days. Meanwhile, in California, the sun was doing what it does best; shining. For someone like Paul who regularly follows the movements of the astronauts who visit and inhabit the International Space Station, this means that NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery would be re-routed from Cape Canveral, Florida, to make a rare landing in California. Not just anywhere in California, but at the Edwards Airforce Base located in the Mojave Desert, just an hour and 20 minutes from where we live!
Months ago my husband started imagining this very event when we stopped for dinner at Domingo’s Mexican Restaurant near Edwards base on our way home from a camping trip. The tiny town of Boron is the closest to the base, and besides being known for its Borax mine, appears to be the eating-out destination for the astronauts and airmen. Domingo’s walls are lined with posed photos of the astronauts and pilots, signed with notes of thanks for a delicious meal–imagine–perhaps their first upon return to earth. Looking at these pictures got us to thinking that someday we might be lucky enough to see a space shuttle land here ourselves.
When NASA made their final landing determination for the Discovery on Friday, we were ready. Except I wasn’t. For two days I’d had a bad enough headache to make the car ride uncomfortable, if not make the headache worse. I told Paul that he’d have to go without me. A year ago, the thought of going solo on this kind of car trip and activity with the 3 boys might have stopped him, or he might have negotiated for a different kid-to-parent ratio before attempting it. I was more than pleased that on this occasion he didn’t hesitate, but enthusiastically piled the boys in the van, loaded with maps to the viewing site, a picnic dinner, cameras, binoculars, and caps, and went on his way.
All of the boys came home repeating their own sound-effect versions of the double sonic boom the shuttle made as it re-entered the airspace, and although their view was from a distance, they saw the huge ship circle in for its landing, and excitedly told me all about it.
The miracle of the internet age is that I was able to watch the shuttle land too, courtesy of live video streaming from NASA TV, all the while envisioning my guys out in the desert staring up at the real thing in the sky. Even on a computer screen the smooth landing of the craft was impressive. When the guys called one of the grandpas on the cell phone to report in about what they just witnessed, he told them “You’ll remember this your whole life!” He’s right–their dad will not let them forget it, because for him the moment completely satisfied his self-described “inner geek” (his version of what I called his “dream fulfilled”), and an important event to share with his kids.
We marked another milestone this week, one that might be just as thrilling and scary for the parents as the child, but mostly thrilling. I convinced my oldest son (and his dad) that he was ready to take the training wheels off his bicycle. For months L has been passing up his big new bike for a pedal-less wooden bike meant for his younger brothers, easily cruising up and down the block on it. He had no trouble with balance, just confidence with the bulky bike.
We practiced a little every evening after supper, one of us helping support the bike, getting L situated and pedaling, with each wobble getting closer to the feeling of steering, balancing, and pedaling the bike forward himself. Oh yes, and braking, and catching himself from falling. Two nights ago he told me “you can let go now, I can do it myself…”
and I did, and he did, and you should have heard him chortling to himself!
We parents are fledglings too, learning when to trust ourselves and our instincts, and to see and trust our children in their moments of readiness. But what a reward to let go and immediately hear the pure joy of “yes I can!” and to know that it is just a beginning.