Thursday, June 18, 2009

Moon, 1969

What’s the first news event you can remember?

In my case, I long believed it to be the first moon landing, in July 1969. I have a vague memory of my father sitting me down and telling me to watch something on TV about the space program, saying it was important.

But in recent years, and especially as I’ve been reading about the upcoming 40th anniversary of that event, I’ve come to doubt my memory. I was 2 ½ at the time, and the moon landing occurred late at night in my time zone. I would have been asleep. Neither of my parents recall making me watch it.

What’s more, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon among people my age. Many of us seem to believe we remember the moon landing. Several of my coworkers who are my contemporaries called it the first news event they remember too – and it’s just as unlikely in their case as it is in mine.

Are we all imagining things?

I don’t think so. Instead, I think we’re simply conflating our many separate memories about space flights that were made in the early 1970s. Maybe we remember any of the five subsequent moon landings that occurred during Apollo space missions in the early 1970s. The final moon landing, part of the Apollo 17 mission, occurred in December 1972 – it’s entirely plausible that I would remember that.

I definitely remember splash-downs from the Apollo missions – those tiny capsules crashing into the sea, trailing their colorful parachutes, and the clambering Navy frogmen.

I think it’s interesting that people my age believe we remember something we probably don’t. It just goes to show how deceptive memories can be, especially very early ones, and how we can “create” them out of subsequent events or information we learn later.

For the record, I do remember U.S. soldiers coming home from Vietnam after our part in the war ended in 1973. And I remember Richard Nixon’s resignation, but that’s no surprise – by then, I would have been nearly eight. (Like many kids, I thought Watergate had something to do with a dam!)

(Photo: Psychedelic pig or hippo street art, SoHo, June 2009)


mum said...

The July '69 moon landing I remember very well - it happened a few days after my daughter was born.

But your theory about conflation works for me. There are stories from my childhood I heard so often, I could swear I remember living them - except, when I do, I 'see' myself as you would in a movie. That, for me, is always a give-away that I'm actually 'remembering' something I created from other people's stories.

The street art: maybe because I know you have an active interest in buddhism, the first thing I thought of when I saw it wasn't a pig at all - it was the Ten bull pictures of buddhism:

have a good one.

Barbara said...

I think we're most likely to remember things for which we have a photo. Otherwise our minds make up the picture that is not always accurate, but which simply evolves from the stray bits of information floating around in our heads.

I remember getting to hear the radio broadcast of "space" events at school over the PA system, since there was no such thing as TV screens in classrooms at that time. It was always a good excuse not to do whatever lesson was normally planned for that time.

Steve Reed said...

Mum: At my Zendo we call those the "oxherding pictures." I'm very familiar with them! Maybe this is my very own "ox." :)

Mark said...

Oh, I totally remember the moon landing! Watched it at my grandmother's house, and clipped articles from the paper about it. I probably still have that scrapbook somewhere.

I'd tell you the earliest news event I remember, but it would shock you too much. :-p

mouse (aka kimy) said...

I remember the moon landing vividly it was the day after my (14th) birthday in might be the event that explains why I'm such a sci-fi geek.

I remember the assassination of jfk quite well, but I should I was 8... before that I don't really remember any significant news event - I have a few memories when I was 3 - but none of them count as news events: eg my first hula hoop; watching a woman breast feed; and my ballerina wallpaper

Merle Sneed said...

The moon landing was just two months after Mrs. Sneed and I married. I remember it well. My earliest memory is of the overthrow of the Cuban government by Castro and the Nixon/Kennedy election.

Merle Sneed said...

The moon landing was just two months after Mrs. Sneed and I married. I remember it well. My earliest memory is of the overthrow of the Cuban government by Castro and the Nixon/Kennedy election.

lettuce said...

well i do remember it. But then i'm SO MUCH older than you, Steve.


I'm pretty positive I remember the Kennedy assassination - I remember staying at my nan's, and all the news footage on the TV (we didn't have a TV at home) and everyone so sombre and talking about it. And I think this memory pre-dates my more recent familiarity with the event, with footage and films etc...