My earliest memory is standing on my toes, looking out onto Lake Michigan from the 22nd floor of our family apartment. When I see a picture of myself on the sill with my little hands pressed against the window, I remember the quality of lightness in my home. Surrounded by windows, without curtains, there were views onto the lake and the city below, and sometimes simply the clouds. I remember my mother’s loneliness, as an immigrant, having left the support of her country and her career as a brilliant young scientist to focus on raising children. I have a memory of her holding me in one arm and cooking or tidying up with the other; keeping me safe from my older brother’s reach. I remember yearning to feel her love. While I sensed something was wrong, what I didn’t know, as a baby, was that she was yearning for this love as well.
But my first official memory is when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. People can’t believe it, but I have a clear image of the event as seen from my position on the floor, on my belly, at nine months. I remember the fuzzy movement on the screen of our black and white TV, brought out of the closet only for this occasion. I remember seeing the wooden legs of our couch and the complex woven fabric underneath its cushions.
The moment I entered the world, the sun was just below the horizon and the moon was setting. Jupiter, Pluto, Mars and Uranus were aligned and also rising. It was the ‘60s, a time of upheaval, sexual revolution, liberation and scientific discovery. It was also a time when my father slipped into a deep depression.
I have forever had a fascination with the moon, with science, with the stars, and with the deep vastness and exploration of new horizons. Being born I think for me may have felt like taking a first step onto solid ground after a wild journey of floating in space, like making that first uncertain step onto the moon.