Time Traveling

During every round of household excavations, i find something that stops me in my tracks.  This time?  No exception.

Viciously tearing through bookshelves heaving with excess, i was in good form.  Thirty year old textbook on “Plastics Engineering”?  POOF!  That “Principles of Modern Physics” that tortured me for an entire year of undergraduate studies?  Get outta my life, Drs. Halliday and Resnick!  Paperback novels bought in airports over the past few decades of travel?  Banished to the thrift store box!  Find a new home!

On the same shelf?  A small book of poetry.  A gift, long forgotten.  Opening the cover i discovered the handwritten inscription from 1978.

To Daisyfae -
Finding an old book is like reliving the past.  As the dust is swept away by the hand, the mind recalls memories of different times and old friends.
Merry Christmas!
With love,
Jenny

As if my excavations weren’t slowed enough?  A book of photographs – with the following written inside the cover:

Daisyfae,

Well, the day we’ve looked forward to for so long is finally here… May 18th, 1980, better known as the day we graduate.  I don’t know where we’ll be ten years from now.  I do know you were one of my dearest friends in high school (that’s four long years), and that we went through our “formative” years together.  Also that if I can’t remember your name when I’m old and grey it doesn’t matter, because our paths have crossed, and each will be forever different because they did.  We’ll never forget each other because we’ve grown and changed together.

Keep reaching for that higher plane, and always remember the simplistic beauty of the laughter we’ve shared.

Love Always,

Jenny

My evening of excavations was delightfully derailed as i tripped back to a time when i was angst-ridden and alive… So much of the goofy-assed, drunken, bon vivant that i happen to be these days can be traced back to those four incredibly formative years – with Jenny and Jeff as my best friends.

When we went to different universities in 1980, we lost touch.  The next time i spoke with Jenny?  i tracked her down in 1986 to tell her Jeff had died.  She knew why i was calling as soon as she heard my voice.

After that?  Another brief reconnection ten years ago, as i was in southern California on a business trip.  We had found each other by e-mail a few months prior, and planned to meet for dinner.  Our lives had taken decidedly different paths, but we were able to pick up the conversation as if we’d been in constant contact through the years.

Her route?  From teaching English literature in the Los Angeles public schools, she followed a path that led to law school, and eventually to private family law practice.  She was delighted to find that i’d survived the dark years and managed to follow my girlish dream of being a scientist.  Not quite astronaut, but we both considered it a success in that i hadn’t been found dead in a gutter.

After finding the inscribed books, i grabbed a beer, and set about a “missing person” search.  Found her.  Sent an e-mail to let her know that as an 18 year-old, she’d successfully managed to reach forward in time.  i also thanked her for being such an erudite little shit that she could reach in and play with my heart from so far away – in time and distance.

time traveling

Here’s to old friends.  Here’s to time travel.

Potential

Magic.  Anything is still possible in the 12-year old brain. The perfectly timed intersection of “knowledge” and “naiveté”, they genuinely believe the future is wide open….

With delight, i accepted an offer to teach a little geekery to a group of 40 “Science Campers”.  They were beautiful – a hyperspectral rainbow of excitement and energy, hungry to know something cool… ANYTHING geeky.   Yeah.  i’m guessing they were enjoying a week of not getting beat up after school for a change…

They pinged me with questions, a little shy at first, gaining confidence as they got comfortable with my style.  “How does that plate change photons into electrons?” to “Are there any sensors that can really see through clothes?” (giggles all around).
 
Was i like that at twelve years old?  Seems that i’ve always been a crunchy and jaded cynic.  Spending a morning with them took me back. 

Forty years ago this month, i was an androgynous, amorphous and routinely dirt-encrusted seven year old.  When Neil Armstrong was about to take his first steps on the moon, Dad dragged us out of bed. The entire family watched grainy, shaky images on the black and white console in the living room. 

Wasn’t really sure what was going on, but i knew it was important. At least to my Dad.

Over the next several years, he and i tracked the Apollo program closely. To say that it sparked me was an understatement. i didn’t just want to be an astronaut, I was going to be an astronaut.  He didn’t encourage me in a patronizing way, simply pointed out the things i’d have to do to get there.

We took a family vacation to the Huntsville Alabama Space and Missile center when i was 10 years old.  In hindsight, i  know it was his way of feeding my dream, because Mom and my sister, T, whined the entire trip.  In 1972, the Space Shuttle was in development, and we had the opportunity to muck around in a full scale prototype.  i was fascinated to discover my first space urinal – a nicely penis-shaped hole, attached to a vacuum system.

10 year old daisyfae to tour guide: “Where will the women go to the bathroom?”

i was given no acceptable answer. And it pissed me the fuck off….

In addition to the chance to teach Science Camp this week, i was also tagged to attend a technology exposition at a regional convention center. One of the keynote speakers was an astronaut. A woman who had worked in my organization when she was a baby engineer. About seven years younger than me, she’s now about 40.

Her presentation covered two prior space missions, as well as her current training for a lengthy stint on the international space station.  From underwater living in a deep-sea habitrail, to a few months in Antarctica to learning Russian, Japanese and German while working with her international colleagues to learn the jobs to be performed in space….  An endless stream of adventure, intellectual and physical challenges as she prepares to live in space.

She was clearly still full of the wonder of a 12-year old, grateful to have the best job in the world, if not the universe. And i was mesmerized.  Could i have done it?  Well, she wasn’t married and wasn’t saddled with kids…  Lots more time to focus on your own dreams when you don’t have people depending on you to take out the trash and review homework!

Oh.  That’d be a photo of her husband and small child.  Um… right.  There goes that excuse.  She’s definitely had a bit of good fortune, but luck and timing only take you so far.  She is the real thing.  Hard work, persistence, focus, drive and passion… Sacrifice.  Sleep deprivation.  Giving up time with her family to do what it takes to hit the goal…

i’ve been pretty damn lucky myself, following my own dream – allowing for some dilution along the way – i’ve managed to have the geek-a-rific career i desired.  And more.  Following a path that parallels the aerospace industry, i’ve also had the fortune to get to know a few astronauts along the way, allowing me a glimpse “behind the capsule door” from time to time.

But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  As a minimum, i need to get my doughy ass to the gym.  She’s only 7 years younger and can squeeze into a Russian rocket capsule, torquing her body to perform Herculean Amazonian tasks.  i should at least be able to do a few more push ups…

potential