Little Girl Dreams

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Every little girl dreams about what she wants to be when she grows up. When I was a child, princess was a favorite idea. We’d make crowns out of construction paper and decorate them with crayons. One of our mother’s old dresses became a suitable gown for our make-believe princess selves.

I’ve often mentioned how I wrote my first story in kindergarten. Throughout the years, I continued to write stories. When I was getting ready to go to college, my mother asked me what I wanted to be. I said, “A writer.” I’m not sure why this caught her by surprise, or maybe it was dismay. I do know that her response was, “You could be a teacher and write books in the summer.” That pretty much dashed my hopes of following that career. (A long story for another blog.)

But another dream I had was of being an astronaut. In fifth grade, I discovered a book called “The Rolling Stones” in our school library. This was long before the British rock group came into being. No, it was about a family named Stone that traveled the solar system, a kind of RVing in space. I’d never read science fiction before, and I had my doubts about whether I’d like it or not. But how could I resist a story about a family with my last name?

I loved it! In fact, I then proceeded to read every Heinlein juvenile I could get my hands on. I widened my reading to Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Lester del Rey, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg—too many to mention. I always liked science, so science fiction was a perfect match for me.

With the selection of the Mercury Seven and the suborbital flights that led to landing on the moon, it seemed as if all the wonderful adventures I’d read about were very close to becoming reality. And one of my dreams became to be an astronaut.

Even while I had it, I knew it wasn’t very realistic. Astronauts were all from the military at that time. That meant being in excellent physical shape and being able to run obstacle courses and such. I’ve been overweight my entire life. I’m also not very coordinated. I was the one who was picked last—if at all—when teams were chosen in school. (Except for spelling bees, where I was picked first, of course.) I knew I’d never pass the physical tests, much less the rigorous training astronauts had to go through.

What I didn’t know was that John F. Kennedy’s dream of landing a man on the moon would be over once we accomplished that. No one else (until Donald Trump) thought space exploration was important. We gave up building rockets to go to the moon and instead built the space shuttle. Then we gave up building spacecraft at all, instead relying on the Russians to bring us to the International Space Station and back. It turned out astronaut wasn’t a viable career for anyone for a while. Or at least, only for very few.

So you can imagine how excited I was when the news was full of the first all-woman spacewalk yesterday. Not only has our space program been reinvigorated, but women are a major part of it. I felt a pang of regret that I was now too old to ever be an astronaut, but happy tears came to my eyes when one of the women (I think it was Christine Koch, but it may have been Jessica Meir) was interviewed by the media. The reporter asked when she had decided to become an astronaut. Her answer? “When I was five.”

Tears because one little girl had her dream come true. Yay, her!

There has also been a happy ending for me. While my dreams of being a princess or an astronaut turned out to be impractical, I’ve been following my dream of being a writer for almost twenty years. You’re never too old to be a writer.

Photo Credit: NASA

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