Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Moon Walk

Eli 6.4, Gloria, and I went to dinner early last week, and on our way home Eli was talking about going to the local inflatables place ("Jumping Beans" or something like that).

"When I was a kid, I always loved the moon walk," I said.

"Moon walk?" Eli asked. "What's a moon walk?"

It was one of those moments when you realize the vast distances between your childhood and your children's.

Within fifteen minutes of our house, there are three inflatables places, all filled with sliding/jumping/climbing inflatables. They're so common that they're mundane.

When I was a kid, though, an inflatable was one of the most exotic places imaginable.

Each year, two carnivals would come through town. One would set up in a vacant grass lot within walking distance of our house. The other would always be held in the parking lot of the H.E.B. across town ("across town" was a five-minute walk).

When I was eight, in 1969, the carnival had a new feature. It was called the "Moon Walk," and it was a giant inflatable dome with an inflated floor.

It was supposed to simulate the gravity of the Moon.

I still remember the first time I went into the Moon Walk. I was excited beyond words. I was going to experience the same gravity that the astronauts felt on the moon.

I'd already flamed out in pre-astronaut training. After reading that one of the astronauts had hung upside-down on a tree branch and eaten peanut butter sandwiches as a boy, I tried it, too, and quickly realized that I was cut from more upright cloth.

Still, though, through the miracle of carnivals, I was going to get to at least feel like I was on the moon.

After a suitably epic wait, the attendant unzipped the entry flap and I stepped inside. It was all white inside, and I immediately started jumping.

I was on the moon.

I remember being annoyed at the kids who weren't treating their opportunity to walk on the moon with the appropriate respect. Playing grab-ass during a moment of such historic nature? Ridiculous!

I went a second time that night, and a third, and it was an incredible thrill each time.

All I wanted was to get one chance in the Moon Walk by myself.

I came back every time the carnival returned. I was older and a little taller each time, and the Moon Walk was older and a little dingier each time. It was still the reason I came, though, and it was still wonderful.

When I was eleven, the Moon Walk had finally lost some of its appeal. It wasn't magic anymore--I knew it didn't really simulate the surface of the moon. I think other kids knew that, too, because the long lines had dwindled over the years, and now only a handful of kids ever went inside.

I decided to go one more time, just for nostalgia's sake, and for the first time ever, I was alone. I remember jumping with complete abandon, thinking as I did about the irony of getting what I wanted when I didn't want it anymore.

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