Expressway: I brought the moon to show-and-tell
My kindergarten teacher at Wheeler Avenue School in Valley Stream ran a tight ship.
Back in 1965, kindergarten was only a half-day affair filled with the wonders of the alphabet, numbers and colors. Teacher Margaret Mante was determined to instill all of the basics in her pupils.
"Those children are taking an extra long recess," she'd say disapprovingly, watching another class play in the schoolyard. "We are here to learn."
One of the most widely anticipated events was the timeless show-and-tell. Each child carefully clutched his small offering in hand, eager to tell his or her story.
I, too, wanted to share something unique. It was a tall order, one that I confided in my dad one night after dinner. He leaned toward me conspiratorially.
"I have an idea that is completely different," he said, "something that no one else has seen before."
"What is it?" I asked.
"Real pictures of the moon!" he exclaimed. "I can get them from work."
"Pictures of the moon," I said dreamily. "That would be great."
My dad, John E. Reardon, worked for Grumman Aerospace in Bethpage, where hundreds of employees were building the U.S. space program's lunar module, the craft that first landed men on the moon 45 years ago this weekend. Dad was a procurement director for the project.
As a girl, I did not know exactly what his job entailed, but noticed that he came home each day tired, yet with a spring in his step, as if taking care of very important things.
A couple of days later, my dad arrived home with an ordinary large yellow envelope -- but what magic it contained! There were about four closeup images of the moon from NASA.
On each, we examined the gray bumps and crevices of the moon's distinct, gravel-like surfaces. I ran my fingers lightly over the images, marveling at the clear definition. I could hardly wait to share my special treasure!
The next day at school was one of delicious, yet nerve-wracking, anticipation. I tapped my foot impatiently while classmates made their presentations. Then, at last, the words I had been waiting for: "Victoria, do you have anything today to share for show-and-tell?"
I stood up and fumbled a little with the envelope's metal clasp, then spread the photos across my desk.
"I have some pictures of the moon," I said, trying to sound casual. "I can pass them around so everyone can see them better."
"You, you, what Victoria?" my normally staid teacher asked.
She lunged at my desk, grabbing the photos for closer inspection. "You actually have pictures of the moon?"
For the next hour, I was a celebrity. Teachers dropped by to examine the extraordinary photos. Classmates traced all the surface ridges just as I had done. There was a sense of near awe as we were reminded of the vastness of the universe and its mysteries.
That evening when my Dad arrived home, our eyes locked and we shared knowing smiles. I related every detail, but he already knew the stir that photos of the moon could create. He was part of that excitement every day at Grumman.