by Eric Lucas
I was lolling in the bathtub reading a comic book (the Amazing Flash) when my mom came in waving a copy of the afternoon newspaper. “Russians Launch Satellite,’ blared the huge headline. I tore myself away from superhero suspense to listen. You should listen to your mom, right? It was October 4, 1957. I was 6 years old.
“You may not understand this, but your world just changed,” my mother told me. “Pretty soon people will travel into space. You could. There’s a whole universe out there.
“All you have to do,” she added, “is make sure those grades keep up.”
She used to work that into every conversation; in fact, until recently, she would occasionally resurrect her offer that, should I wish to go to law school, she’d pay for it. Never mind I have no interest in law school and I’ve enjoyed a 30-year career writing everything from hotheaded newspaper columns to, well, hotheaded internet columns.
Most of my childhood is vague to my recollection, but I remember that evening the whole world marveled at the news Sputnik I had circled the globe. A 6-year-old boy’s grasp of the world is pretty much rooted in baseball, bikes and Cheerios, so I can’t say I comprehended the fact the universe had just shifted. Did this make the amazing technology behind the Flash more likely? What about Superman? “Just remember this moment,” my mom admonished.
Since then neither of us has been outside earth’s atmosphere. But my mom’s been around the world, and I’ve been most of the way around. (Indonesia and Ethiopia still beckon.) I believe the door she wanted to open for me that evening was not literal but figurative, and of course this is what mothers everywhere wish for their children.
There are innumerable things she could have tried to plant in my memory at a young age. Some mothers unintentionally post other messages--sports sycophancy, buxom babes, corporate coagulation. My mother waved the universe at me.
And so I’ve wandered far and wide, literally and figuratively. The grades didn’t work out--in fact, during a short career as a sheet-metal fabricator, quite a detour from academia, I made a bracket that went into space in Skylab. It’s the closest I’ve been to any sort of orbit, but my world did indeed change that night when my mother said it would.
Eric Lucas’s travel, business and natural history journalism concentrates on the meaning and purpose of travel and enterprise. His work appears in the Los Angeles Times, MSN.com, Boston Globe, Westways Magazine, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Western Journey, Michelin Maps & Guides, among others. He lives in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, where he grows and sells organic garlic.. He is an expert gardener, wilderness fisherman and downhill skier. To learn more, visit his website at:http://www.trailnot4sissies.com/.
Editor's Note: For Mother's Day, co-founder Judith Fein wrote about her mama. We decided to check in with our other writers to see what they have to say about the women who birthed them. You may be very surprised. Feel free to leave comments for any of the writers and Happy Mother's Day if you are one, have one, or plan to be one!