Growing up, some adults that told children that the moon was made of green cheese. I never really believed it because that shining, silver orb seemed too pretty to be stinky cheese. I did, however, believe that there was a man in the moon.
After all, when the moon appeared, I could gaze upward and see his face, an eye, a nose, sometimes the hint of a smile.
The man in the moon was magical and mystical although no one, including me, could define him or his purpose. My black-and-white checked copy of Mother Goose had him coming down out of the sky long enough to burn his mouth on porridge. My grandmother said he carried a bundle of sticks on his back. Whoever he was, I liked to see his face and form on the surface of the full moon.
Sometimes my mother read me a little poem that said the moon was the North wind’s cookie that got eaten each month. The South wind, so the story went, baked a new cookie, devoured again in an endless cycle.
My dad said that we could tell the weather by watching the moon. If the half-moon appeared to be turned up like a cup, it would rain. More often than not, it seemed to be so.
All the magic in the moon faded when science debunked it all. On July 20, 1969, man walked on the moon for the first time and my aunt made sure I watched that historic moment.
On that day I was staying at Aunt Janet's and sat parked before her television set and watched.
I heard the words spoken, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.
History happened that day, but it was also the end of innocence for my generation. As one of the tail-end members of the Baby Boomers, I saw the loss of my dreams, the debunking of the stories. dreams, the stories, and the mystery. Science stepped in to replace the myths and magic. There was no longer room for the man in the moon or the north wind's cookie.
We were the last of the kids who believed in the Man in the Moon. We were the last who wondered whether or not the moon was made from green cheese.
With The Man in the Moon reduced to a series of craters and mountains on the lunar surface, the other mythical things we cherished soon faded from our imaginations as well. If there was no Man in the Moon, then perhaps there were no fairies hiding in the flowers, no elves making shoes – or even baking cookies in a big tree.
Sometimes I still gaze up at the full moon and see a face. Imagination has never vanished in me - if it had, then I would not have become a writer. And just maybe, a part of me still wants to believe.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is the community editor of The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also a freelance writer and novelist.