I’ve written before about how much I enjoy playing dress up at the Depot. Last week, however, I found out it could be even more fun than I’d realized.
A bit part of what we do at the Huntsville Historic Depot museum is putting on programs for students on field trips. We have several different programs, and I get to perform different stations for each one. For example, I’ve been the emergency management director of Whoville, a Union general and a train conductor for various activities. I’ve scared kids with ghost stories so badly they had to take a break from the program, and taught them to march around the grounds.
Last week, though — Last week I got to branch out a bit.
The Depot museum is owned and operated by the City of Huntsville, as part of an organization that also includes the Alabama Constitute Hall Village museum and the Earlyworks children’s museum. Last week, while the Depot was closed to prepare for the annual Whistestop Festival, they had me come work at Earlyworks as part of an “American Heroes” program. They gave me the option of who I wanted to be, and asked what I’d need for a costume.
“Well,” I thought, “I do have a flightsuit …”
“Can I be an astronaut?” I asked. Yes, it turned out, I could be an astronaut.
So for two days last week, I went and pretended to be Buzz Aldrin for school kids. And, no offense to Clara Barton and Harriet Tubman, but my Buzz was about as cool an American hero as they come.
I had fun. Like, a lot of fun.
I like talking to kids about space, and I love seeing them get excited about it, and that was definitely the case those days. I had my story that I wanted to cover, and was barely able to get through it each time for them wanting to ask me questions about what it was like for “me” to be in space. I was proud that I was able to answer everything they threw at me, which helped maintain the feeling that it was “real” for the kids. Frankly, I’ve seen actual astronauts do actual Q&A’s with kids, and this really wasn’t that different.
And that part of it made me really happy. I’ve been blessed to meet and talk with astronauts from the early days of spaceflight, and the reality is, there’s a limit to how much longer we’ll be able to hear their stories first-hand. Since I began working on “Homesteading Space,” I’ve always felt a responsibility that, when it’s no longer possible to talk to them directly, the best thing people will be able to do is talk to the people who talked to them, and that I have a duty to carry those stories. These kids will likely never get to talk to Buzz directly, but it made me happy that they could talk to Buzz by proxy. (And I felt like, in places, I was a pretty decent Buzz — when a kid asked if I was the second man to walk on the moon, I responded that “Neil and I were the first men to land on the moon,” a fairly accurate Buzz response, in my opinion.)
I’ve enjoyed all the different programs I’ve done, but this one very well may have been my favorite. Enough that I’m currently trying to convince my boss that, when we do the Civil War program, the Depot should have been captured, not by Union General O.M. Mitchell, but by Buzz Aldrin. THAT would be a great presentation, let me tell you!