Back to the Future

Jan 20, 2013 | 2 comments

2nd Grade PaintingJPGFrank Wolfe and Kathleen Sayce came through our door Friday evening looking like the proverbial cats who had swallowed those unfortunate mice.  “We have a presentation to make to Sydney,” Frank announced.  And from behind his back he pulled a large kid’s painting that I hadn’t seen for almost twenty years.

The 18×24 inch painting, still attached to its black construction paper mat was adorned with a second place ribbon from the Pacific County Fair.  On the reverse side was a label:  “Name: Lindsay Newell; Grade: 2nd; Teacher: Sydney Stevens.”  It had come from Mary Newell’s Garage Sale.

“It’s Mr. Fireplug Man,” Jon Ducharme said. And everyone laughed.

But I knew better.  It was a painting Lindsay had done during an intensive study of space – a spacemom and her offspring, as I recall.  We had learned about the planets and the constellations, about astronauts and space exploration.  We had learned songs about space and even a “moon dance.”  We culminated our six weeks of study by making our own “spacesuits” and doing a safety test of our carefully engineered space capsules.

2nd Grade Astronaut The spacesuits involved moon boots (made with many, many newspapers and rolls of masking tape), an EMU – Extravehicular Mobility Unit – backpack (cereal boxes and scads of aluminum foil) and, of course, a protective space helmet (large paper bag) generously adorned with “official” space stickers and I.D. badges.  For homework, each student engineered a “safe” container into which they placed a raw egg.

On the ‘Big Day’ the student astronauts donned their spacesuits and moonwalked into the gym where parents, grandparents and the rest of the school watched their proud presentation.  Afterwards, we adjourned to the front lawn and held our collective breaths as custodian Dan Gove gently tossed the “space capsules,” one-by-one, from his perch on the roof.

“Will my capsule make it?  Will my egg survive?” were the questions in every astronaut/engineer’s mind.  The eggs were nested and swaddled into materials ranging from Styrofoam popcorn to wads of Kleenex or tissue paper.  Some were actually strapped into their containers.  Most survived.  A few didn’t and I remember being surprised by some tears that first year.  (The next time I did that learning unit, I prepped the astronauts more thoroughly with regard to possible mission failure.)

My thoughts continued to soar and I had to make a conscious effort to get myself back to the here-and-now of Friday night.  Talk about “spacing out!”  Thanks to Frank and Kathleen (to say nothing of Lindsay and Mary) I had enjoyed a little moonwalk of my own.


  1. alannah ables

    This brought back some great memories. Sadly, my mom didnt keep any pf the paontings I did in the 3 years you had me as a student, but I love doing the junior astronaut study it was fun and creative. Thanks for many great years.

  2. Stephanie Frieze

    You are a very good repository for the painting, Sydney, especially since your family is so very good at saving things and it is a lovely picture!


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