White men in space sent a live Christmas message from the far side of the moon. I remember the static-filled muffled voices that transmitted around the world. It was a Christmas Eve that came at the end of a bloody year, both at home and in Vietnam. Everyone had open wounds, and for some, the bleeding wouldn’t stop.
Perched on our striped mustard sofa, I’d watched the black and white speckled image of the moon, while the crew of Apollo 8 read the first ten verses of Genesis 1. In that moment, millions of people were connected by something wondrous and greater than us all.
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’
My throat had ached and I’d sunk my teeth into my bottom lip to stop it quivering.
‘And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.’
Out the corner of my eye, red and green lights wrapped around the Christmas tree had twinkled and blinked.
‘Do you think they’ll see God, Mama?’ Ella had asked. My baby girl knelt in front of the television, her neatly braided hair tied with two red ribbons.
‘No, but God will see them.’
I was in awe of what had been accomplished. A voyage to where mankind had never been before.
‘Will Papa be watching this too?’
‘I don’t know, baby.’ I didn’t know if they had televisions in Vietnam.
All people paused to witness this point in history, but when the broadcast ended, we were divided once more by sex, religion, race, state and nation. After a year of assassinations, protests, riots and violence, which had all been played out against a backdrop of war that seemed to have no end, it felt more like the end of days.
‘And divided the light from the darkness.’
Wrapped presents sat under the tree, stockings hung above the fireplace, and eggnog had warmed my belly.
‘And God saw that it was good.’
I’d shut my eyes and had seen my husband’s face. Where was he? Was he safe? I’d held the image of his wide smile and large bright eyes in my mind for only a second or two, then it was gone in a flash, and no matter how hard I’d tried, I couldn’t get it back.
Ella had pressed her nose against the television and I remembered why we fought so hard at home. It was for our children, and their children, and theirs.
If people could unite to watch a miracle in space, maybe there was hope that we could unite here on Earth. In fifty years, perhaps my daughter would live in a world where there would be less division, less hatred and less darkness, and instead, we’d all have freedoms and rights, we’d all have a voice that was heard, and the world would be flooded with even more light.
© Michelle Upton