Moon Reflections by
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Prompted By Moon Landing

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Behind Kresge before The Sorcerer, sitting at the edge of Lake Wabakanetta

The moon has a spell-binding hold on our collective imagination and never more-so than the summer of 1969.

That summer was my sixth and last summer as a camper at the National Music Camp (now Interlochen Arts Camp) in Interlochen, MI, the granddaddy of fine arts camps, set in a pine forest between two lakes in northern Michigan. All the girls divisions, as well as most of the main performances buildings at the time were set on Lake Wabakanetta, including Kresge, where the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta was performed, and Grunow, where the High School division put on its plays.

I had a good summer, portraying the glamorous actress, Irene Livingston in Moss Hart’s Light Up the Sky, a role originated by his wife, Kitty Carlisle, a fact I got to tell her years later.  I was also Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We performed The Sorcerer in Operetta and, though always in the chorus, I was given a small part in the opening pantomime during the overture. In the Featured photo, I and my partner, David Maier, are in costume just before the start of the show. For the third time, I won the Chorus Award for Best Chorus Member; a record, I believe.

There was one moon-drenched night that I will never forget. It was July 20, and anyone alive will always remember where she was when man first walked on the moon.

Camp was quite regimented. We wore uniforms, awoke to Reveille and went to bed by Taps. But this night, High School Girls were allowed to stay up late. A small black and white TV was brought in to the Sun Decker, a three story structure, long-gone, but at the time, a concrete haven for fun. It had indoor space for boat storage, ping pong, fireplaces for cook-outs on rainy nights, and decks outside to sunbathe on, recessed into the side of the hill sloping down to the lake and we, the last of the naïve generation who didn’t know the dangers of skin cancer, would douse ourselves in baby oil and lie out to soak up the rays when we could. It was inside, on the second level where we camped out on this particular night, packed in like sardines as we watched the scratchy image on the old TV.

My heart raced as the door of the space capsule opened and Neil Armstrong stepped out. I climbed over the bodies of the other girls and walked out to the edge of the railing around the concrete deck. I turned my back to the TV and looked out at the moon, reflected perfectly in the quiet lake below, gorgeous twin images of reflected light. Behind me, as in a dream, I heard Neil Armstrong’s voice:  “One small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind,”

He spoke to me from that glowing disk I gazed at in the sky. How marvelous! How unthinkable. In an era of drug-induced hallucinations, my real experience far surpassed anything that could have been imagined. One of my countrymen really had landed on the moon; I had just witnessed it with my own eyes. And there stood 16 year old Betsy, looking out at Wabakanetta, this beautiful lake I had so enjoyed in my many years at camp. There was the reflection of the moon. But on this particular night, an American stood on the very real surface of that moon, which itself can only reflect light; twin reflections, far away, yet only as far as a pebble’s throw.

 

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.


Tags: moon landing, camp, summer, 1969
Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. John Zussman says:

    How fitting that you gazed up at the full moon while others were glued to the TV. You knew where the real action was! I also appreciate the insight that the moon can only reflect light, so you were looking at two reflections.

  2. Patricia says:

    A really lovely memory, beautifully told. I appreciate the awe you felt. And, such a couple of cuties!

  3. Suzy says:

    Betsy, I went to NMC also, although a few years earlier than you did. As soon as I saw the caption to your picture that said Lake Wabakanetta, I got so excited! Your story was lovely, and made even more special to me because I could visualize (more or less) where you were when it occurred.

  4. Marian says:

    Lovely images, Betsy, and it’s wonderful that you looked at the moon in its full glory that night.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    OMG, Betsy, I love the picture of you from The Sorcerer. The details you share about Interlochen are amazing. Of course, being a Motown girl, I was in awe of those talented enough to go there. The image of you looking at the moon over the lake at the time the astronauts stepped onto it is wonderful.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, Laurie. I loved going to camp; it was formative for me. I made the friends of a lifetime and was on the National Alumni Board for 6 years as well. As you may recall from a story last December (Simple Gifts), I returned last summer after a long absence and found the place as beautiful and magical as ever.

  6. What a wonderful and well-told story..

  7. John Shutkin says:

    I loved the way that you so merged your watching the moon landing with your own viewing of the moon and the beautiful way in which you described it. You truly swept us all into the moment — your moment. Indeed, you remind this old cynic about just how uplifted and inspired we — or at least the younger, more hopeful we — can be in experiencing such events.

    I would also compliment and thank you for your photos which so illuminated (pun semi-intended) your story, but you do that every week. Are you sure you didn’t have an iPhone and an Instagram account in 1969?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, John. It was a memorable evening for me. Glad I was able to convey that to you as well.

      Since I didn’t have an actual photo of the Sundecker, I wanted to at least find a photo of the lake. Though my Featured photo has nothing to do with the moon landing, as least you can see our lovely water front in the background (that was my thought, anyway), so you get some idea of what I looked out at that night. As you imagine, I DO LOVE my old photos and have many albums at home from which to draw. I sort of panic when I am on Martha’s Vineyard and don’t know far ahead what photos I might want to use for prompts, as sometimes, that photo is my jumping off point for my story.

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