Ancient History

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picnic spotThe first meal eaten on the moon was turkey.

It didn’t come with with mounds of fluffy mashed potatoes, sunny butter skimming plateward in trails, sweet potatoes with tanned marshmallows, or stuffing with spicy sausage. It was vacuum-sealed. As the astronauts ate their turkey, they probably thought about the buttons they needed to push, the job they had to do. They thought of their families. Their country. Their legacy. But not their turkey.

When you eat a turkey dinner, usually it is in celebration or commemoration. Few people indulge in a full-blown feast of roast turkey and all the trimmings on random Tuesday nights when the kids have math homework and the sticky baby needs a bath. As Neil, Michael, and Buzz zipped open their food packs, perhaps they joked it wasn’t quite how mother used to make it. Maybe one of them quipped that it wasn’t too far off. Nervous laughter.

They didn’t have time to reflect. The precision required and the demands of their mission left little room for mistakes. They knew nearly the entire teeming Earth above was holding collective breath, waiting for the rush only a giant leap provides.

Did anyone on July 20th, 1969 consider how extraordinary it was that three men had just eaten turkey on the moon? I know people understood the significance of the moment. But was it even reported they ate a turkey dinner before they stepped out of the landing module? Turkey is an ugly bird, native of North America. Fat, clumsy, trotting, unglorious. Yet it is the chosen provider and official poultry of Thanksgiving and other important holidays and holy days. The unbecoming, the last picked for the team, the most-likely-to-fail-miserably-bird fueled Pilgrims, native American friends, and space explorers.

A turkey will cook in my oven tomorrow. I don’t have to make a giant leap or wear a shiny helmet. But I will look around and know I am blessed to share one thing in common with the Apollo 11 crew. We ate our turkey on the Sea of Tranquility, a destined landing spot and perfect place for a view of God’s creation.

9 comments to

  • Mom-of-mopsy

    Having watched it all for myself, I can tell you that there was much prayer and praise to our God for those men who bravely stepped out into history and while the turkey consumed was not “Mom’s homecooking” it must have been pretty satisfying that all their training and sacrifices had been worth it. I hope we never forget that our country was founded by brave men and women who took risks because they wanted freedom.

  • Okay, you and your mom both made me teary-eyed. I never knew that they ate turkey. It does seem fitting that they consumed the symbol of the most American of holidays as they sat on the moon, having been transported there by that type of can-do spirit and bravery that is also distinctly American. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Russ Eldredge

    Wow Gretchen, I never knew that the astronauts ate turkey on the moon! But even as interesting as that fact is, the reflection that you put into the post is very deep, moving and quite becoming of the occasion we celebrate tomorrow.

    Thank you for putting my thoughts into a good place!

  • Oh, the things I learn in blogland! Thanks, Gretchen. Have a lovely Thanksgiving in your sea of tranquility! Blessings.

  • I love it when you write about the transcendence of ordinary things. I don’t even like turkey particularly, but as a symbol of abundance, I think it is much to be preferred to, oh, bison, or elk. Just imagine. Or oysters.

    I wonder who named the Sea of Tranquility. Someone with a poetic streak. Did you hear they’re naming the newly discovered planet Tatooine?

  • That’s amazing. I didn’t know this. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  • I learn something every day on your blog! I love it. Thank you for sharing with us. HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We will be testing the Jones Soda today! 🙂

    Despite the losses of our babies this year, we have so much to be thankful for. I thank God for you, for having such wonderful insight into this wonder we call life! 🙂


  • I did not know that. Thanks for sharing information with beautiful underpinings.

    Spoke of you this morning when I was sharing w/bro why we’re doing C.B. T’giving around 11 today. We bought the fixin’s last night and Boo has been begging for jelly beans ever since.

    Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderfully satisfying.

  • Happy belated Thanksgiving, Mopsy!

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