Rocket Scientist

By Andrea Caswell

November 17, 2014

Rocket Scientist

As a child, when adults asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had plenty of answers, but they all sounded like Halloween costumes. Race-car driver. Astronaut. Olympic track star.

My father was a rocket scientist for NASA, so the idea that a person could be anything, in this world or beyond, was real to me. With his telescope we peered through the reaches of time, to stars and planets light years away. Some Saturdays, we drove an old sports car to the building where he worked. Guarded gates parted when my father flashed a badge with his picture on it. These were the gates to the final frontier.

In a warehouse as big as a soundstage we stepped quietly through the weekend hush of unlit offices and classified information. My dad pointed out where the mathematicians worked on equations.

“Some problems take years to solve,” he said.

“Do you mean just one problem, Daddy?”

“Yes,” he said, drawing the word out slowly, because it was so hard to fathom. “A single problem.”

My father would never lie to me, so I knew this must be true, but it was an enormous idea for a little girl. In the twinkle-star world of a child, it made me believe that any problem could be solved. Any dream could become a reality. This was not magical thinking on my part; the proof lay all around me. My father had a piece of the moon on his dresser.


Photo "Star Trails Over NASA" provided by Zach Dischner, via Flickr creative commons license.

Comments (17) - Post a Comment
Annie at 8:52am EST - November 17, 2014
Fabulous - just fabulous. Looking forward to many more, Andrea.
Philip Caswell at 9:07am EST - November 17, 2014
"My father had a piece of the moon on his dresser." Just landed and resonated powerfully.
Lynda at 9:34am EST - November 17, 2014
Ahhh! I love it!
Elizabeth Gaucher at 9:53am EST - November 17, 2014
Love the end: "My father had a piece of moon on his desk." Thank you, Andrea.
Melissa Cronin at 10:18am EST - November 17, 2014
How fortunate you were to have such a father to show you to reach for the stars in life. Thank you for sharing him with us. Lovely piece of writing, Andrea.
Jayne Martin at 11:44am EST - November 17, 2014
Takes my breath away.
Claudia Geagan at 12:12pm EST - November 17, 2014
Amazing work, love the imagery and language.
Thomas Crocker at 12:32pm EST - November 17, 2014
Lovely portrait. Took me all the way to the moon with a reminder to teach kids (grown-ups, too) that their dreams can become reality.
Iris Graville at 1:37pm EST - November 17, 2014
Andrea, you conveyed so much truth in so few words and did it with skill and beauty. THANK YOU!
Marilyn Borell at 3:54pm EST - November 17, 2014
Andrea, Dads opened up the word for girls. Today women are also in a position to do so. Lovely portrait.
Marlena Maduro Baraf at 7:05pm EST - November 17, 2014
The last sentence nails this. It made me shiver. Wonderful piece.
Anthony J. Mohr at 7:17pm EST - November 18, 2014
Fabulous piece, so fresh, succinct, beautifully paced and rich with observation and magic; and as others have said, what an ending:))
Keith Mac an Fhigheadair at 8:51pm EST - November 18, 2014
Thank you for the beautiful writing. Inspires me to inspire my own daughter.
John Lim at 9:48am EST - November 20, 2014
Andrea this is such a gorgeous compact brief essay. I intend to direct readers to read and cherish it as I am doing. You go girl!
Ruthie Rohde at 2:43pm EST - November 24, 2014
Brilliant! The hush of weekend unlit offices and the stage. What a portrayl!
We, the humanity, problems and our ability to solve them.
Mohsin Hijazee at 1:58am EST - November 29, 2014
"My father had a piece of the moon on his dresser." Absolutely marvelous!
Jonathan at 4:50am EST - November 29, 2014

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