Mom sends me an old black and white photo of her on a fluffy white pony. In the picture, she looks about four years old, maybe five. The pony is soft and cuddly like a plush toy with a black and …
Mom sends me an old black and white photo of her on a fluffy white pony. In the picture, she looks about four years old, maybe five. The pony is soft and cuddly like a plush toy with a black and silver studded halter, slightly splayed front legs and a large heart-shaped pendant around its neck.
Then mom sends another photo of Buzz Aldrin (as a boy) on the same pony. “Buzz Aldrin is an American former astronaut, engineer and fighter pilot. He made three spacewalks as pilot of the 1966 Gemini 12 mission. As the Lunar Module Eagle pilot on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, he and mission Commander Neil Armstrong were the first two people to land on the Moon,” says Wikipedia and I’ll add that the cartoon astronaut, Buzz Lightyear, from the movie Toy Story was probably fashioned after him.
Now I’m wondering how mom and Buzz Aldrin were in the same vicinity, riding the same pony and why she didn’t marry him. Turns out, Buzz grew up in Montclair, NJ and mom in neighboring West Orange. Between the two towns there was probably only one fluffy white pony and pony rides were popular in the late 1930’s, which brings me to mom.
She was born during the Great Depression of parents fortunate enough to own a bit of land near a river in Jersey that connected Longwood and Oak Ridge lakes. Upon this ground, my grandfather built two summer cabins, with hand lettered signs above each door named for his daughters: Nancy Joan and mom’s older sister Marilyn Lee.
Mom, age 89, writes in her recently printed, hardcover, limited-edition (family members only) book, Stories from my Life, about a day significant to her in the year 1933. She gave permission to share this excerpt as long as she got “credit for the writing” and I did not “correct, grade or change anything.” She knows me well, but I resisted any editing with the exception of tightening up the first sentence. “They” refers to her parents, my grandparents. Here goes:
“Every Memorial Day…they would go to the small bungalow to prepare it for the summer season. This meant cleaning, inside and out, and starting the hand pump so it would draw water from the well.
My mother was going into the attic crawl space by using a ladder, which did not quite reach the opening in the ceiling and drawing herself up in order to get stored articles and bringing them down onto the lower floor.
The fact that she was two weeks away from the due date for the birth of her second child did not deter her since her first child had been born precisely when predicted. But soon it was clear this had not been a good idea.
My father had removed some critical parts of the car in order to do some repair, so when my mother told him they had better go to the hospital since the birth was imminent, he walked up a steep hill to borrow my grandfather’s car and after a six mile ride, they arrived at the hospital. Thirty-six hours later, I was born on May 28th, 1933 in Dover, New Jersey.”
Hospitals in those days were fewer and therefore it was common to live in one town and have to go to another for emergency care. Aldrin, for example, was born Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr. on January 20, 1930, at Mountainside Hospital in Glen Ridge, NJ though his parents, Edwin Eugene Aldrin Sr. and Marion Aldrin lived in bordering Montclair. His nickname, which became his legal first name in 1988, according to sources, “arose as a result of his older sister Fay's continual mispronouncing Brother as Buzzer, which was then shortened to Buzz.”
Although mom and Buzz were probably never introduced, they clearly shared the same small horse; mom’s first fifteen minutes of fame. Others would follow.
RAMONA JAN is the Founder and Director of Yarnslingers, a storytelling group that tells tales both fantastic and true. She is also the roving historian for Callicoon, NY and is often seen giving tours around town. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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