The Backyard Astronauts
“Buckled in?” Kevin said to his co-pilot and best friend, Dan.
Dan fiddled with the seat belt. It wasn’t as easy as it appeared; especially when he was wearing thick gloves and peering through an oversize helmet and visor( that had more than a vague resemblance to a motorcycle helmet).
The buckle finally connected. Triumphantly, Dan responded with: “Buckled in and ready to go!”
A grin flashed across Kevin’s face. Even the glint of light upon his helmet’s visor couldn’t hide the excitements that grin exposed.
“Let’s start the launch," Kevin commanded.
Kevin began flipping the switches and turning the dials. Dan did the same, turning knobs and pushing buttons as if they were playing with Kevin’s oldest sister's stereo system that she had thrown out a few days earlier (which oddly enough resembled that particular stereo).
Kevin and Dan turned to one another. Wisps of smiles and excitement were exchanged between the two.
“Now we’re ready,” Dan said.
Kevin added. “We’re going to take this rocket all the way beyond the moon, Mars, and Jupiter.”
“We’ll rule the universe!” Dan added. “Let’s get this going!”
Kevin started: “10, 9, 8…”
“7, 6, 5,” Dan said, joining the countdown.
“4, 3, 2…” the two counted.
“Kevin! Daniel!” said a female voice uttered from outside the space vehicle. “It’s time to clean up and come inside.”
The mission had been compromised. The peered at each other, disappointed.
“ Oh MOM!” Kevin whined.
“Don’t mom me,” his mother snapped back. “Dinner is almost ready and Dan’s parents are on their way to pick him up. Play time is over, young man.”
The exuberant feeling of exploring space and its infinite number of universes came to dull thud. The two took off the outdated motorcycle helmets, unbuckled themselves from the old car seats they found the other day, and put a cover over the stereo parts -- the one that once belonged to Kevin's sister and now served as the ship’s console.
They pushed open the flimsy door of the the cardboard ship and crawled out onto the backyard lawn.
“Maybe next time?” Dan asked.
“Yeah, I guess,” Kevin said, disappointed. “I guess there’s always next time.”
Playtime for the seven-year-old boys was done. But this was more than playtime. Instead, it was the realization that real world had once again grounded their dreams of flying into the great and grand universe.
Fond Memories of Make-Believe
The story is loosely based on fond moments from my childhood. During that time, my friends and I searched for cardboard boxes and other discarded items that we could use to build something based on our imagination. Often, we built forts, rockets, cardboard cars or planes, and club houses (although that would take more than cardboard and other items that adults had routinely thrown away).
Usually we congregated in our parents' backyards and pretended to make something bigger than the young, impressionable life we led. And, like the way the adventure in this story, it ended when an adult came to tell us it was time to go home or it was dinner time.
Still, that small time in life is something nobody could take away from us. For me, those moments of creativity and imagination have helped to shape who I am. And, I'm sure, it shaped a lot of people who have turned mundane rubbish or items into something special.
Of course, there is reality. The inspiration for Kevin passed away nearly 10 years after this story was published. He'll forever be remembered as young and vibrant.
And the other reality is that I'm a father. Soon, my children will be in the same predicament Kevin and me were in so many years ago. And, hopefully they'll find boxes and random parts, bring them home and attempt to create something that will help to define their childhood.
Guide to becoming an astronauts
© 2014 Dean Traylor