So began many of my father's stories. Tom Lee was a master storyteller. He could tell a lot of tales off the top of his head, and many he created just for his own kids. One of my favorite memories was going out on the lawn on a dark night to lie on the grass and listen to my dad tell stories about the stars. My dad was an astronomer.
For our parent's 50 Wedding Anniversary in 2001 (think 2001 A Space Odyssey) the family collected favorite memories of Tom and Carolyn Lee. Quite universally, the favorite memories of Grandpa Tom were his stories, particularly one story he told many times on the Cousins Campouts with the Dads and Grandpa up in the canyon, "Johnny in the Moon." Nearly every one of the older Grandchildren put this memory down as their favorite.
The scientists studied everything from creating an atmosphere to growing food and managing waste products, hoping to create technologies that would allow them to live self-sufficiently on the moon. They just needed to find a natural source of water, then their hopes for a permanent colony on the moon would become a reality.
And the story went on and on... (I'm not sure if any of the kids remembered the story having an ending!)
Each time Grandpa Tom told the story, the scientific details got more and more developed. After all, my dad had worked at NASA during the 1960s-1970s. His most valued accomplishment was being a part of the team of scientists that sent the Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon in 1969.
For years we all pestered Grandpa Tom to actually write down "Johnny in the Moon" for his posterity. Finally he did, and gave it out to his six children's families one year for Christmas. Apparently, we all kept that book quietly on the shelf secure in the thought that it would always be there whenever we wanted to read it.
Then in 2019 for the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, Amy Gabbitas, my parent's oldest granddaughter really wanted to have a copy of the story to tell her own children. But none of us could find it! Then, miraculously in 2023, my brother Bob Lee found his copy.
Amy wanted to commission a musical piece for her woodwind quintet The Aspen Winds based on that story. She even asked me to draw some illustrations to go along with the narrations between the five movements. (Think program music like Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf.")
Well, the music has now been written by Amy's oldest son, composer Bob Gabbitas, and is wonderful and magical. Now, I just need to finish the promised artwork. The illustration above is the first installment --- 9 year old "Johnny" with his digger vehicle "in the Moon."