Looking back, there are always seminal moments that have either changed a person’s life or been permanently etched in one’s memory, like a beautiful gift that just keeps on giving any time you want to think about it.
Excluding movies and books, because that would take 150 of these columns, for me, the best of the best are as follows:
Science: Man’s first landing on the moon.
Sports: Wayne Gretzky’s 50th goal in 39 games.
Music: The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
When Neil and Buzz touched down in that marvelous little Eagle tin can rocket ship and we all started to breathe again, and when Astro Armstrong stepped onto the “magnificent desolation” of the extraterrestrial surface of the moon, and didn’t disappear into lunar quicksand or be attacked by alien moon creatures, we held our breath again.
And when he uttered those immortal words: “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind… We came in peace for all mankind,” well, I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes.
And when a 20-year-old phenom made hockey history by scoring five goals in one game to set a record that will never be broken, something in the universe shifted.
Gretzky had scored four goals in the game the night before (a new record with four four-goal games in one season) and this was his last chance to total 50 in 39 games.
He had the four in this game and needed one more, and there was a faceoff in the Edmonton Oilers’ end with 21 seconds left in the game.
The Philadelphia Flyers pull their goalie. Empty net. Everyone, including us at home, standing, clapping, shouting. Dizzy. Hyperventilating.
The puck bounces to centre, and guess who’s there, somehow stick handling around Bill Barber, bobbing and weaving to the blue line and shooting.
He drills it into the net with three seconds left. Boom. My head exploded. And yes, there were tears.
And back when I was a kid, when my favourite show came on TV that Sunday night and Ed Sullivan said those five words that rocked my world and the world of so many others — “Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles!” — and these four mop-top creatures launched into All My Loving, well, let’s just say, nothing was ever the same again.
I’ve rambled on about this peak experience often before, so I won’t go into all the gory details, but I will confirm there may have been tears.
(But that’s because Mom and Dad wanted me to go to bed right after The Ed Sullivan Show and I would miss Bonanza.)
But the reason I’m thinking about some of these magical memories is that recently, there was a milestone. Ringo, that legendary happy, head-bobbing drummer of the Fabulous Four had a birthday. Eighty.
Yes, Ringo turned 80 years old on July 7. Now that makes my head explode. Again.
And in honour of his birthday, his Beatle buddy Paul and a who’s who list of No. 1 performers all contributed songs to a virtual celebration like no other on YouTube, and raised tons of dough for four charities.
And when asked, Ringo wanted only one gift for his birthday. He asked people to “say, think or post ‘peace and love.’”
We need more Ringos.
I saw the moon landing the night our band played the epic Varsity Hall at Sylvan Lake. I met Gretzky in the dressing room after an Oiler Stanley Cup win.
And the Better Half and I saw Ringo in concert when he was just a youngster (70 or so).
Just some of life’s rare gifts gratefully received. I can’t wait until the next one.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.