Vol. 13


The Lunar Rock Legacy

1969, Gampaha, Western Province, Sri Lanka;1 and 2010, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Everyone has moments from their childhood when they were carefree and innocent. It might have been their ecstatic delight in discovering an anthill, or the nurturing care with which a toddler regards his pansy. All families share these treasured moments from their golden years, during which they romped blithely. Dad’s escapades with his brother are Pieris household classics.

In one of those tales, six-year-old Dad was already demonstrating his legal advocacy skills by convincing his younger brother to accompany him in a doomed pastime. This occurred when the USA was emerging victorious in the Cold War. The world waited with bated breath as Apollo 11 landed men on the moon on July 20, 1969. It was a historic moment for the United States and for the world, as the first humans left their mark on extraterrestrial soil.

Soon after the astronauts’ pioneering mission, President Nixon distributed a display of moon rocks to each of the 135 countries that had given their flag to be flown from Earth, to the moon, and back. My father was born in Sri Lanka, which was among the countries that received one of these displays.

Dad’s family resided in an old house that my great-great-grandfather built for his family in what was then a sleepy hamlet called Gampaha. Their home was next to the railway station. The moon-rock display traveled by train in Sri Lanka, and my father recalls racing towards the station with his five-year-old brother, Alex Mama (Uncle), to see the display symbolizing momentous human achievements. Dad was ecstatic to see it. As the locomotive slowed down, the moon-rock display was proudly exhibited. Daddy was in a giddy mood, so he and Alex Mama practiced being astronauts.

No one remembers exactly what happened, but being a boy, Dad managed to wedge a stone up one of his nostrils! A young boy who abruptly finds his sense of smell diminishing would certainly panic. However, Shantha J. Pieris — Dad — was different. He was under the impression that Atcha, his mother, could fix anything. Imagine Atcha’s horror when she discovered the stone was stuck. The mischievous boy was escorted to the hospital, where the doctors painstakingly extricated the gifted “moon rock.” Later, Alex Mama mimicked Dad’s feat by wedging a rock in his ear! Atcha was not amused.

For these reasons, for my family the lunar landing is remembered with great fondness. Forty years later, history repeated itself when Mom urgently contacted Dad at work to address a domestic crisis! My two-year-old brother, Avunker, had spontaneously stuck a bead up his nose. Fortunately, Dad made him sneeze it out with pepper.

Despite barriers like age, maturity, and homeland, my brother eerily mimicked Dad. Regardless of the factors that would have set them apart, two significantly different people identified. Even if a person immediately perceives another as fundamentally different from themselves, remember we all have funny childhood stories or troubles to share — all that’s required is a listening ear.

Anagi Pieris; Missouri, USA


1. In 1969 Sri Lanka was called “Ceylon.”



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