This I Believe: Nothing is Impossible
Our house was more exciting than usual on that summery day in 1961, when I was 7. Aunt Marge, Uncle Garry, and their two young girls had arrived from California over the weekend. Now foldaway beds came out at night and the smells of coffee and bacon lingered, with the new voices, well past breakfast. The usual rhythm and routine of our household had been suspended. That’s probably why I was indoors on such a nice day, observing the pre-lunch bustle from the relative quiet of the living room. I hadn’t been paying attention to the television droning in the corner, but I turned to stare at the square box when I heard President Kennedy’s familiar voice saying, “…this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon.”
I exclaimed to the empty room: “A man on the Moon! That’s impossible!” Aunt Marge, who had been walking down the hall, stepped into the living room. She took my hand as she crouched down to face me. The sweep of her eyeglasses reminded me of the fins on that California Impala parked in our driveway. She had my attention. “Terri,” she said, “nothing is impossible. Some things just haven’t been done yet.”
The world stopped for a minute as my brain strained to hold the notion that nothing was impossible. Nothing? For a couple of minutes I ruminated, trancelike, on the formerly impossible—walking on the Moon, traveling like the Jetsons, flying like a bird, living to be 200. With Aunt Marge’s incredible revelation, my world began to expand. In the 46 years since that day, it has not stopped expanding: Men walk on the moon, babies are conceived in test tubes, sheep and pigs are cloned, the Berlin Wall is gone, planes bring down skyscrapers, China is going capitalist, the Arctic ice caps are melting, leaders talk about a “winnable nuclear war.”
This I believe, and have believed, since 1961: Nothing is impossible. On the day my mother left my father, my sisters, and me, it was impossible to go on. It was impossible until I rifled through my mental storeroom and retrieved that moment with Aunt Marge. In a world were nothing is impossible, at age 23 I could load my possessions in the back of my used car and leave Nebraska for New York. In a world where nothing is impossible, I compose poetry in my sleep and wake up with the stanza memorized. In a world where nothing is impossible, I forgive my mother; my formerly racist brother-in-law embraces his dark-skinned granddaughter; my middle-aged, never-married sister is planning her wedding to a middle-aged, never-married man. I recently talked to that sister about Aunt Marge’s long-ago revelation.
“Yes,” she agreed. “Anything is possible. Except what isn’t.”
“Like what?” I wanted to know.
“Like becoming a prima ballerina at age 50, like knowing as much as a dog does just by sniffing, like the election of a black female Pope, like the extinction of human greed…”
Her list went on—a list of things that just haven’t been done yet.
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