Now, before you get too excited, I met Chris Hadfield for all of twenty seconds, most of which were because I brought five copies of his book for him to sign. I do love Chris Hadfield, and think that he is possibly the coolest person ever, as an astronaut/musician/photographer/pilot/father… the list goes on. The reason I went to see him, and get the books signed, was far more important, however.
I have an eight-year-old daughter who wants, with all her tiny being, to be an astronaut. I don’t mean in a “maybe a fairy princess or a doctor or an astronaut” kind of way. I mean in an “I will go into the air force and get them to pay for my engineering degree at university and then start training for Mars” kind of way. And what made her really, really excited about space was me sharing Chris Hadfield’s posts on facebook, videos, science experiments, music. She realized that she could be an astronaut who loved music. Or maybe a musician who loved space. So when I heard Chris Hadfield was going to be signing his brand-new book in Toronto, it wasn’t even a question, we were going. Sadly, my older daughter was feeling very ill, so she couldn’t come with us. We promised pictures, and headed downtown.
We got there early, and boy it’s a good thing we did. The Indigo store hosting the signing was huge, two floors, and by the time Chris Hadfield was going to speak, the line took up two floors too. Kudos, by the way, to the Indigo events staff and the marketing guys from Random House, for doing an incredible job of managing a huge, huge crowd of people and making that line go faster than I thought possible. The line snaked through the shelves, and we passed the time chatting with other people in line, and looking at the books on the shelves. Boy, if you have to wait, a bookstore is a great place to do it. My daughter bonded with the woman directly behind us in line when she revealed that she had the Star Finder app on her smart phone, and they passed the time together gleefully looking for favorite constellations. Geek heaven. The only truly awkward moment was when the line stalled in front of the sex books, and I thought I was going to have to do a lot of awkward explaining of titles and covers. Thankfully, I managed to direct her eyes elsewhere for just long enough.
Heather Reisman, Indigo’s CEO, interviewed Chris Hadfield (she calls herself Chief Booklover and I want her job), and she could have been a TV host to rival Barbara Walters, so skillfully did she guide the talk. She invited the kids in front up to the stage so they could see. She asked him the question she knew everyone was wondering, which is “How the heck do you pee up there?” And she managed to corner him into admitting that Canada needed better science and tech funding, particularly for space exploration. I’m also fairly sure she volunteered him for Prime Minister, which I would happily get behind.
Chris Hadfield is remarkably down-to-earth (ha ha) for someone who has become an international icon. He credited his wife and family with the inspiration for putting so much of his space life on social media, and was modest about his accomplishments, attributing them to always aiming his life in the direction of readiness, just in case the call to be an astronaut ever came. When he described waiting to find out whether he had been accepted for Canada’s space program… I think the entire audience held our breaths and waited for that phone call with him.
That is what his book is like, too. Warm, humble, and you are rooting for him the whole time. There are unbelievable stories, and excellent wisdom and advice from someone who managed to get hold of his impossible dream, and then share it with the world. I am reading it with my daughter. It is one of the coolest things we have ever done together.
I don’t know what we’ll do to top that night, though. The night Chris Hadfield said to her “Go. Be an astronaut.”
Wow. It may have only been a few seconds, but it was an important few seconds. My daughter’s hero just told her to live her dream.
P.S. This is the fun display I made of his book: