"Legend has it that the man was banished to the moon for a crime he did not commit," Grandpa began, in that deep mysterious voice of his that made fidgety children sit still and listen to the story with rapt attention, even if they have heard the tale countless times before.
"Why Grumpa?" curious little Pippin piped up as always. "Why was he sent to the moon?"
"Because," Grandpa said slowly, "people are afraid of unknown, unfamiliar things. No one had been to the moon. Back in those days, she was still a strange, distant, unfamiliar land. People saw her only at night-time, and no one knew where she disappeared during the day. So they thought it was a lonely, terrifying place where unspeakable things could happen to you even during the day."
Grandpa wrapped his shawl a little tighter around him and huddled closer to the fireplace. A little shiver ran down our collective spines as we momentarily wondered about the unspeakable things that happened on the moon.
"But good things happen to good people," Grandpa assured us. "So when the man went to the moon, imagine his wonder when he found that the moon was in fact a lovely, little lady. A misunderstood lady, as she liked to refer to herself," he chuckled.
"Why Grumpa?" curious little Pippin piped up again. "Why misunderstood?"
The other children shushed him but Grandpa waved a hand to quieten them.
"Well, people have always believed it is the moon that drives people mad. They have always accused her of causing werewolves to emerge from hiding. The oceans turn restless at the sight of the moon, they say. They also claim she steals the light of the sun and calls it her own. And to this day many people continue to accuse the moon of all these wrongdoings," Grandpa huffed.
And then, as if some faraway memory had suddenly returned to him, his face creased into a million wrinkly smiles and he said, "But of course, it doesn't matter what people think. Because the man who went to the moon saw her for what she really was and fell in love with her."
"Did they marry, Grampa?" it wasn't curious little Pippin this time.
"Of course they did," Grandpa beamed.
"Did they live happily ever after, Grompa?" another not-Pippin chirped.
"Of course they do," Grandpa said. "But that is not where the story ends. Because you see, the man was banished to the moon for only two decades. When his sentence was over, he was summoned back to the earth. He pleaded with her to come with him to the earth, but her abode was in the skies and she begged him to not leave."
"But she is still up there in the skies," another little voice piped up.
"On most days, yes," Grandpa said.
"Does that mean he left her behind?"
"Yes and no," came Grandpa's reply. "It is true the moon couldn't leave the skies and the man had to make his way back to the earth. But when the man returned to earth, he brought back with him a small part of her. And he promised to visit her every night, which he did, and each morning when he returned he brought back a little part of her with him.
"With each passing night, the moon waned in the sky, a part of her having made its way to the man's abode on earth. So when it was new moon and the moon disappeared from the sky and the world barely gave a second thought as to where she had disappeared to, no one knew that the moon was playing in her lover's backyard unknown to the rest of the world."
And this is how Grandpa always ended his story.
Sometimes one of the kids would ask him how he knew all this. And if it were a new moon night, Grandpa would take us all into the backyard where the lovely moon would play with us until bed-time. And in the cover of daylight, she would return to the skies, bit by bit, sliver by sliver over the course of a fortnight until she was a little globe of dreamy white again.
But what the little kids do not know is that Grandpa also leaves behind a part of him on the billowing moon after each visit. There isn't much of him left on earth anymore. One day he will be gone for good. And it will be up to me then to tell the children to look for him not among the stars but to seek out the man in the moon. I know the little ones will believe me.