In 1971, Warner Brothers released Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, adapted for the screen by the author of the 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl. I was less than one year old at the time and, though I knew the story at an early age, I was not exposed to the movie until later in life. This was ultimately for the best as the film can be quite disorienting and the span between the two was time enough to provide me with a better analytical framework.
For me Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a metaphor for society, economics, and self improvement. It describes heroes and villains, chance and destiny, youth and maturity, consequence and reward, poverty and wealth, virtue and sin, selfishness and selflessness.

It tells the story of a man with a passion, a passion that forged a legacy, a legacy that that required stewardship, and a search for a steward. It tells us that things can change when you least expect it, imagination and determination can clarify reality, and that good deeds find reward.

It shows us that the world around us is what we make of it with two of my favorite quotes:

“If you want to view Paradise, simply look around and view it.”
“We are the music makers…and we are the dreamers of the dreams.”
Somewhere in life we all realize this through our own unique epiphanies.

So what does this have to do with meteorites? As meteorite collectors we share a common thread. We collect shooting stars, we collect wishes and dreams, we imagine. We are on even ground in this regard and no social structure or economic condition can imbalance that equality. We look to preserve, protect, and pass on our legacy be it large or small. We look up by night and down by day to satiate the same desire, to simply view paradise and share that paradise with others.

Adjunct to this we collect for a variety of reasons. Some collect for science, others for history or investment. Myself, I collect stories and, while this falls into the history category, I see it different. Falls like Mbale, Ensisheim, and Thuathe convey more than just an historical account, they are impressions. Fleeting moments in time perceived as blessings, omens, and mischievous gremlins. They meant something to the people who witnessed them, and that means something to me.

In March of 2003, South Suburban Chicago was the site of a large fall, one of only a few to ever hit a modern large population area. Several structures were hit but one in particular stood out. One bedroom of a house was demolished while an eleven year old slept in it unscathed. The wife of the house was on her way home and saw the fireball hoping it wasn’t a missile attack as we had just invaded Iraq.

The husband was at home in the next room and responded immediately to the noise to comfort his son and attempt to determine what had happened.

The next few months were pandemonium with this humble family at the center of every news story and purchase offer. Ultimately thousands of dollars were paid for the meteorite and the contents of the room allowing them opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

I had a chance to speak at length with the owner of the house and his wife some time after the fall. I wanted their thoughts on all this at a point in time when it was a memory to look back on versus the middle of the storm. Their first impression was amazement, then frustration, then a sense of loss as the story died down and the deals were completed. The kids got bikes, their extended families got a little money, the kitchen was remodeled…and then I got what I was looking for. The owner of the house had always wanted a simple luxury in life, a cold beer at the ready. He had his eye on a Kegerator for many years but such a luxury was just out of reach. Well, with the cosmic windfall in hand, he got it.

We all want luxuries in life. For me it was a chunk of rock, for him a cold beer and, through four billion years of butterfly wings, we both ended up happy.

So, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted…