Wednesday, December 27, 2006
One last Christmas story
It occurred to me on Christmas morning that this year was my 50th Christmas, which was a sobering thought. God willing I get a few more to celebrate. All that, in turn, made me think back to those various Christmas, both good and bad. I have had a lot of good ones, some not so good, 6 deployed aboard and aircraft carrier somewhere, and some that just seemed to be just a quieter day. Its always good, Christmas is my favorite time of the year.
There is one Christmas that stands out from the others in my childhood memories. Don't ask me why, it really has no reason to. It does nonetheless. So if you will, indulge me in a little trip down memory lane.
1968-Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. By unusual circumstance it snowed on Christmas Eve (normally in Pittsburgh, its just rainy and cold), and the snow was freshly fallen. The weather had made in hard for my Dad and I to get the Lumninaria out and the candles lit. After coming back from church, my 11 year old self was packed off to bed. Except it being Christmas, I really could not sleep. So I went back down stairs, after my parents were well asleep, checked out the presents under the tree, and turned the TV on down low. Apollo 8 was flying! And they were going to orbit the moon. As I remember during this time of night they were going to have make their TLI (Trans Lunar injection) burn which was supposed to happen on the back side of the moon out of communications with earth. We accept such things as routine now ( or at least we used to till Challenger and Columbia flew...), but on that mission, a late burn or a too long burn might have left them stranded in space.
What could possibly go wrong with a plan like this?
Unlike now, where the news networks would simply have passed me off to an informercial, they tried to do actual coverage of the mission. And for this it meant "filling the empty space". They talked, they did interviews with no-names ( it as 2 in the morning after all!), they showed films about the Gemini and Mercury programs. And I watched it all. I should have been sleepy but I was not. It was truly fascinating to me. Man was going to the moon! The Solar System seemed within out reach and we were going to be living the dream of 2001.
Then, as now, the country was mired in an unpopular war, and as with Iraq, at that time it had no end in sight. Then, as now, the country had gone through a bruising election where the party in power was repudiated and the country was facing divided government.
But I did not care about any of that at the time. All I knew was that 3 men were in space doing something cool. Something I thought I might be able to do some day. I was young, naive, and still idealistic. I had not yet been worn down by life. All I knew was that they were pilots-and I wanted to be one too!
Why don't we go here more often?
Strange isn't it? The things you remember, while there are so many important things you forget? As I said in the beginning there was no reason for this to be stuck in my memory-but it is and I remember that night clearly, and more importantly, I remember it fondly.
On Christmas night, they made a presentation to the Earth. Wonder if it would be allowed by the PC police these days?
I'm glad I got see it then!