Saturday, May 2, 2009

Memory Lane

I just spent 3 hours searching the Internet for ideas for a post. I looked at memes and writing prompts and news articles and nothing jumped out at me and said "This one! This is it!" until...

What is your earliest memory? And why is it staying with you?

I can do this one. It even has some relevance to current events, but probably not in the way you think.

So, here goes.  One of my earliest memories, if not my earliest, is sitting in front of the TV and watching Star Trek- the Original Series.  Since I was born in 1964, I wasn't watching reruns. All I have is this image really of sitting in front of the TV. No memory of which episode. No idea if anyone was watching with me, but knowing my parents the answer is probably no one. Not fans of science fiction.  My Dad was a big Hee Haw fan. Don't get me started.

I can't claim to have seen every episode of TOS but I've certainly seen most. I've been a big fan of science fiction for as long as I can remember and that was no doubt shaped by Gene Roddenberry's vision.  In fact, I could argue that his vision of the future shaped my own ideas of what the world should be like. Color blind. Full of high ideals and strength of character.  Say what you will about Kirk, he was a force to be reckoned with though I prefer Captain Picard. (Yes, I am a Trekkie.  Do you have a problem with that? I didn't think so.)

But all of that aside, the first thing I think of after this memory visits is the moon landing and where I was when it happened. Always. They just seem to go together in my mind. I was 5-years-old in 1969 and we were on summer vacation in Wyoming.  My mother's father was with us.  He is the only grandparent I remember at all. Both my parents were the next to youngest children of large families.  All 4 of my grandparents were born before the turn of the century- 20th that is- and my parents were Depression-era children born in 1919 and 1922.

It was a road trip in our lovely Mercury Marquis station wagon complete with AC and power windows and all the nifty things that we take for granted in our automobiles these days but that were newly standard.  There were 6 of us in that car- my parents, my two older sisters, myself and my grandfather. We drove from Houston to Yellowstone National Park in that car.  Let me tell you about this car.  It had load stabilizers.  What they did for the ride I have no idea.  I only remember them because whenever you got out of the car, they made this totally horrendous groaning noise.  Sounded like the damn thing was dying.

Anyway, I digress.

We were in Wyoming in July 20, 1969 in a hotel room in what I remember as Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  I swear to you that there was a debate as to whether we should stay and watch the moon landing or if we would go see the set for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I remember this clearly though after doing some research it appears that neither the set for the TV series or the film was anywhere near Jackson Hole.  But hey, I was 5. The argument was won by my sisters, who were 15 and 14 at the time.  We didn't watch the landing. But I distinctly remember my grandfather sitting in front of the TV entranced with the unfolding saga.

Looking back I am aghast.  Clearly these people had no sense of history. My grandfather, who was born in 1891, however, understood completely what he was seeing. Just think for a moment.  In 1891, Nikola Tesla invents his Tesla coil and James Naismith invents baseball.  The Wrigley company is founded in Chicago. We are 12 years from the founding of Ford Motor Company and 23 years from the first Ford assembly lines.  My grandfather was 50 when the first television networks started broadcasting in the US. He watched the entire world change before his eyes and lived long enough to see a man on the moon. The 20th century was pretty damned amazing.

If you recall, I said this trip was to Yellowstone. Yellowstone in 1969 was nothing like it is today.  This was before the fires in 1988 and before the Park Service decided it wasn't such a good idea to feed the bears.  I can clearly remember my grandfather feeding the bears from the window of the car.  Remember that car? The one with the power windows?  They'll be important in just a moment.

Anyway, we're driving through the park.  My dad is driving because that's what dads do- they drive.  And don't let anyone else drive. My grandfather is in the passenger seat and us kids are in the back.  I don't remember where my mother was sitting but the choices are few and I suspect it was between my Dad and her Dad.  So, Daddy Clain, as we called him, is feeding the bear.  And the bear, well he decides that there must be more in the car and he sticks his head in the window.  It was probably just his snout but it seemed like the whole thing.  Daddy Clain starts yelling and cussing cause he can't roll up the window.  My mother is yelling at my Dad to roll the window up for him. We're yelling just can we can. And my Dad? He's laughing.  He's laughing at his father-in-law who is desperately searching for a handle to roll up the window and can't find it. Cause it's not there.

My Dad does finally push the proper button on his side and save my grandfather from the bear.  Who was really just sniffing around and wasn't acting vicious.  My mother was pretty pissed off. My grandfather was thoroughly flustered.  Thinking back on it, it was fairly hilarious.  It always makes me laugh to remember it.  And it is really the only clear memory, along with the moon landing, that I have of my grandfather. He died that December.

And what, you ask, is the relevance to current events?  Well, I did start off with Star Trek-TOS.  The new film version of Star Trek opens next Friday. We will be there at the midnight showing.  I've seen every Star Trek film and watched at least parts of every serial incarnation. My favorite series is Next Generation though the original, cheesy as it often is, holds a special place in my heart.  And Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite movies of all time.  Quintessential Star Trek cheese by two of the best- Shatner and Montalban- topped with the best death scene of all time. Damn.  That is American filmmaking at its best.  Here's hoping that this incarnation holds up.

So, what's your earliest memory and why does it stay with you?


ZIRGAR said...

Great story. It's a shame that over time we lose perspective on how radically history changed during the 20th century; that your grandpa got to see a good deal of it is awesome.

My earleist memory was gleefully sneaking out of the house running naked out into the street and being caught by a neighbor who took me back to my mother, who didn't even know I was gone. I was 15. lol. Seriously, I was probably 3 years old. My mom still likes to laugh about that one. lol

mikeb302000 said...

My oldest memory is waiting at the door when I was 4 or 5 for my father to come home and jumping and yelling for joy when he came through the door. I told my father that last year when he visited us and actually witnessed my 4-year-old do exactly that, but my father only said gruffly, "I don't remember it like that." He went on to complain about my mother as if 50 year hadn't passed in the meantime. I think that was the same conversation in which he told me, "I like the Bill O'Reilly. I believe everything he says."

Here's one of my thoughts on Star Trek. I was born in 1953 and have seen all of them.

I love your blog.

Gaston Studio said...

What a great memory! I love the incident with the bear, your grandfather, your dad and the electric windows, but I'll bet it put the fear of God in your g-dad!

I have children about your age and we watched the moon landing on TV in Atlanta; we even used our Super 8 to record it for posterity so that our children would never forget.

Love star trek and will be seeing the new movie as well.

Love this post!

Reya Mellicker said...

My earliest memories are of nightmares. Doesn't seem fair, does it? In one, a bear carries my older sister out the door. I am crying but my mother doesn't seem to notice.

In another one, a huge hand is reaching through the window, trying to grab me. Same indifference from my mother, while I freak out.

She should never have read Alice in Wonderland to such an impressionable, sensitive girl as I was!

A World Quite Mad said...

I have multiple early memories from when I was two to three years old. I remember our car breaking down, I had to be under three because that was when my parents divorced. It was dark and my mom and I were left in the car while my dad walked to get help or call someone, I don't remember how long he was gone. I just remember waiting in the dark with my mom. I probably remember it because it was creepy.

Most of my memories are mundane, nothing like watching the moon landing.

Anonymous said...

I remember being at the beach. I think was around two. I saw dad go out and it seemed he was so far away that he would never make it back and it looked like he was going to fall off the edge of the world. Or at least it did to my little two year old self.

True Blue Texan said...

Those of you that linked with the Mr Linky thing, sorry that your links are gone. Had a bit of trouble and had to reinstall.

But it's working now. : )