I was six years old when I involuntarily chased my first alien spaceship. Wait, perhaps you need a little context to this story before I jump right into it. So let me start with my mom.
My mom was a wonderfully interesting person with a passion for the fantastical, magical, and mystical. Her favorite books included the 33 volume set of the Time Life series Mysteries of the Unknown, which my mom called “shit the government is covering up.” One of her favorite shows that I used to watch with her was the 1977-1982 TV series In Search of..., the weekly broadcast devoted to topics such as body-snatching aliens, monsters, magic, witchcraft, finding Bigfoot, finding Atlantis, and other “mysteries” ironically hosted by Leonard Nimoy who is best known for playing Spock, the personification of logic. The only movie I ever remember watching with my mom in a movie theater was Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the perfect movie to take a five-year-old who wants to spend the next 20 years of his life sleeping with the lights on. For me, being born and raised in this alternate reality of alien abductions, healing crystals, and psychic powers had its pros and cons. Before entering high school, I had spent more time trying to move things with my mind than I did talking to girls. On the upside, this desire to get in touch with my psychic side did teach me the lesson of persistence, because like Edison who chalked up his failures to just another successful confirmation that one way did not work, I had successfully experimented with roughly thousands of objects that I could definitely not move with my mind. But on the downside... well, I spent countless hours trying to move stuff with my mind. Back to the story.
I was six years old when I involuntarily chased my first alien spaceship. My mother was behind the wheel of our family station wagon, my sister was riding shotgun, and I was in the backseat. We were headed back from Lordship Roller Rink located on Long Island Sound in Stratford, CT, where my sister and I were discoing it up to Donna Summer, Blondie, and The Bee Gees. In the late ‘70s, Stratford was a mostly industrialized town that was home to a few small local airports as well as Sikorsky Aircraft, a large aircraft manufacturer with contracts in the private and government sectors. While driving past a hospital located in a relatively commercial and populated area, my mother spotted what she believed to be not just an unidentified flying object (the key word being unidentified) but an alien spaceship. And not just an alien spaceship, but an alien spaceship filled with benevolent, intelligent beings who were here to heal sick people (thus the hospital flyby). In a state of blissful hysterics, and with no regard for traffic laws, my mom piloting the family truckster, sped through the city with her head out the window yelling, “Take me! Take me!” In retrospect, I would imagine that those who watched this performance got the wrong idea.
In case you are wondering if my mother forgot that two of her children were in the car with her, she didn’t. Taking a break from screaming out the window, with a strange air of certainty, my mom calmly told my sister and me that she was going to go away for a while with the aliens, not to worry and that she loves us very much. She even gave my then fourteen-year-old sister a crash course on how to drive the car back home, implying that my mom would be unable to fulfill that motherly responsibly of taking us home if she were cruisin’ the universe with her new intergalactic friends. I was hiding on the floor in the backseat crying uncontrollably at this point, believing that my mom was about be abducted by aliens. My sister wasn’t buying the whole narrative, but allowed my mom to continue, knowing that even the slightest possibility of the light in the sky being an alien spaceship was all that my mom needed to play out this fantasy.
That night, my mom didn’t make first contact with an intelligent alien race. She didn’t correctly distinguish one of the many very common earthly flying objects from an intergalactic star cruiser. And she didn’t give me confidence that aliens probably wouldn't take me from my room at night. She did, however, successfully demonstrate that night that yelling at a flashing light in the sky while chasing it in a car would result in a hefty fine for reckless driving—and a field sobriety test.
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What is a “normal childhood?” Does it include almost being murdered by your sister with an ax? Speeding around town in the back of a station wagon because your mom is chasing an “alien spaceship”? Being busted by the police for intent to light a pond on fire? Tackling your mom to the ground and wrestling a knife out of her hand because she was trying to kill your dad? While my stories may be unique, readers will be able to relate to the broader themes are part of a normal childhood such as sibling rivalry, eccentric parents, doing stupid things, and frequently preventing one’s parents from literally murdering each other.
Although some of the subject matter is not something one would generally laugh at, you have my permission to laugh. Social rules don’t apply here; my rules do. It works for me, and who knows, after reading the stories from my past, you might be inspired to see your own screwed up past in a more humorous light.
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