Christmas morning, 1968: it must have been around 5:00 AM; I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. In those days, at the height of the U.S. space program, the Major Matt Mason astronaut toys by Mattel were the big thing, especially for this nine-year-old science-fiction and space exploration uber-geek. I was anticipating receiving a Major Matt Mason space station, among other space-related goodies, and adrenaline had been coursing like magma through my weenie little body since early on Christmas Eve. We were at my grandparents' place in Gainesville, GA, and, as always, my folks slept on the pullout sofa bed in the living room — where all the toys lay waiting for us under the Christmas tree. My brother and I had strict orders not to set foot out of our bedroom until 7:00 AM, but come 5:30 or so, it became clear to me that something was wrong with the clock on the nightstand next to our bed. I had been lying there fidgeting for most of forever, and only a measly half hour had passed? WTF? Thinking only of being helpful, I ran the clock up about ten minutes, thinking this would be a much more realistic time of morning. I lay back down, confident I had done the right thing. For the next hour and something I lay there, my body still blazing with adrenaline, my mind constructing all kinds of great scenarios for Major Matt Mason and his buddies Sgt. Storm, Jeff Long, and Doug Davis. When I finally looked back at the clock, it showed that only fifteen minutes had passed. Clearly, this clock was defective! So I ran it up another ten minutes for good measure.
Several more times this happened. I'd lie back down, wait and wait and wait and wait, and only a few minutes would have gone by. Impossible. If I didn't get this clock set right, I figured, I was really going to be in trouble.
Finally. Finally, 7:00 AM arrived. I woke my little brother, and the two of us went tearing into the living room. There it was — the Major Matt Mason space station! Yahoooooooo! It was beautiful, stunning, glorious. Not only that, the whole room was absolutely jammed with fantastic toys and games. Santa Claus had outdone himself! Mum and Dad, of course, stood no chance remaining in bed with all this ruckus and racket, but after a bit, Mum asked me, "Are you sure it's seven o'clock?" Well, of course I was sure. I had fixed the defective clock.
Next thing you know, I'm being sent back to bed, this time till 8:00 AM, since, according to all the other clocks in the house, it was only 6:15, and my folks, in a rare display of poor judgment, believed them.
This was perhaps my most memorable Christmas. If I remember right, Mum and Dad did let us come back into the living when 7:00 AM actually rolled around because they always were, at heart, very sporting and willing to make amends for their errors.
This year, I didn't get any Major Matt Mason stuff, but if your Christmas was half as wonderful as mine was, I expect it would be ten times as wonderful as any other day of your year. The presents were great and all, but it was just a good day all around, spent in the company of Ms. Kimberly, my mum, and our friend Mary Clifton; alas, my brother couldn't be there. We slept in, exchanged gifts during the morning, had a big meal at midday, and then Brugger and I headed up to Rocky Mount, VA, to get in some hiking and geocaching at Waid Park, an extensive area of woodland a short distance out of town, with a decent network of trails and lots of elevation changes. By the time we got there, it was fairly late in the day, and we appeared to be the only human beings for miles around, which we both found quite pleasant. One of the caches was called "Red Trails in the Sunset" (GCH22K) which couldn't have been more apt, since we were, indeed, on the Red Trail, and the sun was setting just as I found the cache. Both peaceful and invigorating, this outing; it could scarcely have made me happier — well, except for not finding one of the caches out there, which I gather may just be plain missing.
From there, we drove around the campus at Ferrum College, where I went to school for a couple of years back in the dawn of man. Ferrum is the model for "Beckham College," which has been referenced in any number of my short stories and novels. I gave it that name, not so much as a play on Lovecraft's Arkham, as some have suggested, but after Ferrum College's founder, Samuel Beckham. Then things got a bit surreal. Kimberly and I didn't really care to have leftover ham for supper, so we ended up finding a Chinese buffet that was open. The food wasn't very good, and the clientele looked not unlike the Walking Dead, but damn, it was kind of a hoot. We quite enjoyed ourselves. To end the evening, we watched Insidious: Chapter 2, which turned out to be a lot of fun. I suppose "unconventional"would be an apt description of the day. And I'm all over that.
Peace be unto ye.
Click images to enlarge.
L: Mary Clifton & Mum; R: A not-so-welcome Christmas Eve visitor