Vintage SciFi Month was created by Little Red Reviewer and is moderated by Red Star Reviews. Any science fiction film, short story, play, or book released before 1979 is eligible for this celebration of classic science fiction.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane today.
My family didn’t have cable* for most of my childhood, and there were a few years there when we didn’t own a TV either.
Many of the shows we watched were old enough to have sold rerun rights to public TV or to channels that could be tuned into if you had a good antenna. This means that my first taste of vintage science fiction might have been a little out of the ordinary for the average kid my age.
All I knew was that I totally understood where Henry Bemis was coming from as he was distracted from reading over and over again as he went through his day.
There’s nothing like being in the middle of a good book only to have to stop and put it down when someone asks you a question, it’s time to eat, or you have some other urgent business to take care of.
Sometimes I’d grab my book, load up on snacks, and go hide underneath a piano or behind the couch so I could finish at least one more chapter without interruption. Bemis tried similar tactics, including taking his lunch hour in the vault at the bank where he worked so he could finally read in peace.
The trouble was, he picked that particular reading spot on the same day something terrible was about to happen to his city that would leave him the sole survivor.
Yes, you’ll have to watch it for yourselves to see what that tragedy was and why he survived.
What I remembered being most fascinated by was his reaction to leaving the vault and discovering his entire world had changed forever. I would have been frightened and yet he seemed oddly relieved. He finally had all of the time he could ever want to read!
If you haven’t seen this episode yet, do give it a shot. The ending was as clever as it was thought provoking. While I do see some plot holes in it that I didn’t notice as a kid, I still enjoyed the process of seeing how Henry reacted to a day in which literally nothing went the way he thought it would.
*We didn’t have Internet access either, but I grew up at a time when that was still common for non-wealthy people who didn’t work in the tech industry.
If you remember what your first taste of vintage science fiction was, tell me about it in the comment section below!
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I have one predictable and one unexpected answer for this week’s prompt.
The predictable answer: books. I had several relatives who would send new books to me as Christmas and birthday presents. Between those gifts and the libraries I visited, I was always lucky enough to have something good to read.
The unexpected answer: earthworms.
Yes, I’ll explain this one.
After my two pet hamsters lived out full, happy lives and went to hamster heaven, my mother repurposed their old glass cage into a container to grow a few plants. She placed it in my bedroom.
I was about nine or ten at this point and wondered how my plants would fare if they didn’t have any earthworms to aerate and enrich their soil.
This thought bubbled to the front of my mind again the next time I went outside after a storm and saw earthworms lying on the sidewalk. Worried they might drown, I picked a few up, brought them home, and put them into the soil where they’d be safe from predators, careless humans, or future thunderstorms.
This was something I continued to do every so often without thinking to tell my parents about my private collection of rescued earthworms.
When I was eleven, my family moved a few thousand miles away to a new home. One of the last things we did before we moved was dump out the soil and plants from that container into the backyard.
My perplexed (and maybe slightly horrified) mother saw dozens of earthworms wiggling their way free as we emptied out the soil. She asked why there were so many of them, so I told her. Mom was too stunned to reply at first.
I didn’t get in trouble, but she did gently tell me not to rescue any more earthworms in the future. Apparently, they can fare quite well for themselves if you leave them to their own devices.
I’d like to think I amused my parents! If nothing else, they had ample proof they’d raised a compassionate child.
Life slows down here quickly once this month begins.Not only have the majority of the big winter holidays have passed by, the weather itself isn’t terribly conducive to driving anywhere even before this pandemic began.
The overnight temperature can dip to -25 Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit) or colder, and we often have sleet and snowstorms taking turns making slippery messes of our roads and sidewalks.
There is nothing like sitting next to the windows in my home and watching the snow blanket everything on those days.
Sometimes it falls so quickly that buildings on the other side of the street have been transformed into dark blurs of colour behind a shimmery white veil of snow. Anything past that point is so smudged beyond recognition that I wouldn’t know what it was at all if I weren’t already familiar with it.
My mindful approach to these days is something that started early in life. Let’s meander for a while.
Quiet Snow Days
These storms remind me of the years I spent growing up in a small town in Wyoming. Sometimes it snowed so heavily that all of the highways and other roads going into and out of town were closed. Residents were asked to only use local roads for emergencies, so almost everyone stayed home and waited out the weather.
I was a slim, petite kid. For a while I remained just barely light enough to walk on top of snowbanks that had partially melted and then frozen again.
Those moments were pure magic and required no thoughts flitting through my mind at all while I carefully walked without leaving a trace in the snow.
These snowy days of the present also remind me of a massive blizzard many of us on the eastern half of North America experienced in the late 1990s.
It happened as my family was moving across town, so I had many opportunities to see the snow as my parents were driving and in the yards of both our old and new homes.
My siblings and I had our typical two weeks off from school for the Christmas holidays that year. It began snowing heavily right before we were scheduled to return to school. For the next two weeks, school was cancelled one day after the next.
Sometimes it would be delayed by an hour or two before being cancelled. Other days were so stormy that everything was cancelled immediately. I remember waiting quietly for the news each morning with no expectations since our superintendent was normally so reticent to cancel school despite how much time it took the county to salt and plow all of the rural roads that would bring students back to class eventually.
Once the announcement was made, there was often a moment of silence as I wondered how I should fill my time on yet another unexpected day since we were between semesters and I’d finished the homework we’d been given before Christmas break began.
Then a few of the members of my household would either drive across town to our old house to take another van full of stuff to the new one (if the town roads were cleared and salted recently enough for this to be safe), go shovel off the roof,* or put a previous load of stuff away.
*It was an old, flat roof in some places. That snowstorm was so heavy and never-ending my parents were afraid the roof would be damaged if they didn’t clear it off.
Snow Encourages Mindfulness
Even beyond these personal experiences, snow itself encourages silence. It dampens sound as explained in this post.
Have you ever taken an outdoor walk during or after a big snowstorm? Whether you live in a big city, a small town, or miles away from the nearest neighbour, the world becomes a much quieter place after a storm like that.
All of that snow acts like insulation. Everything from bird chirps to the roar of a river (if it hasn’t already frozen over) to the rumble of a truck driving down the road is quieter than it normally would be.
Even the soft crunch of boots walking on fresh snow is quieter than normal.
If you’ve never experienced this sort of moment in time, I hope you’ll have a chance to try it someday.
The world is such a quiet, solemn place then that I find it easy to walk without thinking. Nearly all of the familiar landmarks in my area will still be recognizable during or after a big storm, but their edges are softened and muted.
I live in an urban area where it is pretty safe to walk outside even during the heaviest snowstorms, so sometimes I’ll go stand on the sidewalk (far away from the road) and watch the snow cling to everything from skyscrapers to my glasses.
In those moments, there is no need for words or thoughts. The snow will end when it ends. Until then, I sit indoors or stand outdoors and marvel at the feeling of snowflakes coating my hair, coat, boots, and every other surface they can possible reach in this corner of the world.
If you have snow where you live, how do you react to it?
I saved up my allowance for weeks to buy her albums as they came out! (My parents were pastors. We didn’t listen to much secular music for the first decade or so of my life, so she made a big impression on me).
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I’d forgotten this, but it turns out that WWBC had this same prompt last year! I talked about eating apples that were still attached to the apple tree in our front yard then, so I’ll talk about our tire swing this time.
If you’re unfamiliar with this sort of toy, know that they’re made from old tires that are no longer fit for traditional things like driving. My thrifty, environmentally-conscious uncle made the one you’ll see in these photographs!
A tire swing meant for young children is cut open lengthwise to create a safe pouch for little ones to sit in.
If you’re small enough to fit into it, you may still need a grownup or older child to push you.
I have such happy memories of gently being pushed back and forth as I sat in it. The specific adults in question are hazy but always warm and attentive. Sometimes my parents no doubt did it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other relatives took turns as well.
I was the first grandchild on one side of the family, so there were lots of older kids and grownups around who relished playing with a little one again.
Those early experiences gave me a lifelong love of swings. There’s nothing like the sensation of riding in one. It almost feels like you’re flying if you go fast and high enough!
This memory probably formed when I was a tad older than the age I was when I took tiny bites out of apples that I couldn’t quite manage to pull off of the tree.
My family moved away from that house when I was about four, so this was a very early memory no matter which one technically formed first.
I’ll end this post with one final tire swing photo so that you will all know there was a time when my first brother and I were small enough to fit into a tire swing together. (Someday I’ll gush about my other sibling and other relatives in their own special posts, too. Everyone is equally loved in our family. 🙂 )
This sibling of mine is about six feel tall now and has his own kids to chase around! It’s a joy to see him make his wife and kids laugh. He can find the humour in anything.
He also gives the biggest, nicest bearhugs you can possibly imagine.
Looking at this photo makes me yearn for the day when I can hug him and everyone else in the family again. Someday the U.S. and Canadian borders will reopen and that will happen.
I’ll leave it up to him to reveal his identity or remain anonymous depending on what he prefers.
But look at those little munchkins. What a sweet moment in time.
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