Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Most Memorable Summer of My Life

Nerd Girl

I mentioned last week that this blog is proof that there are nerdy women in the world. Well, today's post may just become the key piece of evidence. It may have to compete a bit with the post where I shared a snippet from my teenage diary, showing the world that at one point I was this dorky kid envisioning Heaven (yeah, I'm talking about that Heaven: Pearly Gates, St. Peter, Jesus seated at the right hand of God, and all that) as an eternity of Star Trek binge-watching. Don't believe I really wrote that? Go read it and see for yourself.

Is today's post as nerdy as that one? Not sure, but it's pretty nerdy.

The Backstory

The story of the most memorable summer of my life actually begins about a year and a half earlier. The Memorable Summer occurred between my seventh and eight grade years of school. The story begins back in sixth grade.

It started with a casual conversation with my parents. My mother was telling the story of the worst date my dad ever took her on. It must have been when they were both in high school, because 2001: A Space Odyssey was playing in theaters. And my dad took my mom to see it.  In telling me the story, my mom went on and on and on about how incredibly stupid the movie was.

Well.

One thing I could not abide at that age (I was around eleven) was someone expressing an opinion without lists and lists and lists of facts to back up their position. Come to think of it, that still bothers me. Don't just say a movie is stupid. Give me bulleted lists showing all the things that make the movie stupid.

I was also at that preadolescent age where I liked to disagree with everything my parents said. My mom thought the movie was stupid? I was just going to have to watch that movie and prove to her it was not stupid.

So I watched it. My parents and I watched together, in fact. Of course, my mother complained all the way through it. Maybe if I hadn't had her voice in my ears the whole time, I would have felt differently about it, but I was a preteen with something to prove, so I naturally loved the movie. Deliberately and defiantly, I loved 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

After seeing the movie, I wanted to do two things. I wanted to watch the sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, and I wanted to read the book.

The book was easy to find at the local library. The movie version of the sequel was not so easy. My dad and I went to every video store in the area looking for it. Nobody had it. You see, at the time, video stores only kept new movies in stock, and 2010 had been out for about six years by that point. And it wasn't exactly the most popular movie of the decade, which made it nearly impossible to locate.

I did read 2001, however. And I must say, I enjoyed the book more than the movie.

There was one thing in the book that bothered me. It was the fact that the astronauts all had families back home, and they never got to see them again. The book mentioned that unmarried men were intentionally chosen because of the length of the mission, but it also said that Dave Bowman and Frank Poole both had girlfriends. Girlfriends who would be waiting back on earth to see their men again.

I could not shake that idea from my head. They left their girlfriends behind. They never went home. It was all very well and good for Frank. Frank died. There was some closure there. But Dave? He evolved into some alien entity and then chose to never go back home. How could he do that? His poor girlfriend!

The thought of Dave and his girlfriend nagged me for a long time after I finished that book. Then the Memorable Summer happened.

A Very Nerdy Summer Vacation

When I was twelve or thirteen, my parents and I went on a camping trip. I use the word "camping" loosely. We had an airconditioned travel trailer with a full kitchen and bathroom. But my parents referred to it as "camping."

We also brought a TV and VCR with us. It was the first time we'd had a TV in our camper. It was all very exciting.

There was a little gas station/convenience store not too far from our campground. Do you remember that, back in the 80s and early 90s, gas stations used to rent video tapes? Well, this one did. While my parents were busy getting gas and picking up some sodas and snack foods, I was perusing the video tapes. And guess what I found. 2010! 

I excitedly ran over and showed it to my dad, beaming my biggest "Can we get it? Can we get it?" smile. He seemed almost as excited as I was. After all, he was the one who had driven me all over our county looking for the darn movie. He was as ready for me to see it as I was.

So we rented it. This was before all rental stores required membership cards. Anybody could rent a movie back then.

The movie blew me away. Remember that I was obsessed with this need for Dave Bowman to reconnect with his girlfriend? Well, guess what happens in 2010. He goes home and talks to her! Even tells her he loves her. My little heart did its best reenactment of the ending of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, when the Grinch's heart grows three sizes. Pleasant tingling sensations spread all over my body and I truly thought I would burst from the intensity of emotion.

Not only that, but HAL is redeemed in 2010. The villain from the first movie becomes the savior in the second. I'm a sucker for a good redemption story, and this one did quite a number on me.

I cried myself to sleep that night. I don't remember if it was the first time I cried for a movie. I know I cried the first time I saw Beaches, but can't recall if I saw that before or after seeing 2010. I do know I've never cried harder for a movie than I did for 2010. Seriously. I cried myself to sleep every night for about two weeks after I watched it.

I spent the rest of that vacation wandering around the campground by myself, rewatching my favorite scenes from the movie in my mind. I remember that certain words and phrases would get stuck in my head, and I would make up little melodies to go with them, and pretend I was singing them to the characters in the movie. One was the catchphrase on the Morton's Salt container: When it rains, it pours. I turned it into a song:

When it rains it pours.
Pours so true.
Hold you head up,
So I can love you.

I constructed the melody in such a way that the last line led right back into the first, so I could sing it over and over again without stopping. And I walked around and around the campground singing that song and thinking about Dave Bowman and his girlfriend. 

And HAL. Let's not forget HAL. I assigned a song to him, as well. 905 by The Who. It's on their album Who Are You. I thought the song was about a robot, because that's what my mom told me the song was about. I realize now that my mom was wrong, but at the time I didn't know that, so I spent my summer singing that song and thinking about HAL. There's a line in the song that really grabbed hold of me: "At each end of my life is an open door." Because I did not have the internet to give me access to all lyrics of all songs ever written, I misunderstood that line and thought they were saying, "And the end of my life is an open door." I thought it was about immortality. You know, the kind of immortality HAL finds when Jupiter explodes, destroying the Discovery and uniting HAL's consciousness with that of Dave Bowman's for all eternity. After we got home from vacation, I spent hours in my room listening to that song and crying. 

When Summer Ended

Eventually I had to go back to school. You know how some teachers like to have students write about their summer vacation on the first day of class? Well, I had a teacher who assigned that very thing. Can you guess what I wrote about? 2010! I told the whole story. How my dad and I had been looking for that movie for such a long time. How we finally found it in this little gas station near our campground. How it relieved all the frustration I was left with after reading 2001. How I spent the rest of our trip sitting alone in quiet contemplation of the best movie I had ever seen. 

After writing our essays, we had to exchange papers and let a classmate critique our work. The girl who read my paper commented that I spent too much time talking about the movie. There was nothing about what I actually did on vacation. Well, sure, we had done other things. We swam in the campground's lake. We went fishing. We did some sightseeing at nearby tourist attractions. But through all of that, I was only thinking about the movie. The movie was the most important thing that happened that summer. 

A Lingering Effect

I was inspired to write this post after listening to music while working in my kitchen the other day. I have quite a long playlist on my phone, which contains the song 905, and I was listening to it on random shuffle. When that song came on, I felt all those same pleasant tingles coursing through my body that I felt during the summer that I saw 2010 for the first time. And though I knew the song wasn't really about a robot, still I sang along with it and pretended that it was about HAL. I may have even teared up a little. 

So there. You've now heard the story of the most memorable summer of my life. And I think I've nerded out enough one day. 

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