GETTING MY GEEK ON AT THE STAR TREK ACADEMY EXPERIENCE

 

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I was a little girl when the first episodes of the original Star Trek series aired.

Sometimes I think that it was a miracle that I ever found it at all on TV because ours, which sat atop the piano (or some other high piece of furniture in the livingroom that forced me to look up, much the way people do now with their big screens mounted on the wall), was strictly controlled by my mum, who at that time was 100% stay-at-home and always vigilant.

But there must have been a day when conditions were right and I managed to watch it.

Like almost everything else about my childhood, I can’t recall any of the details of this exactly. My memories aren’t stored in neat episodes. They’re mostly telescoped inside my mind, and tugging on any one of them pulls several out in one long tangle.

What I’m left with, though, is enough. I remember watching the first season of Star Trek and feeling pure wonder and happiness. Like it was a miracle. Like I had found a place outside of every other part of my life that was populated by people who saw the world a lot like I did—that is, with openness and optimism. I always left the Star Trek universe reluctantly.

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I think what I had found, really, was the first TV show beyond my favourite children’s programs that conveyed the same essential benevolence and yet was ADULT.

This was perhaps the shocker for me. To discover that there were people like Gene Rodenberry who unabashedly adored life and the human race and refused to succumb to what, eleven years later in another imagined universe, would be described as the dark side. Pessimism, cynicism and disguised despair.

In these memories, it feels like I was watching the show alone, but that’s unlikely because our house was small; my sisters must have been nearby. But I don’t think either of them felt the way I did about Star Trek.

My mum, well, she was listening in from the kitchen.

I remember that she didn’t GET IT. My very bright mother— the product of the post war years in Quebec, which were profoundly traditional and Catholic, and who reached her twenties in 1955—couldn’t help herself; she just felt threatened by the show.

She saw in Star Trek a menace to her faith and thus my faith, and she said this to me in exactly those words. I think it may have been her first serious exposure to science fiction, and it unsettled her. She couldn’t see how something that expanded our view of the universe and our role in it, the way Star Trek did, could be compatible with Catholic cosmology.

My memories of how this made me feel are very clear: I desperately wanted her to see what I saw when I watched Star Trek. Rodenberry’s future contained all of the recognizable evils and suffering I was already aware of: illness, death, poverty, war and destruction. But in this future, the predominance of diversity, inclusion, cooperation, benevolence, sharing, acceptance and understanding were matter-of-fact.

Enlightened, essentially good people would always strive to bring everyone on board. The power-mad and the destructive would be dealt with swiftly and justly.

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What young mind wouldn’t be swept up in a world that presented endless what-ifs and ways of being, and then threw Captain Kirk and his crew into the mix to see how they would all make it through?

Even as a grade schooler, I felt vindicated by the idealism of Star Trek.

I also had a mad crush on Captain Kirk.

That’s how Star Trek entered my life, sharing space with Batman, Barbie, Willy Wonka and Thierry la Fronde.

I don’t remember how many of my friends were Star Trek groupies, but I do remember ersatz communicators  turning up in our play, sometimes fitting into our improvised Batman-inspired utility belts.

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The Star Trek universe and I grew up together.

A dry spell followed those years of my childhood, and when the next great wave of space adventure hit in 1977, I was just emerging from adolescence. When I exited the cinema after seeing Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time, the only sounds I could muster were: WOW!

WOW.

We forget that these were the VCR years, when Sony Trinitron TVs were considered hot stuff.

No one had ever seen anything like it.

The original Star Wars movie was one of the first things I ever taped on our VCR, in 1986 or ’87, when the twins were 3 or 4 years old. It was a version dubbed in French (it was a great translation!), that they watched over and over and over and over till the cassette wore out (is there a little boy alive who can’t make legit lightsaber sound effects?).

And THAT was the beginning of my sons’ slow indoctrination into Star Trek, Star Wars and everything sci-fi/fantasy/geeky.

I’m the resident sci-fi and fantasy buff in the house. My husband, who was also wowed by Star Wars in 1977, is nevertheless made of different stuff. There isn’t a nerdy or geeky bone in his body and he isn’t prone to even the shortest flights of fancy.

Happily, it fell to me. They’ve taken up the torch with a vengeance, and have outpaced and outstripped me by light years.

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Cut to last Wednesday, when my son Simon (Twin One) organised our trek to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa with Christian (Son Three) and our friend Cindy, so that we could share The Star Fleet Academy Experience.

 It wasn’t lavish or super-impressive. It was a straightforward interactive experience in a setting designed to be boxed up and moved to a different city every few months and it was a blast.

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Data and Captain Picard on the bridge: Star Trek, Next Generation
Simon and Christian on the bridge
Simon and Christian on the bridge

It featured animations and quizzes and simulations and when I was done, I received an evaluation that was later emailed to me:

Thank you for taking part in the Starfleet Academy Experience at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.


Attached to this email you will find:

  • Your Starfleet Recruitment Certificate
  • Your Starfleet Personnel File
  • Your Species Selfie
  • Your Transporter video

We hope that you enjoyed your visit.
Live long and prosper.

How cool is that?

I wasn’t shocked to read that Star Fleet Academy had accepted me to study in the field of Communications.

Data commands the bridge: Star Trek-Next Generation
Christian commands the bridge

Pumped and in full geek mode, we passed the time during the drive home quizzing each other.

Questions started like this:

Who’s your favourite Star Trek main character? Secondary character?

There was lots of debate: Do you mean just the shows or are the movies included? All of the series?

Answers included Picard and Kirk, of course; Data—well yes (sigh); Ensign Ro, the Traveller, Q and a host of stragglers.

Favourite Star Trek movie?

Wrath of Khan dominated, but emotional responses also supported The Undiscovered Country and The Voyage Home; and I have a soft spot for Tom Hardy’s stunning performance in the role of Shinzon, going head-to-head with Patrick Stewart in Nemesis.

Then we veered off into the superhero cannon: Captain America or Iron Man?

(is that even debatable? Of course its Captain America; I have reasons coming out my ears!)

Which was worse: The most recent Superman or Batman VS Superman?

I hated the latter and had been warned by my sons not to see the first, but it was the winner of that debate.

We of course veered all over the place, and there were all kinds of leaps from genre to genre and medium to medium (how could any of us forget books, graphic novels and comics?), and the 200 km drive home passed in a flash.

I’m a lucky woman indeed. I can now boldly go where no one has gone before–into the undiscovered country– with a crew that includes family, friends and soon, my grandchildren, Penelope and Graeme, who are gently being brought into the fold.

I hope to live long, and have already prospered beyond my wildest dreams.

Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”
Gene Roddenberry

 

 

 

 

ARTFUL ANTICIPATION

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Pointe-Claire Village, December 28th 2015

Right after Halloween, it started. Christmas decorations up in every shopping centre. Lots of bling. Christmas music—not that many traditional carols—playing in endless loops.

The usual.

My work schedule picked up a lot in November-December. Days just whooshed by. And then suddenly, it was the second week of December and I had done almost no Christmas shopping. Hadn’t put up a single decoration in the house.

With Christmas just a few weeks away, I felt like a beat up old winter tire: half-frozen, half deflated.

It’s right about then that my son Simon arrived on the scene. With his glad tidings. Or to use 21st century language: with his irresistible, upbeat energy and effortless joy.

In no time at all, we were on a focused and fun track.  We were on a mission. First, there were the recipe searches. We sat together on a Saturday afternoon and looked through the magazines I’ve collected over the years that are stuffed with proven recipes. We surfed online, stopping a long time on Nigella Lawson’s website, hoping to pay homage to my son Christian’s year in London by making some smashing British Christmas puddings and cakes.

Then came the marathon cooking/baking weekends. Two of them, in fact, that caused us to STOP all of the work we normally bring home and pore over for far too many unpaid hours (we are both teachers), and instead, make things happen in the kitchen!

 

The tree in the heart of Pointe-Claire Village. December 28th 2015
The tree in the heart of Pointe-Claire Village. December 28th 2015

We cooked and baked till our backs ached and our hair and skin smelled of it all: mini-tourtières, ragoût de boulettes, shortbread, gingerbread, Nigella’s chocolate fruit cake (to die for—thanks, Nigella!), jam-filled butter cookies, chocolate hazelnut mocha balls and cinnamon roll cookies…

We did it all with my laptop next to us on the table where we rolled out all of our dough, drinking gallons of tea and listening to The Great British Bake-Off (Simon’s idea, with Christian’s tech support). We got through seasons 2 and 3.

 

 

When we were too tired to cook, we shopped.

This year's tree
This year’s tree

A week before Christmas, my husband, Christian and I got the tree up and decorated.

I lost track of lots of things (house cleaning among them), and it didn’t matter.

And some time, in the midst of it all, it occurred to me that this, in fact, is what anticipation is all about. And that anticipation can be a very good thing.

As part of the yoga practice that I’ve been developing for the past two and a half years, I’ve been working on mindfulness, and on learning to be more centered; more in-the-moment. There’s something to be said for pushing out the anxiety that wants to build and build, as pressure from both the outside world and my own mind swirls around inside me.

And there’s something important about turning away from the expectations that my mind manufactures constantly; the mental check-lists of what my life should be.

But it also occurred to me—with a bit of coaching from Simon and Christian—that pushing things out of my mind to keep stress at bay also prevents me from feeling the joy of anticipation.

In Pointe-Claire, QC.
In Pointe-Claire, QC.

All anticipation is, really, is the ability to see the joy in every part of a process, in every step of a journey. Regardless of its destination.

Time will pass, we will move through it, inevitably, so let’s mark every moment of it as we discover where it’s leading us.

Some people seem to have a natural talent for joy and understand the value of artful anticipation.

What Simon never loses track of is why he’s doing all of the things he undertakes at Christmas time.

Full moon on the rise, on a snowless Christmas Eve, in Pointe-Claire, QC
Full moon on the rise, on a snowless Christmas Eve, in Pointe-Claire, QC

It’s for love. Love of life and of his family and friends. That’s what makes the planning and the doing fun. Joyful. Even when things don’t quite go according to plan. Even as plans change.

This year, for instance, winter forgot to show up in time for Christmas. With temperatures rising to weird numbers like 17 Celsius on December 24th—instead of a more familiar minus 5 degrees C—it became obvious that we were definitely NOT going to have a white Christmas. People shopped in t-shirts instead of parkas.

 

 

On Christmas Eve, a friend of mine posted this on Facebook:

« This Christmas is all awkward… There is no snow…,my boys don’t believe in Santa anymore… So no halfway eaten cookies and milk under the tree…no letter from Santa…no hiding wrapped gifts

Another step farther from childhood…

Anyways
Happy holidays everyone! Wish you all health and happiness and all the best! »

 It was such an honest post. There were personal elements in it: her sons growing up, the wistfulness of small traditions being abandoned, the fading of a phase of her family’s life.

But there was an unease that we could all relate to: strange, unseasonal weather that left us feeling «off». That felt ominous. Weather that echoed the feelings and fears we have about change in our lives. About Christmas, like so many things, becoming undependable, or unrecognizable.

All the more reason, then, to live in the advent of important moments.

Home on Lakeshore Road, in Pointe-Claire.
House on Lakeshore Road, in Pointe-Claire.

This is what I realized this year. And it changed everything. And my three Christmases—one with my in-laws (about 30 of us!) on the 24th ; a quieter Christmas day at home with family and a dear friend; and a third, on the 26th, with my mum, family and extended family—were the happiest in years.

Because everyone showed up. Full of cheer. Because we were sincerely glad to be together.

There are people who have a special kind of gathering energy. They are the ones who bring everyone together. My mum and son Simon have that energy. They change things for all of us. They make things happen. And that’s okay. All we have to do is cooperate. Jump on board.

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A house just around the corner.

My son Christian cultivated the art of anticipation by planning and effecting his gift purchases  months in advance. He was just bursting to finally give them to us.

I found myself responding to the lights that are hung everywhere at this time. So I went off on foot or in my car photographing my freshly dolled-up home town and neighbourhood, when I had a few free hours.

We went together to see Star Wars: the Force Awakens, which my sons have looked forward to for years!

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Simon, Christian and my husband, at the Kirkland Cineplex. The Force Awakens!

My granddaughter Penelope, who is 3 ¾ years old, took at look at the season’s first snowfall and exclaimed:

« I love the snow! It makes my heart beat faster! »

That’s anticipation.

Penelope and her brother Graeme, playing under the table, on December 26th
Penelope and her brother Graeme, playing under the table, on December 26th