Now that I have reached by 63rd year, I can play back in my mind a lot of historic events. When December comes around every year I especially remember the Christmas of 1968.
Just a little background – I was in my second year of college, my older brother was in his third year of college, and my younger brother was a senior in high school. Our family lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and my paternal grandmother lived in Ripley, Michigan, in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Since it was an all-day trip to see her, we didn’t visit my grandmother very often and had only visited her at Christmas time once up until then. Since my immediate family was changing – everyone getting ready to go their own way and begin their adult life – my dad thought it would be a good opportunity to visit my grandmother as a family one last time.
We almost didn’t make the trip. We had had a snow storm the day before we were to leave, but the roads were plowed by morning and we headed north. Grandmother was happy to see us and we had a great time being together. My older brother had learned how to play Pinochle at school and taught us how to play.
On Christmas Eve, we were playing Pinochle and listening to the television. We had heard that Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon, was going to be circling the Moon. We were listening to reports about the historic event. Imagine – mankind reaching the moon! It sounded like something out of science fiction. The Apollo 8 crew was scheduled to broadcast to all of us on the Earth during their lunar orbit. I was in awe as I heard the words being spoken from on high. Astronaut Jim Lovell said, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” The crew then took turns reading from the book of Genesis of the Bible.
Seeing the starkness of the Moon on the camera, the words seemed so very appropriate. Astronaut Frank Borman ended the broadcast with these words: "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."
That night seemed the end of an age. Yes, we had started the space age several years before, but this truly seemed like the brink of a new phase of life. And it was a new phase in the lives of my family. Yes, we’ve celebrated many Christmases together since then. But we’ve added new faces and lost some loved ones through the years. It’s all a part of life. And it’s all a part of my genealogy.
Midwest Genealogy Center