I have a memory from my childhood. My mother says, “That’s impossible. You weren’t even born yet.” But I don’t believe her. I say I remember everything. The truth is I probably heard the story so often that the details seeped into my brain until it made perfect sense that I should be one of the cast of characters. And so, when I tell the story, I’m sitting in the back seat of the Buick next to my older sister. My step-dad is driving. My mom has her arm out the open window of the car, pointing at the flying saucer hovering in the dark night sky just outside of Killeen, Texas.
I’d put the year at 1961 but if I didn’t exist it’s more likely to be closer to 1957. Around that time the movie Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers was released. I’m certain my mother was drawn to the cinema with these taglines:
EVERY SHOCKING WORD, EVERY FANTASTIC SCENE, EVERY FRIGHTENING MOMENT IS TRUE!
Now! The truth about flying saucers!
See it all as it actually happened … and is still happening!
The motion picture scoop of the century!
There are other stories in my family history of mysterious objects in the night sky because my mom was always searching for them. She began to see flying saucers everywhere. A few decades later, I saw one, too.
I was driving a lonely stretch of Highway 6 near Crete, Nebraska in a Fiat I borrowed from my friend Cheryl. It was a time when borrowing seemed to be my way of life. I’d separated from a husband I knew less than a year and, too poor to arrange campus housing, I was sleeping on Cheryl’s dorm room floor until my luck changed.
That night I was driving back from Lincoln when I noticed a bright light from the driver’s side window. I didn’t think much of it at first. Except that it seemed too bright and too low. It wasn’t a car. It wasn’t an airplane. I accelerated and it seemed to accelerate, too. I slowed down. It slowed, too. Finally I stopped. In the middle of two-lane Highway 6, with no other cars around me, I hit the brakes of Cheryl’s Fiat hard and I waited. I waited to be abducted by aliens. To be killed by a laser beam. To be lifted into a higher realm. I waited for my heart to stop pounding.
The light moved ahead of me and then around the front of the car and finally seemed to lift off into the night sky.
Looking back, I don’t believe I had close encounter with extraterrestrial life. I believe it was a reflection, or a farmer dust cropping at night, or a helicopter. But it couldn’t have been a flying saucer. Right?
Still, every time I walk the Stanford Hills and see those big dishes reaching up to the sky, I wonder if somewhere deep in space there is someone else on some other rock reaching up into their own blue sky, looking for me.