Every year, when Thanksgiving rolls around, I begin to get nervous, because--in many ways--I really do hate Christmas. I hate the awful canned music one hears in stores. It's bad enough when they massacre the old-fashioned carols, but when they play "upbeat," modern Christmas tunes like "Jingle Bells," or "Frosty the Snowman," I start to feel queasy.
Then there are the decorations. As of last week, where we live, a lot of people hadn't yet taken down their Halloween decorations, and I'm sure their Christmas decor will stay up just as long. Outdoor lights are kind of fun, actually, but what I really hate are those huge, blow-up Santas, sleighs and snowmen that adorn so many roofs and lawns.
It's really the DAY AFTER that I hate, and the one I hated the most was in 1985, when we spent the holiday at our cabin in upstate New York, when Whitley had some strange memories and showed me a mark that was bothering him on the back of his neck, which I identified immediately as a puncture mark of some kind.
Our lives changed completely on that day, and not always for the better. After Whitley wrote "Communion," we were physically menaced by our neighbors and became fodder for the nastiness of numerous UFO "researchers."
The irony is that Whitley was finally making the transition he had desired for years. He started out as a horror writer because every publisher was looking for another Stephen King. He had coauthored "WarDay," which the late Ted Kennedy advocated and which may have played a part in averting another war.
The follow-up, "Nature's End," was an early warning about climate change. He stopped writing a literary adventure novel, set in Russia, in order to write "Communion." He wrote it simply because it was something interesting and unexplained that had happened to him, and he assumed that other people would be interested in it too. However, it temporarily ended his fiction career, because publishers wanted nothing but nonfiction about the Visitors for years afterwards.
It took him years to painfully rebuild his fiction career, but he was never able to patch things up with book reviewers and their publications, who have obviously vowed never to review one of Whitley's books ever again--even if they have nothing to do with the Visitors. This is a real handicap for someone who is trying to make a living as an author. No other author who sells as many books as Whitley does is ignored to this degree.
This isn't a life that either of us chose or would have chosen, yet it's brought us both great gifts. We experience plenty of prejudice--our local church, for instance, has completely spurned all our offers to work on their charitable projects, and I suspect that many potential friends think better of getting together with us when they recognize our last name.
Conversely, there are the people who want to exploit us and these aren't real friends either.
Yet I've met so many extraordinary people too. I receive an email or feel a tug on my sleeve, and turn around and there is yet another person who wants to tell me something absolutely mind-blowing. Not many people have the privilege of being trusted with so many secrets to this extents and I find it awesome to be in this position.
You don't always get to choose your path in life. You think you do, but then you make what seems like a short turn in a different direction and everything changes. That's what I learned in the years following the day after Christmas 25 years ago.