Linenger's Letters to his Son

February 15, 1997
"
Hurricane, a good bilingual nickname"

Dear John:

It was so nice to see you and Kathryn today on the monitor. We have quite a crowd up here, but you had even more people in mission control-Moscow. There is something comforting in seeing all of our families gathered together. Helps us to understand each other a bit more, to know that we all share some of the same concerns. And knowing that Kathryn has other people to turn to who understand completely the feeling of separation helps also.

John, you have a new nickname. After watching your scurry around the television broadcast room, all my crewmates decided that you will be called "Hurricane". In Russian, the word sounds about the same, so it's a good bilingual nickname for a boy who makes bilingual goos.

You take after me. When I was a boy, whenever I misbehaved, my father would make me sit in a chair for punishment. From my viewpoint, a spanking was much better. Quick, to the point, and I could get back to moving and misbehaving.

But sitting. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Back then, they had clocks that went around. And I swear time moved more slowly than on digitals. Anyway, Dad would be lying on the couch, taking his 15 minute seems like three hours to me lunchtime nap. I knew that if I asked too often if my time were up, he'd make me sit longer for disturbing him. I was more often than not saved by Mom, who would tell Dad his time was up and it was time to get back to fixing phones. I was sure glad that Dad was a telephone man and that he wasn't unemployed.

Anyway, "Holigan" and "Hurricane" are both fine nicknames for a little boy.

Speaking of motion, it's been interesting noting the differences in "flying" around the station between us oldtimers and the new crew. We move gracefully. A combination of now knowing the terrain and adaption to the new form of locomotion.

You fly from place to place by pushing off, very gingerly, then doing a few midcourse corrections by either bending or twisting slightly; or by pushing ever so gently on some fixed object along the way. You brake by again finding a fixed object at the end of the flightpath and reacting against it. Everything along the way--loosely velcroed cameras, food items, pens and pencils--stays untouched and stays put.

Sasha, Valeri, and I have never collided. Never even touched. I'm sure that they kept clear of my flightpath early on, but now we just glide by one another with the greatest of ease. Personal space protected. Everything in place.

Huge difference now. Pencils and cameras and gear a flyin'. People propelling themselves off each other. The braking object is the guy at the other end of the module. Cords and cables along the way getting pulled out. But already, I've observed this lessening as the new guys adapt and learn the terrain.

I suspect when the Shuttle arrives in May, my new spacestation crewmates, having spent three months onboard and being fully adapted, will notice the same things. And when I return to the planet, the Earthlings, long ago adapted to standing upright and walking, will look at me and be astonished by my clumsiness. For a day or two.

John, I'd like to ask you my first favor. Since this walking thing is something you just learned and is still fresh in your mind, maybe you can give Daddy some pointers. Then we can spend time together just walking, side-by-side, hand-in-hand. I'd like that.

Goodnight, Hurricane.

Love,
Dad.

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