Merry Christmas Eve everyone! Now, I'm sure there are some of you (heretics) out there who have had just about enough of Star Wars by now. Not me, though. I've been having so much fun with all the hype that I'm going to squeeze at least one more post out of it. Of course, a big part of my enjoyment has stemmed from the fact that I'm one of those old enough to have been there since the beginning, which means I've got almost forty years worth of memories associated with this particular film series. So, in a shameless steal from the Film Vault Podcast, I thought I would take the time and share my top five personal recollections that revolve around Star Wars.
“Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh… everything’s perfectly all right now."
What kid didn't want Star Wars action figures back in 1977/1978; I know I did. Alas, we weren't exactly what you would call a well-to-do family, so my parents had to tell me up front they couldn't afford to buy me any (the memory of my mother's expression as she explained that still makes me hurt for her). What they did manage to scrounge up, though, was a cassette copy of the film's score. Sure, I was disappointed at first, I was still a kid after all. But over the next few months, that tape became one of my most cherished possessions. Not only did it allow me to relive every scene of the film in my head (no VCRs in those days), but more importantly, it sparked a lifelong love of music of all kinds. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only kid to learn what a leitmotif was thanks to John Williams. Suffice to say, that relationship with music still carries me through hard times to this very day. It's like God and The Rolling Stones have always said, you can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.
“The circle is now complete.”
Turns out, though, I wasn't the only one who remembered those early Christmases. Years later as I was entering college, along with all the practical presents, my mother slipped a couple of Star Wars action figures into my Christmas stocking. Better late than never, she said, even if I was too old to actually play with them. Or so she thought. Decades later, with perhaps a little lump in my throat, I passed those very same figures into the hands of my own son and you can rest assured we've shared many an adventure with them since. If that sounds like I'm a grown man playing with action figures, then just remember that it was G. K. Chesterton who said that imagination is the most essential element in education. So I'm not playing, I'm educating.
That being said, I've never forced Star Wars on my children. I didn't buy them stuffed Wookies for their cribs or Yoda blankets for their first beds. Naturally, I took my daughter to opening day when The Phantom Menace came out, but it didn't really capture her imagination like the Harry Potter films would a couple of years later. My son also remained mostly unaware of that galaxy far, far away for the longest time, with the Lord of the Rings movies more than satisfying his appetite for fantasy. But right around his tenth Christmas, one of the cable channels was running a marathon of the original trilogy and my wife left it on in the background. During dinner, I could see him continuously shooting furtive glances to the television in the living room until finally he asked, "Who's that gold robot guy and what's his problem?" Over the next few hours I sat back and watched as he slowly got hooked. Within a week, my DVDs of the originals were firmly locked in his grasp and he was spending his birthday money to buy the prequels (which he loved, by the way). Sometimes, you just can't do anything but wait and hope your kids find their way.
When I think about it, waiting has always been part of the Star Wars experience for me. For example, when The Empire Strikes Back came out, I was up first thing in the morning clamoring to be dropped off at the theater. It was doubly important that I get their as early as possible because, not only was it the first showing and no way was I missing that, but also because the first 100 people in line would receive a free one-sheet sized poster. Imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when, having arrived at least two hours before showtime, I discovered the line was already stretched as far as the eye could see. Let me tell you, it was a wretched feeling watching that box full of posters slowly dwindle as I inched closer and closer to the door. But miracle of miracles, with only two posters left, I made it to the door. Really, it was just like Heaven; who cares how far down the list my name is, as long as I get the prize when I reach the entrance.
So, yeah, me and Star Wars go way back. And now a new episode is here and it's been a blast. It's a rare occasion these days when the whole family gets to go to the movies together, mostly because you're almost required to take out a loan in order to do so. But each of us have our own individual attachment to Star Wars, so we bit the bullet and bought tickets for opening night. I have to say, just to be able to let my son experience the thrill of seeing those mythical words appear on the big screen and watch the opening crawl begin to the strains of John Williams oh-so-familar fanfare was probably worth the price of the tickets all by itself. Fortunately, the rest of the movie was pretty good too. You know, in the end, there are really only a few things a parent can give their child that has any lasting value. Love and faith top that list, of course, but a few good memories, those can be pretty important too.
Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you get to make some lasting memories of your own this year, Star Wars or otherwise.