star wars memories

It's 1977. I'm three years old, and my family has moved out of the city and into the suburbs. Me and the neighborhood kids are in our pajamas; we're all piled into the back of Dad's giant yellow Ford truck. The sun is setting as we pull into the drive-in on Beach; Brian's mom has given us a giant bag of popcorn from Fedco.

I remember curling under blankets as the sky finally grew dark. I remember Mom and Dad monkeying with the speakers in the car. And I remember that thundering music as the main titles flashed and the sound of blasters as Princess Leia's ship was captured by Darth Vader.

We all fell asleep somewhere after Luke left Tatooine. Mom carried me to bed, which had Star Wars sheets, naturally.

It's 1981. I'm seven, and I'm in another fight with Brian, who lives across the street.

"It's my Darth Vader!"

"No, it's mine! Yours is the one without the cape!"

"It's mine!"

We're fighting over whose Darth Vader action figure was whose. There are five kids on the block who are all the same age, and we all, of course, have the same toys. Another day in the sandbox is over, and we're taking our toys home. Except for the Darth Vader.

After an hour of watching our bickering, the neighborhood moms settled on a novel solution: they use a hot nail to burn holes in the feet of all of our action figures. One hole for the Baers' toys, two for the Rakunas', three for the Oberreuters'. The fights stopped and we kept playing.

It's 1984. I'm ten years old, and I still can't get Star Wars out of my system, even though Return of the Jedi has been gone from theaters for a year. It doesn't matter; I want to be Boba Fett for Halloween.

I make gauntlets and chest plates out of cardboard as my mom makes a papier-maché helmet by wrapping strips of newspaper around an inflated balloon. I carried my old Han Solo blaster with me as I went door to door. "Oh, a space man!" one old couple cried after another. I don't think I could have explained to them who I was.

I probably couldn't have explained the Boba Fett Underoos I had, either.

It's 1991. I'm seventeen, it's Christmas, and Mom and Dad just gave me Heir to the Empire, a brand new novel that continues the adventures of Luke Skywalker and company. I read it that night.

It's awful.

So are all the other Star Wars spinoffs that come out over the following years. Comic books and novels, RPGs and card games, even the Super Nintendo games just don't live up to the movies. We watch them over and over in college, creating elaborate drinking games ("Drink every time Luke whines!" someone yelled when we fired up Star Wars. "Christ," I muttered, "we'll be unconscious before they get to Mos Eisley.") and yelling along with the movie. (To this day, I can still do a great R2-D2 screech.)

I still miss the movies.

Star Wars is being re-released.

I stand in line with guys who are my age, who had the same toys, the same Halloween costumes. Mike, our giant supervisor who works as a bouncer on weekends, is not with us. He's off at a toy store in Van Nuys, thirty miles away, because he heard there were some new Princess Leia action figures still left on the shelves. His eyes bugged out when I showed him the toys my parents had stashed in the attic. Jabba the Hutt sits on my desk, his dais now a container for my loose change.

We walk into the theater, which has an equal number of twentysomethings and eight year-olds. The lights go down, and I'm bouncing up and down and laughing at the pure joy of seeing the giant yellow words scroll up the screen as John Williams' music pumps out in THX.

I wonder what the eight year-olds are thinking.

Now it's 1999. I'm twenty-five, and Episode I is coming out any day now. My friends at work and I all sat around my computer and watched an .mpg of the trailer. Someone snuck a video camera into a theater and put it online. We watch it over and over.

Maybe it's a deep seated need for myths in our time. Maybe it's a simple need for spectacle. Maybe it's grand opera with lightsabers or just Flash Gordon with better effects. I don't know.

What I do know is that I love Star Wars, and I wish I had children of my own so I could pile them in the back of a giant yellow Ford truck and take them to the drive-in, where we would sit in wide-eyed wonder as the music thunders and titles scroll up the screen.

May the Force be with you.

What are your Star Wars memories?

{ hope }