The “firsts” of childhood are among the most memorable of life’s moments. Even if it’s not the most significant event, a person will remember his first day of school, the first time he rode a bike, or the first time he hit the tee ball coach in the gonads. Fond memories, those are.
In that spirit, I want to tell you all about the first time I watched Star Wars:
I was nine years old, and in the fourth grade at New Market Elementary. This foreign world of “jedi knights” was worshipped by my friends at school (who pretended to slay one another with lightsabers at recess) and neighbors (who kept calling themselves as “Count Dookoo” and “obione”, for some reason). So I asked my dad if we could watch these movies. He bought a set of three movies — strangely called episodes four, five and six — and set aside a night to start the series.
I was jumping around like a kid in a candy store when that night finally came. I was in the kitchen, getting a drink with my dad, and I tried to impress him with some knowledge: “hey dad, I know the most famous line from Star Wars.” I tried to make my squeaky nine-year-old vocal chords rumble out a imitation of Darth Vader as I said “Luke, I am your father!” I was pleased with my observation of basic pop culture.
“I think I know a more famous one,” he said. “May the force be with you.”
That puzzled me. Never once, in all of the battles between my friends and parodies I’d seen on TV had there ever been mention of this “force” thing. I rolled my eyes at my dad and took my seat by the coffee table, ready to see what made these movies such a big deal. Two hours later, my mind had been blown and I learned that I was dead wrong about the “force”. Though the special effects were a little underwhelming, even in my young and stupid mind, but this movie had captured my imagination. Han Solo had the coolest lines of dialogue ever, and I wanted so badly to wield a real, shiny, blue lightsaber. I was as mesmerized as the rest of my peers, if not more.
The rest of the movies graced our TV screen not long after. Each of those movies created their own first moments. The first time I found out there was another Skywalker, I nearly pooped my pants. The first time I watched the podrace, I sat so close to the sound system that I could feel the vibrations on the floor below me. The first time I saw Darth Maul kill Qui-Gon, I almost screamed as loud as Obi-Wan did. And the first time Anakin and Padme kissed (a moment I find both corny and touching today), I covered my eyes because boys had cooties and kissing was one activity I did not want to watch.
Within the month, I was an expert. I worshiped Attack of the Clones best for a while and I remember getting in a fight with a girl at church about its ending. I started to get all of the references to Count Dooku and Obi-Wan that Riley and Braden would make; I always chose to play as Yoda. Advertising for Revenge of the Sith was everywhere, and I lapped every bit of it up — I begged my entire family into seeing the movie on the very day that it opened. While my friends were listening to Solja Boy and (unfortunately) Hannah Montana, I was memorizing John Williams’ scores; to this day, many of the pieces on his soundtracks, Star Wars or otherwise, are among my most played songs in my iTunes library.
Even now, Star Wars holds a special place in my heart: Riley and I still play Playstation 2 games based on the movies (Battlefront II, anyone?) and every once in a while I’ll make an obscure reference or quote a line to my dad; most of the time, he’ll get it and even carry on. And on those weekends that Spike has the marathons, I don’t get anything done because my butt is glued to the couch. But I don’t take it too seriously. One of my favorite activities, especially with Sara and Riley around, is to watch the prequels and openly mock them. (“Nazi big, the force!”)
If I were to just write a post of all of my Star Wars related memories, I’d end up writing several thousand words that nobody would ever read. But why is it so special? Is it the characters? Is it the action? Is it the music?
Honestly, I think all of those reasons are valid. But I think my childhood memories of the series contribute to my fondness of it as well. It wasn’t just some dinky movie that I saw one friday night. It was something that was decently-large part of my life at that age. From the music that played on a 4-gig iPod nano, to the birthday cards covered in jedi and starships, Star Wars was there in the life of a nine-year-old girl. It could have been anything. I think I’d be a different person today if I’d been surrounded by Bratz or whatever it is that nine-year-old occupy themselves with.
For those of you that don’t know, every May the fourth is “Star Wars day” because nerdy fans like me can say “May the Fourth be with you” and they think it’s clever. It’s corny, but it’s really fun. These days, I wish it were a week…
May the Force be with you all — especially you, dad, for introducing me to this world that has captured my imagination for nearly a decade.