What You Take With You
A long time ago, in a movie theater far, far away, my relationship with Star Wars began, though it’s probably not what you think. There is a scene in The Empire Strikes Back in which Luke asks Yoda what is in a cave. Yoda responds, “Only what you take with you.” Luke took in his anger, so that is what he had to deal with in the moment. What I took into my first experiences with the Star Wars franchise were fear, ageism, and vomit.
A New Hope came out when I was one and a half years old. Obviously I didn’t see it then, but as the youngest of five kids, I assume it was all around me as the fervor penetrated pop culture and our household. My piece of the story really takes off with The Empire Strikes Back. At four and a half years old, I went to the movie theater with the rest of my family to see this much anticipated film.
What did I take with me? First, I have come to understand through a lifetime of self discovery and from rearing children with the same issues that I am what is termed a “highly sensitive person.” As a child, I deeply absorbed sensory information and was easily overwhelmed. Movie theaters with dark lighting, huge images, and loud sounds completely triggered me. Second, I found Darth Vader terrifying. It was the breathing. Third, people really turned out for this film, which made seating for a large family tricky. We ended up near the front. Lastly, my parents let us gorge on candy, and I ate most of a box of Sno-Caps before the lights dimmed.
Disaster hit with the opening sequence. We all know that moment. After seeing “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…,” John Williams' score kicks in and the yellow words begin scrolling. Those first few notes boomed over the loud speakers, and as if on cue, I vomited Sno-Caps everywhere. Mission aborted, my mom cleaned me up and got me home.
This didn’t wholly dissuade me from Star Wars. Really, how could it? The mania was everywhere. I didn’t mind playing Star Wars. I just didn’t want to see Star Wars. Keeping in line with the times, my siblings and I got action figures for Christmas. As everyone started unwrapping, it was clear the force was strong with these gifts. What I took with me was an inner hope:
Please let me get Leia. Please let me get Leia. Please let me get Leia.
No dice. My sister got Leia. I think my brother got Han (or some other hero character). Who did I get? I opened my package and found Alec Guinness staring up at me. My 45 year old self recognizes how rad Obi-Wan Kenobi is. My 5 year old self did not. I saw an old man in a brown robe. I can only assume that my parents figured I was too young to care, or given the theater experience, just not that into it all anyway. So they gave the cooler figures to my siblings. I was dumbfounded. They could at least have given me a droid. But as all little siblings do, I made sure to sneak playtime the better figures.
Star Wars continued to be a factor in my life. My brother was a super fan. We had book and record versions of the stories. Remember book and record sets? The world at large was excited for final film in the trilogy. I went along for the ride…to a point.
In the summer of 1981, my siblings decided to make another journey to the movie theater to see The Great Muppet Caper. I was invited along. As the youngest sibling, all I ever wanted was to be included. So despite my nervousness, I jumped in. But I took with me the same baggage.
This time around the problem came during the previews. There was a trailer for Return of the Jedi, and I got agitated and paranoid. My deduction in the moment was my siblings tricked me into coming to see a Star Wars movie. I was not up for that. I made them call my mom from the pay phone to come get me even though they all were telling me this was no prank. Needless to say, this did not help my quest for inclusion and acceptance within the big kid set.
Fast forward, and I found redemption when the original trilogy was re-released in theaters in 1997. I sat through all three films and didn’t barf once. I also enjoyed all of the prequel films (*gasp*). I have seen most of the recent movies, but truth be told, I haven’t kept up on everything. My sons aren’t into it, and there is so much content that I have been feeling Star Wars fatigue. The Mandalorian helped bring me back into the fold, though. I could watch Baby Yoda all the live long day.
At this point, I am open to whatever May 4th holds. There have been times I have made BB-8 waffles and Princess Leia cupcakes, and there are times when I let the day pass. This year, I am simply taking with me my memories and huge respect for old Ben Kenobi as I offer to all:
May the 4th be with you!