On Christmas Day, 2015 I turned ten years old again.
Now for those of you who know me are shaking your head and saying “But Skip, I know you are forty-eight. Which is true, however; as one of my gifts I was taken to see Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. You should know before you read this that if you haven’t seen the film, don’t worry. I’ll try not to spoil it for you.
To be truthful, I was excited to see this new episode, even though I already knew the story and what was going to happen. But, I wasn’t so excited that I needed to see the film on opening night like most of the general public, nor was I so excited that I had planned on going to this film on this day. Quite contrary, I knew I was going to see it, but I knew I’d see it when I had the time to go and enjoy it. In other words, seeing the film was inevitable for me but not necessary for me to make time in my schedule to go sit in a darkened theater for over two hours when I knew I had other things to do.
The movie theater we went to was not even a quarter full when we arrived almost thirty minutes early. Soon though, the place was packed and there were maybe a dozen empty seats by the time the trailers started. I spent most of this time eating popcorn and trying not to be irritated by the man who sat down in the empty seat next to me. He kept shifting from his left to his right. Bumping into my elbow and trying to gain a superior position on the armrest where my right arm was sitting. The force was not strong with him.
To my left, my daughter was sitting, holding the popcorn bucket and leaning against my arm. You see, she has seen the movie. Hell, she works at a movie theater that is showing the film and I’m sure she’s seen it more than I ever will. Perks of working at a movie theater I suppose. I should also say, that in my household of three, I was the only one who had not seen this film and I’m a bigger Star Wars fan than the other two inhabitants put together.
Once the opening of the film started… and we know how every episode starts…
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
It was a long walk from my house on Memory Avenue in Green Bay, Wisconsin to the movie theater in De Pere, Wisconsin. It was summer time, it was hot and my mom had left me five dollars to go see Star Wars. I don’t think she had much of a choice. I’d been pestering her for weeks to let me go see it. The movie was a matinee and at a theater I’d never been to but I knew where it was.
I left early, more than two hours early just so I’d have time to get there. When I arrived, there was a line of parents and children. I felt a bit out of place, being the one of a handful of kids there without any supervision. The line moved quickly, I got my ticket, got some popcorn and a soda and found a seat in a very full theater. It was an old theater, with three sections, right, middle and left. I found a seat in the middle section near the right aisle. I can’t say I remember who was sitting next to me, but I do know who was sitting in front of me. A girl named Karen. I knew her from school. She was with her parents and she was also the first girl I ever kissed. Okay, I didn’t really kiss her as much as I was tackled by her on the playground and she kissed me. But that is another story for another time.
I remember her and I talking animatedly about how excited we were to see this movie and what all of our friends had told us about the movie. When the lights finally darkened and the opening sequence started; I was enthralled.
The music was intense, it’s opening chords sending chills down my spine and causing goose bumps all over my arms and neck; the blockade ship being chased by the star destroyer was something I’d never even thought of in my wildest imagination; the first appearance of Lord Vader frightened me to my core; the droids made me smile with their lack of emotional understanding; the lightsaber’s tickled my imagination in their physics; the Millennium Falcon piloted by Han and Chewie, two smugglers with hearts of gold reminded me of old pirate films; and oh so much more. I never wanted the movie to end. But like with all good things, it had to end. I stayed and watched the credits. It was the first time I’d ever done this.
I was the last person to leave the theater. I was confused, happy, sad, amazed and I told myself I’d see the film again as soon as humanly possible.
I was so deep in thought about this movie and all its implications that I didn’t even notice when my Mom pulled over to the side of the road to pick me up a mile or so from the theater.
She asked me what I thought about the movie, all I could do was grin and say “I have to see it again.”
She rolled her eyes and drove us home.
The next day, while hanging out with my friends, all we could do was talk about the movie. We were obsessed. We all hopped more films would be made, at the time, we’d never heard of a sequel. Almost all of us agreed on one thing, we wanted to be Han Solo. Only one of my friends wanted to be Luke Skywalker. Which is cool, I suppose.
You see, we thought Luke was kind of whiny, kind of wimp, a sort of self-entitled kid who couldn’t see what a great gift he had. To us, he was the kind of guy we’d hang out with but never become friends with. While Han, well, what can I say about his character. He was, is and will always be the guy that made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs. He saved Chewie, He is the reluctant hero. He is the guy you know you want on your side when everything is going wrong. The guy who will eventually do the right thing, but only if you let him make the decision and not try and force it on him.
Yeah, we all wanted to pilot the Falcon and smuggle goods from one planet to another.
I saw that film three more times that summer. Not an epic number. Four times. I knew other guys who’d claimed they saw it a dozen times. They could have just been trying to one-up me and impress anyone in ear shot but I didn’t care. I had seen it, enjoyed it and was from the first symphonic tones of the opening sequence, completely and utterly in love.
The movie inspired me to learn, coaxed me to tinker with things that were broken and fix them and it also taught me how to think for myself, listen to my heart and never give up. Especially when I believed I was right and others said I was wrong. It taught me to overcome limitations I put on myself and others put upon me. It also made me dream.
Dreams of fantastic battles, epic technology, unbelievable journeys and amazing planets to explore.
So as I sat in a darkened theater almost thirty-six years later hoping to catch a glimpse of the characters that inspired my youth, I was not disappointed. No, I was transported back to the young, ten year old Skip with second hand jeans, dirty t-shirts and worn out shoes who sat in a movie theater he’d walked to just so he could see what all the fuss was about. Only to walk out amazed and curious about life and what life will hold for him.
I applaud J.J. Abrams and Disney as well as George Lucas for creating this wonderful, violent, love filled universe that tugs at my heart strings every time I think about it. (Except for Episodes I, II, and III. I didn’t like those very much.)
This one film was like a reunion of sorts. Meeting new people you don’t know but connect with and catching up on your old pals who helped mold your life and who have also missed you as much as you missed them. It was amazing.
I’m not going to tell you to go see this movie, because you most likely already have. I do know however, I will be going to see it again. I have to. I need to. Also, I need to watch episodes IV, V, and VI again.
So, from ten year old Skip… May the force be with you.