On January 31, 1997 Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope returned to theaters in a new Special Edition to celebrate its 20th anniversary. It included remastered film and audio tracks as well as new special effects and enhancements. I was 12 years old and had somehow never seen it on TV or at a friends house. Up until that point I had lived in a world without Star Wars.
The commercials on TV looked cool, with these light swords, laser guns, and spaceships. I recall my father asking me if I’d like to go to the theater to see it. While it looked interesting, it also looked like an old movie so I don’t think I’d considered actually going to the theater to see it. My father said something like “You know, Star Wars. Luke and the lightsabers and Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader? We should go see it.”
He almost seemed more excited than I was and we didn’t go to movies that often so I said “OK”. We went to our local four-theater Spinelli Cinema at the Lilac Mall, got our popcorn, and saw the movie. My father fell asleep several times during the movie, though he tried to pretend he knew what was going on. I’d nudge him and he’d mumble “He just did the thing” or something else unintelligible. But it didn’t matter – he was there and I was hooked. Luke, the sabers, Obi Wan, Darth Vader, the space ships – I loved it all!
The Empire Strikes Back (my favorite) came out in February followed by Return of the Jedi in March. We went back to the Lilac Mall to see all of them, which was a particular treat for me as I’d never seen three movies at the theater in such a short time. We had our popcorn, my dad dozed in and out, and I continued to get hooked. He still saw enough that we could talk about it for days after. It was nice.
As I watched the movies I learned there was other stuff too – magazines and action figures! We hit up the local Toys R Us on the weekends and Wal Mart on weekdays and I’d pore through the newest figures from Kenner trying to collect all of my favorite characters. I’d read the magazines that explained how all of the ships worked, what the character backstories were, and all of the mythology.
It turned out to be a nice distraction and a building block of our relationship throughout that time. My mother had passed away from ALS that June and things were weird and hard. We were still getting used to being alone together and figuring out how to move on. Having a shared interest in Star Wars gave us reasons to spend time together and something to distract us from grieving. My dad started collecting toys at that time as a hobby and we had even more reasons to go to stores and look for our own items.
I was really into Star Wars until I was about 15 at which time most of my stuff went into a bin for safe keeping. I gave some of it to my nephew but kept all of the action figures and my AT-AT through college. It ended up in the basement when we moved into our current house and stayed there for a few years until the boys were old enough to explore it.
I remember bringing them down to the basement one day and just opening up the box. All of the memories flooded back – the movie theater, the Toys R Us trips, the conversations. I was so happy that I kept all of those memories and I could share them with the boys, even if they didn’t understand anything about the characters. We remedied that a year or two later when I watched Star Wars with them at home for the first time. As I was hooked, so were they. One dad sharing his excitement with his sons.
So thank you dad, for taking me to see Star Wars all those years ago. It’s one of my fond memories of my teenage years and it’s an interest that I get to share with my sons too.
I love you. Happy Father’s Day.