Friday, 26 December 2008

A Long Time a childhood not so far away (but actually 1152, and worth every word)

Some of my friends recently did top 5 lists on their blogs and I think that's great but by the time I got around to it all the good answers had been taken, so I passed. Except for this one thing: most had Star Wars on their list of movies they wished they'd seen in the theater.

Check mark, suckers.

And not only did I see it in the theater, I saw it three times in the theater. I was five, but I was there, and I remember it clearly. In fact, the first time we went to see it, it sold out. I was standing with Brent in a line about a hundred people long when the manager came out and announced it was sold out. This was my first trip to the movies and back then they didn’t do multiple screens, so Brent, in a quick moment of inventiveness, took us to see Pete's Dragon instead. Which I also remember clearly.

People may say, “Neil, there’s no way you can remember that.” But back then…no dvd’s. No vcr’s. No cable. We didn’t have media at our fingertips in a constant stream. Saturday morning cartoons were all we had, a moment like this was revolutionary for a five year-old.

So Star Wars is the second movie I saw In The Theater. And the first I saw multiple times. To say it marked me is understating it. Imprinted is a better word. I’m not one for dressing up and conventions, but I am a FAN. I played Star Wars for years after that…standing on my friend Thad’s bed to swing across the chasm in the Death Star…fighting over who got to be Luke…every Wednesday night on the church playground where the tire-jungle-gym was our Millennium Falcon and the tractor was the Xwing…I had the Darth Vader carrying case for all my action figures. Han Solo had lost a head somewhere and I didn’t care. Leia could kiss his neck…I drove around on the Thursday before Ep. IV reopened to every theater asking for the manager, saying, “I know it’s “opening” tomorrow, but I also know you usually get the reels on Tuesday…” At the third theater, the manager said, “be here a 11:45, bring your own food.” So I saw the rerelease of all three the night before, at midnight…I saw all the new ones at midnight…Jar Jar didn’t bother me that much…in Ep. II when Yoda comes tapping in with his cane, my heart started thumping. When he lit that laser sword (how do you describe a moment of fruition you’ve been imagining for twenty years?)…I drove to Walmart at three in the morning after that to buy the soundtrack…and even though the writing was crappy at best, when Ep. III came out, it was a milestone event, I had spent my whole life with this story, and it was finally concluding. I was closing a book I had been reading for thirty years.

Then I had some kids and the adventure started all over. They watched the originals with mixed results, but Star Wars found it’s groove with Jacob in the Clone Wars. He loves it. He was Luke for Halloween this year. He plays Star Wars on the playground with the neighborhood kids. So a couple of Saturdays ago we’re at Brent and Mil’s, and what has magically appeared in the toy closet? My Darth Vader carrying case? I haven’t seen that thing in at least ten years, and Jacob is glued to it. Of course he doesn’t recognize any of the figures. He looks at me like I’m crazy when he holds up who he thinks is Count Dooku and I tell him it’s Obi Wan. The Moment though, is when he finds Yoda and asks me where his lightsaber is, and I explain to him that when I was his age, Yoda didn’t have a lightsaber, how long I’d waited to see it, and how old he (Jacob) was when I finally saw Yoda Light It Up.

With kids you can never tell what sticks. I couldn’t tell how interested Jacob was in my story about Yoda’s lightsaber, but he asked if we could have lunch at Mimi & Poppy’s on Sunday (because he wanted to play with the Star Wars figures…YES!!!) But Sunday morning rolls around and we’re walking through church and he sees his friend Jacob Boyd and proceeds to recount to him every detail of the Yoda story.

I’m not sure who told him, but somehow he knows there’s Star Wars stuff at Disney World. And that’s all he wants to do. I remember the “Star Tours” ride, and while I don’t think it’s anything to write about, I want Jacob to have a great experience, so I’m committed to making it as awesome as possible. Day 2 is Hollywood (formerly MGM) Studios day. Jamie picks up the show times for the day and tells us there’s a Jedi training show over by the Star Tours, starting in five minutes. I think, “A Jedi Training Show? We can’t miss that!” So off we dash.

I don’t know what I was expecting…honestly I don’t think I even got that far. I just didn’t want Jacob to miss the show. What I got easily ranks in the Top Five Moments of Fatherhood, right after the four births, replacing Jacob’s first hit in baseball for number five.

The Jedi comes out and tells the crowd he’s here to train younglings in the way of the force and he starts pulling kids on stage. At first I thought it would be three or four, and although Jacob had shouldered to the front and was jumping up and down, I didn’t think he’d make it.

But he took about fifteen or so, including Jacob, and I thought, “Okay, this will last for a minute or two. It’ll be great.”

But then they start handing out robes…

…and lightsabers, and he’s teaching them a sword routine…

…I’m running like mad, trying to get a good angle against the sun, and then the music starts, the stormtroopers come out…

…and then this guy…

Neil’s interior monologue: “Attention, attention, we’ve entered a new condition.”

Still it’s not registering what’s going to happen. I think “this is awesome! Jacob’s on stage with Vader, and he’s going to get to see this guy fight him!”

Then they start lining kids up…

…And my childhood fantasies are fulfilled in my son.

To say it was dusty out there…well, I was a little emotional. He was awarded a certificate promoting him from Youngling to Padawan. I’m framing it for him.

It’s a little dusty right now.

So Jacob locked lightsabers with Darth Vader and now he’s a Padawan.


I took over 500 pictures at Disney, and you’ll be able to see them on my Facebook in the next few days. More stories to come.


Chris said...

it's a little dusty for ME right now reading this, I can only imagine what it was like for you. I want to kiss that Jedi on the lips for letting J go up against DV. Can't wait to see the pics.

P.S. - not to be a grammar Nazi, but don't you mean "Check MATE, suckers"?

Kelleys said...

Great stuff.

Erin said...

perfection. i'm dusting into my cereal.

diadelkendall said...


Soundtrack for Life said...

can't wait to hear the rest of the stories...
Oh, and I too remember my first theater experiences in the early 80s.

Todd said...

Did I miss everyone adapting "Dusting" into their slang?

Does that memo not circulate the west coast.

In other news... This is awesome. And I should tell you my alt story for the first 3 episodes... Lucas dropped the ball! So many great epic threads missed.

And it still made my heart beat faster.

Ben said...

OMG. Childhood fantasy lived out by Jacob.

Ben said...

And you know, this only further cements the fact that Disney World is the most magical place on Earth.