By Annie Lane
“I want to play with those,” my 4-year-old nephew said, pointing at the Star Wars Lego magnets on the fridge.
“No, no,” my mom replied.
“And why not?” I interjected.
“Because they’re not toys,” she responded, deadpan.
Having purchased the magnets myself, I knew that’s exactly what they were. But I had to pause to appreciate the moment. It was 25 years in the making.
A long time ago, in a childhood that seems far, far away, Star Wars was once simply background noise that my mom tolerated because her three children, the oldest of which was her husband, would watch the original trilogy over and over (and over and over). My mom relished the time to herself, snuggling into bed with a good book and relinquishing the main cabin of our boat to us for the evening.
Over time, however, she would appear in the threshold – never entering – for certain scenes:
Princess Leia: “Why, you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf–herder!”
Han Solo: “Who’s scruffy looking?!”
We’d hear a giggle and then she’d be gone. The rest of us would glance happily at each other, careful not to push. Magic was in the making, though clearly at its own pace. We could … feel it.
More and more frequently she’d join us for other key moments, sitting on the edge of the couch before settling in deeper and deeper. And like the rest of us had been doing for a while, my mom soon joined in finding ways to interject Star Wars-isms into everyday conversation.
Once, we were entering a port and the Customs agent asked us to furnish the necessary paperwork to proceed. Mom leaned into me like she was sharing a state secret and whispered, “You don’t need to see my identification.” OK, Mom, but you should probably give him what he’s asking for this time.
There were other, less endearing moments, too. Like when I complained about having to do my homework.
“But I caaaaaaaaan’t,” I whined dramatically.
“And that is why you fail,” she said smugly, hardly giving me any attention. Not quite, Mom. But I didn’t say anything – I was far too proud of her.
I think the moment that made her a fan of the films unequivocally came from Return of the Jedi, when a disoriented Han is just released from the carbonite and imprisoned with Chewbacca. Chewy wraps the flustered Han in his arms and pats his head, growling comfortingly. Being the sentimental romantic she is, my mom was hooked.
“I love this part,” she said quietly the first time she sat down to watch it, her eyes misty.
For Mom, Star Wars wasn’t so much about the action and adventure, or the incredible advances in science fiction and the film industry in general. She was a realist, and therefore far more practical. There were life lessons to be learned from those old Jedi mind tricks.
“It’s about confidence,” she would say. “Purpose.”
And in Empire Strikes Back when R2-D2 stands on his tippy-toes in the rain outside Yoda’s abode on Dagobah to peer inside the window and check on Luke, she couldn’t help but smile.
“There’s so much depth to each of the characters. It’s really quite dear,” she said.
We didn’t complain. Whatever it was that got her watching and kept her watching was fine by us. Like all of our other family favorites, the Star Wars trilogy suddenly had a yellow “Property of Sorcery” sticker lovingly affixed to it so that when we lent it to other boaters we would be sure to get it back.
On another occasion, our boat ran aground and we were passed by a couple on a powerboat we’d gotten to know days earlier in a little harbor in Baja.
The husband called over on the VHF radio: “Are you all OK? Do you need any help?”
With the boat dramatically heeled over, the 8-foot keel stubbornly in the sand, and the deeper pass now obviously visible 20 feet to our port side, my dad valiantly swallowed his pride before responding: “No, no problem. Why?”
In that second, our whole mindset changed. Despite the currently hopeless situation, we weren’t in any inherent danger. We simply needed to wait for the tide to rise to release us.
My mom looked at the boat, then at us kids, and then at the stretch of terrain now above water, before smiling and telling my brother and me to put on our shoes. We spent the next couple of hours exploring the nearby tide pools and brought back shells, pictures and, most importantly, memories that have stayed with us to this day. Thank you, Star Wars.
So when prequel episodes were released my family held our collective breath. Could this be a return to the innocence and adventure we’d clung to and quoted for years? Would questions be answered? Would our cheer for the good lingering within Darth Vader be validated? Would we learn to love new characters with the same unfaltering enthusiasm?
Sadly, any Star Wars fan knows that those films fell incredibly short, in almost every imaginable way, save perhaps the special effects – though even that can be argued. The simplicity and ingenuity of the originals only added to its charm. It didn’t need to be wrapped and packaged with computer generated bows to be a success, and it seemed as if the only person who hadn’t watched and adored the originals with a close attention to detail was George Lucas himself.
Needless to say, Mom was spared the disappointment. She has never had to suffer through the nearly seven hours of should’ves, would’ves and could’ves that are the prequels.
But now, there is a new hope as it were. And with it, the force has awakened in our hearts as we celebrate the return of our beloved Jedis, rebel fighters and droids, and welcome newbies who capably carry on the legacy. And I can’t wait to share it with my mom.