Until this past weekend, it had been 35 years since I hadn’t seen a new Star Wars movie on or before opening day. I broke that streak on purpose with The Force Awakens, though, since my daughter’s college exam schedule made it impossible for us to see the Episode VII debut together, and I told her that if she wanted me to, I’d hold out until she got home.
Having vigilantly avoided spoilers, we caught a matinee on Saturday the 19th with several other family members — including my mom, who took me to Return of the Jedi on opening night back in 1983.
Saturday night, my daughter Kelsey emailed me a text file named “Going Back to A Galaxy Far Far Away.” With her permission, I’m sharing its contents. Here is what she wrote:
The first time I saw Star Wars, I was six weeks old. It was 1997, and my dad took me to see the re-release of the movies at a theater in Orlando, Florida. I have, in nearly a literal way, been with Star Wars my entire life.
The way I grew up with Star Wars was very different from the way my father’s generation grew up with Star Wars. They grew up seeing the movies on the big screen, obsessing over theories, and wishing for action figures every Christmas. For me, Star Wars was a part of home. I don’t want to downplay the magical quality of the story, but the regularity with which I was transported to that universe is absolutely astounding: Han and Leia were my babysitters; Luke was the brother I didn’t have. I was quoting the movies before I knew what the words meant. I had Jar Jar Binks pajamas that I refused to sleep in: My parents say it was because they glowed in the dark and scared me, but I like to think it was that even at that age, I knew better than to wear Jar Jar PJs. On family car trips back to Florida, I would fall asleep listening to the NPR Star Wars radio dramas. I don’t know any existence other than loving Star Wars. I don’t know how not to love it.
While loving Star Wars has become a part of me, I think the movies themselves will
always belong to my dad. I can’t think of either one without immediately thinking of the other. I’ve asked him many times what it was like to grow up when the movies were new and flourishing.
Pop culture has the ability to bring people together, everyone bonded by their passion for the fictional world. In 1977, I think Star Wars was able to do just that. It created a tight-knit group of people who loved so deeply that their children were able to love in this same way. I was taught to love without limits, to be passionate and never hide, and to value adventure and risk. My dad learned these things from Star Wars and he was able to instill the same beliefs in me.
We just came home from seeing The Force Awakens for the first time – my mom, my dad, and me. I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it, but it was everything I needed it to be: It felt like I was home.
I just finished my first semester at Eastern Michigan University, where I’m studying theatre. It’s been a difficult road: I’ve struggled with anxiety while I’ve been away, but I love college nonetheless. I was ecstatic to return home and be able to see Star Wars on the big screen for the first time since I was very small. I was even more excited to see it with my dad. It’s been hard to be away from him, and my mom too, so to be able to maybe begin to feel what he’s been trying to explain for all these years was a gift. And it meant more to me than any Christmas present I may receive.
I love Star Wars. There were times in my life that I would have been ashamed to say that, but not anymore. I love it for my father. I love it for myself. I love it because it can be the home I visit when I can’t get to my real one. And while I don’t remember the first time I saw Star Wars, you can be damn sure I’ll remember this time.
I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud to be a GeekDad and a first-generation Star Wars fan.