As an eight year-old boy, seeing Star Wars on the big screen was a seminal moment for me. Not only was it an awesome spectacle–the likes of which I’d never seen–but it also was quite literally “a new hope.” You see, my family was in a time of transition–a place of in-between–we were preparing to strike out on an adventure: we were moving from the lush greenery of Pennsylvania to the desert of Arizona.
Which, to me, may just as well have been Tattooine.
The reality, of course, was far less verdant than my young boy’s imagination: there was still school, chores, and a bothersome little brother. Truth be told, Arizona–despite it’s arid similarities too Tattooine–was not where Luke Skywalker lived. And truly it was quite hot enough for this Pennsylvania kid with its one sun, thank-you very much.
I suppose the move, though perhaps I couldn’t have expressed it in words at the time, was the first occasion upon which I was aware of reality failing to live up to my expectations. Hope had taken on the proportions of hype in my naive mind, and what actually was was a bummer.
My family was still my family–despite the change of scenery.
You know what they say about hope, right? That “hope springs eternal.” Well, we’ll see…
Now longer eight, I’m nearly fourteen. Older, yes, but wiser is debatable. Worldly-wise, certainly. At least insofar as my own familys’ dynamics are concerned. I’m aware of things. The six-years-earlier promise of “a new hope” had given way to burgeoning rift growing in-between us. I hadn’t the skills to combat the indifference. But like Holden Caulfield, I had the first glowing embers of a heretofore unknown anger to warm me at night.
In many ways, I suppose I was right.
At some point, my dad moved out–giving my anger a focus (fair, or not, the fracturing rift was his fault)–and for several months he wove in and out of mine, and my brother’s, lives. Yet, around the time of Return of the Jedi’s release, he called, indicating he wanted to take us to see it.
Jaded, guarded, as I was at that point, I’m not sure what I thought, but I’m almost certain that the glowing embers of hot hatred gave way that day to hope. Never did dad do anything with us boys anymore, and here he was taking us to the movies.
Hope, as they say, springs eternal. He cared, he was interested, he perhaps wanted to come home. He loved me.
Listen: I had read the James M. Kahn novelization, I knew how this story ended: the rebels won, the evil emperor perished, and the father was saved by the son.
Even knowing what I did, having the story “spoiled” because I couldn’t wait to know, I sat in rapturous awe as the story unfolded on the screen. I was that little boy of eight again, and the world as bright as Tattooine.
We sat–we three–my dad, my brother, and me, after the movie. We sat, I thought, to talk about what we’d seen. For is that not the greatest power of story? The shared experience? Of entering into something together, and being transformed?
But it was not to be.
Far from being more involved in our lives, this taking us to the cinema was more like a kiss goodbye.
From rebel triumph, and redemption, I was snapped back to reality: my parents were divorcing, and there was nothing I could do.
Hope, for me, in many ways died that day. Its last gasp went down in the flame of his words. In a moment’s time, my dad went from someone I longed to see to a man I had to see (twice yearly)–because that’s what it stipulated in the decree.
In the ensuing years, despite finding hope again in Jesus Christ, I wish I had happier news to report; that like Luke Skywalker, the son has “saved” the father. Alas, it’s not to be. At least my dad won’t hear it from me (not because I’m not willing, mind you). I think hoped died in his heart a long time ago…
This is why Star Wars will always be bittersweet to me.
How about you? Do you have any Star Wars memories? Any family stories like mine?