Some friends and I went to see Rogue One over the weekend and it was an extremely enjoyable movie. I recommend it to Star Wars fans who can appreciate all the plethora of “easter eggs” the movie has buried in it. Still, anytime I go to a Star Wars movie, the experience is always tinged with sadness. Whenever I see those blue words on the starry screen “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . .” I am instantly transported to a time when I was young and innocent . . . and my world was beginning to fall apart.
It was the summer of 1977 and I was sad a lot of the time. Mama and Daddy’s marriage was disintegrating right in front of me and I couldn’t do a thing about it. I was six and I was not processing the events well at all. Mama had already paid a visit to my school to explain why I, who was renowned for never shutting up, suddenly had fallen completely mute. I had no frame of reference for what was happening to my family. These many years later, many of my childhood and school days friends have lived through their parents’ divorce, but at that time I was the first kid on my block with divorcing parents and no one really knew how to help me and I didn’t really know what to do myself.
In the middle of the summer, Mama decided to take me to see this new “space movie” that had just started playing at the Augusta Road Drive-In Theater. She hoped a movie would get my mind off of what was happening to my home. A friend she worked with at Union Carbide named Wanda came over with her son whose name I simply cannot recall anymore and we went to McDonald’s for a hamburger supper then drove up to the movie theater.
Star Wars was already held over in lots of walk-ins but it had just started showing at the drive-ins which typically got movies later since admission was much cheaper. I didn’t know about the movie at all. So my buddy and I climbed out onto the vinyl roof of Mama’s Pontiac Gran Prix and stretched out just in time to see those now-famous blue words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . .” Then the screen crawl began with “Episode IV: A New Hope.” Two hours later, the Death Star blew up and I was covered in black vinyl preservative and standing on the roof of the car cheering. I was the newest, and as far as I was concerned, greatest Star Wars fan alive.
I saw Star Wars two more times over the summer, both at walk-in theaters, once with Daddy and once again just Mama and me. To this day, it is the only movie I have seen three times in a theater. I saw all three Lord of the Rings movies twice, but that’s as close as I’ve gotten. I was wild over anything Star Wars. When I started back to school in the fall I carried a Star Wars lunch box to the cafeteria every day and opened my Star Wars Trapper Keeper clone notebook for every class. I was all Star Wars all the time. So naturally when it came time to make out my Christmas list, Star Wars stuff was all I asked for.
I made out like a bandit Christmas morning.
I didn’t know when I got out of the car at Granny and Papa Wham’s house that it would be the last time my parents would spend Christmas together. I don’t know what I’d have done with the knowledge if I had known it. As it was, Daddy left early.
Under the tree though! I started opening presents and it looked like I was going to film a sequel right there in Granny and Papa’s dining room. I’ll be honest and say I don’t know who bought me what. Granny, Papa, Aunt Cathy, Daddy, and Mama all bought bits and pieces. Looking back, I might have been with Cathy when she bought my presents since she took me shopping so much with her in those years. I got everything I’d asked for and more.
Here’s a partial list because my memory isn’t as good as I wish it was. I got the Death Star Playset, a full sized toy Tie Fighter to go with my full sized toy X-Wing Fighter, a remote controlled R2-D2, ten or fifteen of the main action figures, and a cassette and book retelling the movie in its entirety. I couldn’t wait for lunch to be over so I could get off in a corner with a cassette player and listen to the movie all the way through. I was blissfully unaware of anything for two hours except Rebels fighting Imperials. Looking back, the grown-ups were probably discussing my future. I didn’t know and for a brief time period, I was too happy to care.
Something else I know now that the child me didn’t. That was probably the inflation adjusted most expensive Christmas I ever had. NONE of those toys were cheap. Each action figure I remember cost $3.00 but you have to remember what $3.00 was in 1977. I know the fighters were over $20 a piece, again in 1977 money and I’d hate to even think what the Death Star cost. I know as much as I loved those toys and as much as I played with them, I was no where near thankful enough to the people who bought them for me. Of course, those were the Christmases when I was the ONLY grandchild so I got ALL the presents. Shame that had to end, but I guess Nick, Zack, and Blake are worth it.
I wish I knew what became of all those toys. They probably wouldn’t be worth much today because I PLAYED WITH THEM! After all, they were TOYS! You weren’t supposed to leave them in sealed boxes to appreciate and be worth a college education twenty years later. I took them out and I played with them. I loved them.
The one item I remember most was the cassette with the full movie on it. That tape got me through some rough times. The last time I KNOW for a fact I listened to it was about six or so YEARS later when I was in seventh grade. I was sad so I pulled it out and put it in my stereo to go back to the galaxy far, far away. I remember the noise on the tape from so many playings had rendered it almost unlistenable, but I listened anyway. Now it’s gone like the rest of my childhood, but I have to say it was wonderful while it lasted.
Love y’all, keep your feet clean, and may the Force be with you, always.