Do or do not. There is no try, my husband reads from a potty training book.
These aren't the droids you're looking for. They never were the droids I was looking for. In fact, I was never looking for droids in the first place. My husband, on the other hand, never stopped looking.
Thousands of boys in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the original Star Wars trilogy came out, are now middle-aged. They are accountants, programmers, cashiers, teachers, stay-at-home dads. They ride bikes, Hummers, Hondas, the bus. They are everywhere. And many of them now have partners, be they wives or boyfriends. Girlfriends or husbands or domestic partners.
And their thrill of the moment is the Force-tingling excitement of introducing their equally middle-aged partners to their first childhood love. I don’t mean the puppy love of fourth grade. I mean the all-encompassing obsessive geek love of a film by world-building genius, George Lucas.
Lately, many of my friends have had the talk and then the screening.
And then Erik sat me down and made me watch all three in one sitting.
It took three years. We were stranded in Birch Bay…
I was forced to watch Star Wars over Christmas. I have also been made to endure Die Hard and Godfather I & II.
One friend would only watch it if they turned it into a drinking game. Another was captive while recovering from a wisdom tooth removal.
And then, my time came. I wasn’t a Star Wars virgin. You can’t be an American and not have familiarity with Star Wars. Familiar with Yoda, I am. Star Wars is so mired in our culture, like the Second Amendment and Coca-Cola. Whether you like them or not, you know about them. You know gun nuts, and you know soda junkies.
With the film itself, I vaguely remember some sandy scenes with C-3PO and R2-D2. I know their names even. I had heard of Ewoks and Han Solo and Jabba the Hut. But the film didn’t leave the indelible mark that it did on my now 41-year-old husband.
On a dark, rainy night, when our toddler was asleep, he set up Star Wars: A New Hope — who knew that was what it was called? — on the laptop. I, with a skeptical brow, cozy blanket, and my phone (in case boredom struck), he with a beer and a frisson of electricity. He practically exploded with anticipation. He had been talking about this for a while. You need to see them, he implored when we first met. You haven’t seen them? That’ would have to change when we got married. We have to sit down one day, he said when our daughter was born. When a 6-year-old neighbor boy couldn’t stop talking about the Death Star and Jawas and all the things that fill a Star Wars-obsessed kid’s head, I nodded stupidly, and my husband made a plan.
And now, here we were, watching the 1977 film. To my husband’s dismay, I did pick up my phone a few times. To tell the world via Facebook: This is happening. Teenage Tim is thrilled. Also to Google ''how old is Mark Hamill' and what time does the Thai restaurant stopped delivering.
But mostly, I enjoyed watching it. I got on board the figurative Millennium Falcon. It’s not that I liked the movie so much. I agree with Manohla Dargis that our hero, Luke, is “cheerfully blank.” It was a whole lot of bang-bang with shallow storytelling. But that’s probably its appeal. But, I was swept away with the rite-of-passage of it and in the John Williams score, because everyone knows the Luke Skywalker leitmotif, and how can you not want to stand up applauding and crying at the end when it comes to a crescendo, no matter what you thought of the film? It’s like the national anthem.
I was A-OK with watching The Empire Strikes Back the next night, and Return of the Jedi the night after that. We will soon catch up with the more recent films. (and when the hubbub dies down for The Force Awakens, I will accompany my husband to the theater so we can experience that figurative return to his 1983 Milwaukee basement together.) At the end of the film, when the good guys (Rogue Squadron, I've learned) attack the Death Star, he turns to me and says, "It's exciting, isn't it?" without a trace of irony or sarcasm.
I found experiencing this with my husband was a remarkable relationship builder. To share this kind of passion is like inhabiting the mind of someone else. I caught a glimpse of him as a boy, one I never knew, long before he grew into his ears, long before he was a middle-aged man who wore bow ties.
When his mother calls to discuss the future of the boxes of Star Wars paraphernalia in her basement, I say sell it. Put it to the college fund. His response: that’s my Star Wars stuff. That’s his Star Wars stuff; it’s more than just merchandise, bedding and little figurines. That’s his Star Wars stuff. His stuff. His childhood.
Do or do not. There is no try, my husband reads from a potty training book. Hey! That’s from Star Wars, I say. My husband is thrilled I caught the reference. Clearly, it’s made a mark on me too.
Remember, the force will be with you. Always.