... I saw "Star Wars: A New Hope" for the first time. Do you remember your first? I was six, and it changed my life. Let me set the scene ...
My family had just moved to Brookings, South Dakota from Jacksonville, Arkansas, courtesy of the USAF. We had not found a house yet, so we were renting a small house on a side of town that I don't believe, we ever went back to once we moved. It was a little red brick house. We had very little furniture, as most of our belongings were in storage. I was sleeping in a sleeping bag on a mat in my own room. (One of the perks of being the only girl was I always got my own room.) It was winter, which, if you know don't know what the winter months are like in the northern plains states, watch "Fargo". The insulation in the house was so bad, that in the dead of winter, the bottom 6 inches of the outside lined walls were covered in 2 inch thick sheets of ice, that I slept next too. But none of that really mattered. I was spending my days at Central Elementary in my first grade class. My nights eating mac 'n cheese with my brothers, doing my outside reading, and occasionally, my father would come home with a movie or two that he had bought or rented for us to watch.
We didn't have an entertainment cabinet or a giant flat screen t.v. We didn't have a couch, or a coffee table. We had a small 12" t.v. with rabbit ears and a built in VCR, that sat on the floor while we grabbed our pillows, and blankets from our beds and lounged about like it was a slumber party every time there was a new movie. And there was always a new movie.
Having a large family, it's hard to find a gift that works for everyone, especially since it wasn't a family of all boys, or all girls. I mean, it was mostly a family of boys, but as the eldest and only female I made sure no one made that mistake. So when it came to treating the entire family, a movie was always the best option. Most nights my father would come in the door with a movie that we would watch that night or the next. Occasionally, he would walk in with a few movies, and we would pour over them and try to figure out which one we wanted to watch first. There would be the initial excitement of a new movie, the debate over which one to watch, and if there was dissent, an argument that was settled by my parents. This night was not like previous nights. My dad walked in with three films. We started our dissection of which one to watch first, when he stopped us.
"We're going to watch these movies together. And I'm going to pick the order."
This was huge. We had never had him make a unilateral decision when it came to movies, unless he picked one over another, or sent us to bed without one. This was important. These movies were serious business. We needed to pay attention. And we did.
After seeing "A New Hope" we were hooked! We all wanted lightsabers, and ran around and fought the Storm Troopers in a house with almost no furniture. After "Empire Strikes Back" we all manipulated things with the power of the force, luckily we only really had pillows and blankets to toss around, and nothing to break. "Return of the Jedi" taught us how to win a war with Ewoks, and they were the coolest, not to mention, they were as big as us, and could crawl around and hide in the coolest places. We had found our niche. A universe unlike any other. As a girl, I could be Princess Leia (and I had the hair for it) and be bossy and in charge, instead of helpless and needing to be rescued. And for several years following, we continued to play as Jedis and rebels. We used old paper towel rolls to fight with, and when Christmas came, wrapping paper tubes. And when we finally got our own lightsabers, we were unstoppable.
My parents still have that little 12 inch T.V. And they still have those original VHS tapes that my dad brought home on a winter day in South Dakota, twenty years ago. My brothers and I still occasionally will goof off with an occasional lightsaber or blaster (imaginary or cardboard). It was one of the lightest moments of our childhood. We don't talk about it often. We don't talk about the little brick house. We don't talk about our "indoor camping" as my mother puts it. We were young, and it wasn't until looking back now and remembering exactly the moment when I was introduced to Star Wars, that I realized how dreary that time was for us. But we got through it unscathed, and being that we were young, and cared mostly about having mac 'n cheese and watching movies every night, we didn't notice.
I think part of the magic of these films is not just the escapism they possess, but how they are so timeless. They were first released in the late 70s. I saw them for the first time in the mid 90s. There were the prequel films in the late 90s/early 00s. And through it all, the story speaks to us.
The new film, from what I hear, is getting mixed reviews. I will be seeing it on Saturday morning at 6am. I will not post spoilers, or try to find any. I will not be on Facebook until after I see this film that people have waited 40 years for. I will not be posting spoilers. I make a vow to allow everyone the chance to be inspired, excited, and surprised by this new installment. I will honor my fellow fans, and I hope they honor my wishes as well.
Why? Because I can still watch these films and feel like a kid. I watch these films, and don't remember the ice on the inside of my bedroom walls, I remember watching the coolest thing that I had ever seen on a tiny screen with my (then) tiny brothers, while our world exploded into galaxies, and universes. I remember the movies. The lightsaber battles. The fun and joy that these films brought us. We remember that the force will be with us always.
London Griffith is an Alaskan born, Montana raised, Southern influenced, New York Actress. She occasionally writes about her life and experiences of being on the verge ...