Strong in this One, the Force Is
Ready Yet Though, He is Not
The summer of 1977, everything changed. That was the summer I met my boyfriend, Han Solo.
I was seven, and on a particularly scorching afternoon, my aunt took my older sister and me to see Star Wars. It was my sister’s idea (I wanted to see something like Benji) and her persuasive pinching made me change my vote. Despite my feeble protests, I was dragged along to the single-plex; I was probably driving my mother crazy and she needed some “I’m OK, You’re OK” time with her pack of Kents and an ice-cold Tab.
As I rode un-booster-seated and un-seatbelted in the back seat of my aunt’s Chevy Malibu, I was scared. Scared of aliens and monsters and guns and death and movies that potentially featured vomiting and head spinning, like The Exorcist. Once inside the frosty confines of the theater, I sunk slowly into my seat as the lights dimmed. But, as the trumpets sounded and the white text began scrolling into the distance, I was slowly sucked into that galaxy far, far away, full of funny creatures and hairdos and a bad boy who stole my heart. My sister was sucked even further away and she ended up seeing the movie at least 30 times that summer, sitting through showing after showing with her clique of geeks. And so was born (as Yoda might say) a family legacy of Star Wars fans.
Flash forward to Episode 2011. My almost 3-year-old son, Ian, and I are on a playdate at his friend Sean’s house. Sean has an 8-year-old brother who’s into typical 8-year-old brother things … action figures and lots of ‘em, especially Star Wars. The house is a like a battlefield littered with body parts and robot arms and big, black pieces of angry, wandering plastic.
Sean, who just turned 3, proudly shows off his favorite birthday present. The 7-year-old inside me is squealing … it’s a glowing light saber with movie-quality “vrammmm” and “wahhhhhmm” sound effects that, back in 1977, I made with my lips while wielding a broomstick. Sean’s brother (of course) already has his own light saber and Sean hands it to Ian who’s immediately taken with its blue brilliance.
Sean begins to duel with Ian and gives Ian’s light saber a couple of hearty thwacks. Ian looks completely befuddled, puts the light saber down and decides to have an animal cracker instead. Sean is a tad frustrated.
“Ian doesn’t have an older brother, so he doesn’t know about Star Wars,” Sean’s mother gently says to him, “How about a drink and we’ll play with something else?” Sean’s current poison is Gatorade, which is his older brother’s beverage of choice. As he downs the blue liquid, I have visions of his teeth crumbling out of his head like a meth addict by the time he’s 10. Ian is happy with a cup of Hawaiian Punch, a rare drink in our household.
We head into the family room and Sean’s mother brings out some Legos. Sean grabs a group of blocks and points them at Ian. I immediately recognize the L-shaped chunk as a gun. Sean smiles at Ian and says, “It’s a gun.” Ian’s expression doesn’t change. He blinks at Sean and picks up a red plastic car.
Sean’s mother notices the look on my face (I’d make a terrible poker player) but doesn’t say anything; I can tell she’s slightly embarrassed. I have a feeling my face is covered in dismay with a piece of annoyance stuck between my teeth. Fortunately, Sean doesn’t put up a fuss at Ian’s indifference and instead lays the “gun” down and moves on to an assortment of video game controllers, telling me that he likes playing Wii. I bite my tongue to keep from saying, “Wii. That’s what Ian’s daddy and I are trying to get him to do in the potty.”
For a more seemingly age-appropriate distraction, Sean’s mother brings out the Superman and Batman play sets. The Batman set has a doorway in the shape of the Joker’s leering face, which is pretty creepy. Ian crouches down to get a better view, then turns to me and puts a hand on my knee seeking reassurance.
Sean’s mother apologizes, saying, “I’m sure you don’t have anything like this at home.” I exhale a weak agreement and leave it at that while steering Ian toward the non-NRA-sanctioned Legos. We play a bit more, and then as crankiness befalls the boys, we exchange goodbyes and go home.
I carry my sleeping son into the house, scattered with brightly colored toddler toys and nary an angry plastic piece in sight. When he wakes up, I’m sure he’ll want to play Mommysaurus and Iansaurus, or run an imaginary car race around the living room and across our two sleeping greyhounds, or sing the ABC song while accompanying himself on piano.
I can’t help but feel a slight twinge of sadness for Sean; although he’s a lovable little boy, he was born into the World of Big Boys and their Big Dark Toys. As much as I know Ian is going to be exposed to—and absolutely love—light sabers and laser guns and the creatures who use them, I’m glad that he plays like the almost 3-year-old boy he is and isn’t mimicking the actions of someone who’s begun to understand that the world is not always so sweet.
In a couple of years, once Ian realizes that happiness is a toy gun, then (according to Yoda), share a light saber we will.