How a rebellion in a galaxy far, far away influenced a generation and continues to inspire that spark!
In 1983, with a car full of kids, my mother determined to get us into a screening opening weekend of Return of the Jedi was driving all over New Jersey as I quietly and nervously sat in the passenger seat. It was the same everywhere we went! The long lines at the multiplexes all wrapped several times around the complexes and spilled into the parking lots — in many cases navigating through the parking lots, was an adventure all of its own, and whenever we pulled over to approach the box office, it was always the same — SOLD OUT! But what did we expect opening weekend of the (then) final episode in George Lucas’ Star Wars saga.
I was only 6 years old when the first chapter appeared in theaters. My parents were in the midst of a divorce and Star Wars was the last film we would see together as a family. I remember holding my dad’s hand as we navigated the all-but deserted mall making our way to the theater box office to purchase our tickets. I remember feeling sad, the mood was somber and no one — not my brother or either one of our parents were really speaking to one another. A cloud of uncertainty hovered over all of hearts, but that all changed when we entered the darkened movie house and took our seats. The minute that the 20th Century Fox fanfare began to play and the dramatic title appeared on the screen, my entire life changed.
I knew almost immediately, whatever upheaval as a family we were about to experience, whatever form of adversity would creep into our lives, we were going to be fine. If Luke Skywalker, a farm boy from a desert planet on the Outer Rim could take on an Empire, so could I! A minute before the film started my world appeared to be coming to an end, and now my entire universe was exploding with possibilities. The world created by George Lucas would have an immeasurable influence on me, and would continue through to my adulthood often allowing me to access my most fond memories; the ones that I treasure and protect from my childhood. The ones that inevitably shape me and inspire me as a creative.
Cut back to 1983, and the day had turned into dusk and my disappointment had reached a level of relenting. I was feeling so badly for my mother, who had spent the day behind the wheel — her entire Saturday spent driving onto freeways and into main streets facing the same disappointment time after time. On the verge of giving in to the situation, I remember finding a tiny theater in a tiny suburb somewhere in New Jersey. The Star Wars: Return of the Jedi dominating the marquee of theater still visible peaking through the tree limbs that decorated the front of the house. The lights had just come on as the sky above us darkened, as my mother put the car into the parking position, turned to us in the car and said: “Wait here!”
From our double-parked position in the parking lot, I could see her heading toward the box office. There were no lines outside as theater goers made there way into the main lobby. I watched her nervously engaging in a discussing with the attendant inside the ticket booth, and just as quickly I watched her making her way back to us in the car. Certainly the show was sold out like all the previous stops we made and there was no indication on my mother’s face that this was any different. My mother opened the car door and slid into the driver’s seat, — my eyes trained on her hoping to read her expression — and as she put the car into drive and slid into a parking space…
…after spending an entire day in the vehicle, it didn’t even register on me that the engine had come to halt, all I heard was the moment my mom turned to me and said: “Let’s go!” I don’t remember walking out of the car, I don’t recall entering the theater lobby, It’s all a blur up until the moment that I took my aisle seat in the center of the house, my hands on a bucket of pop corn, and as the lights went down and the 20th Century Fox fanfare began — in the second before John Williams’ musical score would fill my head, my mother whispered in my ear…
“I hope it’s everything that you want it to be.” She kissed me on the head, the familiar soaring score began and immediately I was transported. Two and half hours later, I sobbed uncontrollably as the credits rolled across the screen, and I turned to my mom, and I said: “It was.” …And I couldn’t ever have loved her more.
Although my mom has since passed and I couldn’t today share this moment with her, The Force is still with me, and so is that memory, forever made more special wrapped in the love of my mother.
May the Fourth Be With You, too.