In anticipation of May the Fourth, here’s the first of a series of articles about Star Wars. Read Part II here and Part III here.
I was six years old when the first Star Wars movie was released in 1977. Like many people my age, it was the start of a lifelong relationship. In fact, some of my clearest childhood memories are tied to the original trilogy of films.
I don’t actually remember the excitement surrounding the first movie. I don’t recall wanting to see it. What I do remember is the day my brothers went to see it without me. It was only playing in one place in Ottawa, at the Somerset Theatre. This proved … problematic. While the village I grew up in was only about a half hour from the city, so it seems silly to say it was isolated, there was also no public transportation to get there. In a way, as a child, Ottawa was about as accessible as the moon. My brothers and I were entirely dependent upon being driven by my mother, who hated The City. Even more than The City, she hated Downtown, which is where the Somerset was located.
However, she agreed that my three brothers, who ranged in age from 12-15, should get to see the movie. So she loaded everyone into the car, dropped them off in front of the Somerset, admonished them that when the movie was over they were to wait out front and not to wander off anywhere, watched until she saw them get their tickets and go inside, and then she and I went shopping.
I remember being upset that I didn’t get to go with them. I adored my brothers, and was disappointed that a) they were going somewhere without me, and b) I was missing out on some grand adventure. I wasn’t a tantrum-thrower. I knew better than to cry or whine. But my mother, whose reasoning was that my brothers weren’t old enough to look after their baby sister in The City, especially when the oldest was likely to be distracted by his girlfriend being there, must have felt at least a little bad about my missing out, because for the only time in my childhood, I got a bribe.
What I got was a Skip-It, a toy that the internet tells me was all the rage in the ‘90s. It’s essentially a length of rubber with a loop on one end and a weight on the other. You put the loop over one ankle, swing the weight around in a circle, and jump over it with your other foot. The original version from the ‘60s was called The Lemon, because, rather logically, the weight was lemon shaped. I must have gotten a knock-off, because the weight on mine was strawberry shaped.
About the time the movie showing was to end, my mother parked within sight of the theatre, watching for my brothers to come out, and I got permission to play with my new toy on the sidewalk while we waited. This, I’m sure, made me very popular with pedestrians.
I fucking loved that toy.
And even though I hadn’t seen it – and indeed, wouldn’t see it until after I saw The Empire Strikes Back years later- from that day on, I fucking loved Star Wars, too.