Star Wars: The First Time

Oh, what the dirty minds out there are thinking, I’d love to know.

My husband and I just finished watching Star Wars: A New Hope for approximately the gazillion and fifth time—and it’s still damn good, no matter how many times we watch it.

As the opening text was rolling, though, Drew said, “I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch this for the first time.

I looked at him and said, eloquently, “Huh?”

When he stared at me blankly, I said, “What do you mean? For the first time in the theater? For the first time as the Special Edition? For the first time with the crappy new ones?”

“No,” he said. “As just the first time—I’ve been watching these movies since before I can remember.”

“Oh!” I said. “Well, I CAN remember, and it was magical.”

You see, I was in sixth grade when I first saw Star Wars. I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but somewhere in the midst of my Anne McCaffrey and Dragonlance obsession, my mother realized I’d probably like Star Wars. She told me about it, and I dimly remember crinkling my nose and saying something like, “I dunno…”

I vividly remember, though, going to Planet Hollywood and finding the TAPE (yes, the VHS) of the remastered version, released (I believe) shortly before the Special Edition films hit theaters in 1997: I was 11 and 12, respectively. We found the remastered version of A New Hope in the ‘popular releases’ section, and I remember we were both puzzled by the ‘Episode IV’ subtitle. We asked the nerdy guy at the counter if it was truly the first movie, and he assured us that it was in fact the right starting point.

Luke, Leia, and Han in all their 70’s glory.

We watched it that night on the “big” TV in our black-and-white basement (with the surround sound!), and my entire world changed. I was obsessed, in the way that only pre-teens can get obsessed with something. We watched all of them within a week, and I had to BEG my mom to let us rent and watch a movie on a weeknight.

Being a good mom, she indulged me. (Hi, Mom.)

Return of the Jedi ‘done me in’. Ewoks? Yeah, I loved them—still do, in fact.

They’re like teddy bears with weapons! (May the piracy furies forgive me… Image via

After that, I collected action figures, even though I was probably too old. I remember finding the remaster VHS trilogy in my parents’ closet for Santa to bring me, a month or so before Christmas. I had a Star Wars sleepover birthday party, to which I made all of my (female) friends wear Star Wars costumes. (I was Luke, naturally.) I bought all the soundtracks and listened to them obsessively. I watched the movies on the tiny TV/VHS system in my bedroom, and I have fond memories of snuggling up to watch them when I was sick. I even read some of the novels.

It shaped my life in the same way that Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, Braveheart, and the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Autumn Twilight all changed who I was. Honestly, it’s up there with the moment I read Hemingway’s short story, “Cat in the Rain,” in high school and realized that I wanted to study English literature in college. My life has never been the same.

I think, oddly, of the How I Met Your Mother quote when Ted’s best friend Marshall says to Ted’s almost-wife, Stella:

Look, Stella, that is Ted’s favorite movie of all time. He watches it when he’s home sick with the flu. He watches it on rainy Sunday afternoons in the fall. He watches it on Christmas Eve. Ted watches Star Wars in sickness and in health; in good times and in bad. Do you really think you can pretend to like a movie you actually hate — for the rest of your life?

Could I have married a man who didn’t like Star Wars? I’m not sure—all the guys I’ve ever been involved with have liked it. My high school boyfriend’s mom liked to tell the story of how her first date with my boyfriend’s dad was to see A New Hope. (They’ve since had a messy divorce… hmm…)

A New Hope was magical for me in a way that Brave would have been if I’d seen it at 8, that Harry Potter has always been, The Lord of the Rings was when I was 17, and Buffy was when I was 24. It’s one of those worlds you can get lost in and not emerge from for months.

So, can I imagine the first time?

Oh, yes, I can. I will never forget it. If I have kids, I’ll save this movie until they’re old enough to appreciate—unlike my husband, they’ll remember the magic of the first time. Any friend of mine will have to watch it. And I’ll always go back to it when I need a boost, or when I’m happy, or when I just want to get away for awhile. It’s part of who I am.

Do you remember the first time you watched Star Wars, friends? Tell me your story. What other stories have had this impact on you?

Favorite Characters

What do our favorite characters say about us?

No, not behind our backs, silly person. They’re fictional! I mean, why do we like the characters that we, as individuals, like? Is it because we can relate to our favorite character? Is it because they’re someone we’d like to be friends with? Or is it some ineffable combination of reasons that we’ll never know?

I got to thinking about this while reading The Wheel of Time books. I think I quit the series the first time in part because a character I really liked (Perrin) became involved with a character I really disliked (Faile). But what about those imaginary people gave me a strong enough opinion to even care who they dated? …other than a book-character crush, which I totally had (have?) on Perrin.

Take Anya. She’s my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Sorry for all the Buffy references lately. I’m still sick in bed and having a marathon.) But why is she my favorite? I’m not exactly “newly human and strangely literal.” I have no experience working as a vengeance demon, though I do understand her penchant for retail work—though I don’t love money as much as she does. She’s a damn good singer and scared of bunnies, which makes me giggle. And she’s very pretty, but I don’t really have a crush on her. She is very funny, and funny in a way I can appreciate. 
But Xander’s funny, too, as are most of the characters. So why does Anya appeal to me more than the rest?
Meanwhile, my fiance likes Giles (probably because he can relate to Giles) and Willow (she’s a cute, funny redhead). Maybe you like Tara, reader, or someone else entirely.
How about Star Wars? I never really liked Han Solo, even though everyone else seems to find him completely cool. Even when I was twelve I thought he was an arrogant, irresponsible jerk—sometimes you just can’t change a first impression. I loved Luke, though, and not in a “he’s dreamy” way. I pretty much wanted to be him, but, you know, female.
So it that the winning combination, then? A mix of traits we like and traits we admire? I don’t really think so, because frequently we like the baddies more than the good characters. Evil Angel is much more fun than regular Angel, after all.
Any thoughts? What makes your favorite characters your favorites?

Sick Days

Remember sick days as a kid, when your mom or dad would keep you home from school, and you’d spend the day snuggled in bed, sleeping or reading or watching TV? Fuzzy-headed, pajama-clad, falling asleep secure in the knowledge that someone would wake you up for your next dose of medicine or bowl of soup, a sick day wasn’t pleasant, no, but it was at least safe and comforting.

I remember I had these flannel pajamas, blue and white and navy plaid, that were soft and warm. I wore the pants with a t-shirt emblazoned with a drawing of a fishing cat—not fishing with its paws, mind you, but fishing with a pole, complete with bait and tackle. My dad brought me that shirt from some fishing trip in Minnesota or Canada, I think. I wonder what ever happened to it? Long since disintegrated, I’d wager, banished to the trash or a garage sale.

I drank Cup of Soup chicken soups, terrible and thin now, but then comforting, served in a coffee mug in bed. I watched Star Wars on tape on the little television in my bedroom after I’d hit about twelve years, dreaming of becoming a Jedi Knight, and before that I read Misty of Chincoteague, wanting to be a horse on a salty-aired island in the Atlantic, far from whatever respiratory ailment had me that month.

Nowadays, my sick days are spent in fuzzy sweatpants and a ratty IU hoodie. I shuffle from the bedroom to the kitchen to make my tea or a savory bowl of noodle soup—no chicken, now that I don’t eat meat—and back again to watch Buffy or read The Shadow Rising. My fiance goes to the grocery store and brings me a Coke when I ask him to, but mostly I take care of myself.

A part of me wants to read Misty again, though, to feel a pair of cool hands brushing the hair off my hot forehead when it’s time to take my temperature. I want to be a kid again, times like these, and just let the world pass me by.