One of the points that’s been made for more than 40 years is that Star Wars is about family.
Of course, that’s always presented in the context of the Skywalkers — the main films are their story, after all. But what about the impact these films have on families in the audience?
This is a generational story, probably the only piece of art we have passed down to our children, and their children theirs. It is the reason we still talk about it, and that it’s still a big deal.
For me, Mother’s Day is a perfect time to reflect, because my mom more than perpetuated my obsession, she understood it. For each dollar of her hard-earned money that was spent on an action figure, a conversation about the story all took place.
She loved it, too.
George Lucas was her exact age, so she understood the inspirations of the films — the fast cars, the old movies, and the swashbuckling. She loved American Graffiti, science fiction, and history — so, of course, Star Wars attracted her.
It captivated her so much that she got me out of school in May of 1980 to drive to Pittsburgh to see The Empire Strikes Back. In the years leading up to the release, I was excited, but at six years of age, I didn’t comprehend release dates or have an idea as to when exactly the film would debut.
This was her idea, and somehow, I may’ve been her excuse to orchestrate a trip to see the film before it premiered in our town.
It was an old theater in the middle of the city, with red curtains, ushers, and a balcony where we sat. For the next two hours, I was mesmerized — I don’t remember even moving from the edge of my seat the entire time.
Then … when the At-Ats stopped pounding, the ships stopped screaming, and the blaster bolts stopped flashing … it happened.
“I am your father.”
My mouth dropped open. I looked at my mom for answers, but she was as much in shock as I was.
For the remainder of the film, I waited. With each passing frame, I waited for the ruse to be revealed.
It never came, and all I was left with was questions.
“Mom — he’s lying,” I kept repeating in the way home. “He has to be — that’s what bad guys do.”
My searches in my mom’s face for affirmation when unfulfilled. All she could do was purse her lips and shake her head.
She didn’t need words … I understood. And I had three years to process that revelation.
The years passed, and Star Wars passed from the front of the cultural landscape, but never from our imagination. She helped me scour the toy stores for the last few action figures that slipped onto shelves from the waning excitement of the films.
Finally, in 1999, we helped usher in a new era with The Phantom Menace — and that same excitement from the ‘80s had returned. I will never forget seeing her cry when Anakin and Padme were being pulled into the arena on Geonisis, or when Obi-Wan screamed “You were my brother!”
Now that she has passed, I will miss the conversations we had. Her ideas and speculation on the story were always so inspiring.
And I don’t think it was anything less than some positive feelings in the Force that she waited to leave this world after The Force Awakens blasted into theaters … because she got to see it in a theater with her three-year-old granddaughter.
The circle was complete, and the story was passed.
We never got to talk about the most controversial film of all, The Last Jedi, and to this second, I can’t imagine what she would’ve thought about it.
That void, however, is filled with the realization that these are more than movies. And that, for our criminally short time on this world, we could share something so meaningful.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom!