My first exposure to anything Star Wars is a crystal 1977 memory of a church parking lot. I was six. We were picking up my older brothers as they returned from camp.
We stood at the back of a station wagon. Someone pulled a novelization of Star Wars from their luggage and showed the cluster of us. Our focus was an inset of color pictures in the center of the paperback. My focus was Chewbacca. I knew two things from these stills — he flew a spaceship and he was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
We soon saw the movie as a family. My parents had seen it and decided we had to see it too. I turned to my dad when the first ship appeared in those immediate seconds and asked, “Is Chewbacca driving that ship?”
I remember my first childhood viewing of each of the other movies in that original trilogy. And if I’m honest, my first adult viewings of the first trilogy too.
I’m not a master of Star Wars knowledge and trivia and fandom. I can’t name every minor character from the movies. I haven’t cosplayed anything Star Wars since October 31, 1977. (Chewbacca, of course.) But when it comes to measuring Star Wars sentimentality, I’m an elite.
The Disney renaissance of Star Wars is my dad utopia. All of my kids are interested and I’m happy to invest in their future sentiment. We saw The Force Awakens on opening day. We watch Star Wars Rebels together every week. Every member of our family has had at least one limb severed by a light saber. (Not covered by the Affordable Care Act. Thanks Obama.)
The buildup for Rogue One anticipated a grittier, more war-like movie. Would it be, could it be, for kids as young as 9? We held off on opening day tickets to wait and see.
Last Friday was angsty.
We finally bought tickets on some early media reviews. But then reports from friends and articles suggested this one wasn’t as kid friendly. Our youngest begged to see it and we wavered, drowning his hopes in ambiguity.
The night before our ticketed showing, my wife and I retreated to our master bathroom, the most private place we could find. We deliberated. We were interrupted at least three times as he hoped for clarity. We talked about the vague reviews of a darker movie with some more intense specifics. I tried to displace my elite sentimentality, but it was gosh darn difficult.
In the end, we went.
I warned my two youngest that I might ask them to close their eyes a time or two. I never did, though one of the scenes in question happened while my youngest and I were in the bathroom. (My middlest, without my directive presence, closed her eyes anyway.)
Am I glad we went? Yep. Any regrets? Nope. It might not be for all kids, and it might not be for yours. But we’ve had lots of conversations in the last 24 hours about hope and war and imagination and oppression and good and bad and Easter eggs and funny robot lines.
And in 40 years, I have a strong inkling my three kids will remember this day.