Today, May 25th, marks the 45th anniversary of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope…or as it was called then, Star Wars! When I started this blog I wrote about Star Wars all the time. Now it’s been years (literally!) since I wrote anything about the galaxy far, far away. My last Star Wars piece was in December of 2019, my reaction to and reflection on The Rise of Skywalker. I just haven’t had much to say about Star Wars as we go further into the Disney Canon. However, I wanted to write something to mark this occasion. Kiri wrote a beautiful (and super fun!) piece over on Star Wars Anonymous a year ago about her favorite Star Wars memories. I loved her post and told her I was excited to nick her idea and compile my own list of Star Wars memories. The wheels began turning as memories and moments came to mind…I just never wrote it. But the 45th anniversary of A New Hope’s original theatrical release feels like the perfect time to get nostalgic!
Also, the featured image for this piece is Hannah, Kalie, David, and me at opening night for Rogue One. Jeff wasn’t in town to see it with us so we sent him that picture – with a place left open for him in David and Kalie’s arms – and David expressing our sadness he wasn’t with us. I use it here, dear reader, so you can imagine yourself at a Star Wars movie with us!
For this piece I chose the memories which bring the biggest smiles or the largest laughs when I think of them. I also chose ones which feel tied tightly to my experience of Star Wars, memories which feel like they hold a reflection of my love for this saga in ways large and small. So what fills my own Memory Holobook? Read on and find out!
– My first viewing of A New Hope –
I saw Star Wars for the first time when I was in middle school. It wasn’t a story – like Spider-Man and other Marvel Comics or the Ghostbusters or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – that was with me my entire life. In seventh grade (so 1995) I figured the time had come to see what these “star wars” were all about. We – meaning Mom, Dad, my brother David, Aunt Judy, and I – were over at Grandma’s. Much cooking and baking was going on in preparation for Thanksgiving. As everyone else shuffled between the kitchen upstairs and the kitchen in the basement (because when Grandma cooked she cooked and it was not uncommon for her to have a dozen pies for a family holiday dinner with fifteen people), I settled into the basement couch to watch Star Wars, which I had rented from a video store.
As the opening crawl began I read, “Episode IV…” and thought, “Wait. WHAT?! What the heck?? Did I get the wrong one?!? Isn’t this the first one?? How can it start with Episode IV?!!!?” Frustrated my movie watching may have to be delayed until I rented the right one (which would be after Thanksgiving), I ran upstairs to ask Dad. He assured me this was, in fact, the first movie. When I asked him why they’d start with “Episode IV,” he said it was weird but I needn’t worry about it and could just enjoy the movie. I took Dad’s advice and life would never be the same! The Force was with me and I never looked back.
– Riding Star Tours in Disney World again and again (and again (and again)) –
As luck would have it, we went to Disney World in the week following Thanksgiving in 1995. This was, obviously, twenty years before Disney would buy Lucasfilm and release The Force Awakens but there was still a Star Wars ride – Star Tours – in MGM Studios. It was a flight simulator and you rode a shuttle through Endor (if I recall correctly) and it was just the best. As it was Disney World in November, there weren’t really any lines to speak of and David and I must’ve rode it and got back in line to ride it again over a dozen times. Mom and Dad were wonderfully patient and didn’t rush us on to the rest of the park. I’ve not been to Disney since “Star Wars Land” became a thing but the original Star Tours will always have a special place in my heart.
– Finding and diving into the Expanded Universe –
After watching Star Wars in the days before Thanksgiving in 1995, I immediately became obsessed with it and was so excited to find the trilogy waiting for me under the Christmas tree a month later. I began to live and breathe those films. I watched them again and again and again. I wanted to know everything! So I could hardly contain my excitement when I learned the story continued after the end of Return of the Jedi. There were novels! And there weren’t just one or two…there were dozens! I spent that summer – the glorious, beautiful, blissful summer of 1996 – reading every Star Wars novel I could get my hands on. I laid in our backyard under the tree, in our sunroom, in my bedroom, on our couch, or sat in a chair and I read and read and read. I read a dozen Star Wars novels that summer. I couldn’t get enough! The Expanded Universe novels will always be what happens after Return of the Jedi for me. I’ve watched the Disney Canon films, TV shows, cartoons, and read their comics and novels. I’ve found some solid stories there, too. But the EU has been stamped on my heart since I was fourteen-years-old and nothing could ever replace it. To this day, I’ll still take the worst EU novel out there over any Disney+ show or new movie. For me, the Expanded Universe is Star Wars and it’s home.
– Grandma sewing my Jedi robe –
Obviously, a year of immersing myself in these movies and a summer spent reading every Star Wars book I could find led to an eighth grade year with Star Wars on my mind. So when the opportunity came up in a class to do a presentation on whatever I wanted, naturally I chose Star Wars! I explored how George Lucas and ILM revolutionized special effects. For the presentation, I asked Grandma (not the Grandma whose basement I was in when I first watched A New Hope but my other Grandma) if she could possibly sew me a Jedi robe. Grandma was an amazing seamstress, having upholstered furniture as a career for years and she created mind-blowingly cool Ninja Turtle costumes (the envy of all our friends) for me, my younger brother, and our cousins years before. Grandma did and it looked SO GOOD!!! I wore it proudly and, over a decade later, I pulled it out of the closet for a Halloween costume. This time, as Grandma had passed away, I enlisted Aunt Judy’s sewing wizardry to create the tunic and tabard for me. Sadly, I can find no picture of eighth grade me wearing the robe. BUT here’s a picture of David and I wearing our badass Ninja Turtle costumes and a picture of me wearing my robe with Hannah on the first day of the Star Wars class we used to teach together :D.
– Getting tickets for opening night of the Special Edition –
Eighth grade also saw the release of the Special Editions! It was STAR WARS and it was STAR WARS ON THE BIG SCREEN. A New Hope was coming back to movie theatres and I wanted – nay, I needed – to be there. I wanted – nay, I needed – tickets for opening night. So I asked Mom and Dad if I could skip school to go to the movie theatre and buy tickets when they went on sale. Because Mom and Dad are responsible parents who valued my education, they said “no.” However, because Mom and Dad are also AWESOME parents and THE BEST PEOPLE EVER, they skipped work to wait in a line that wound back and forth around the theatre to buy opening night tickets for us! It was a success on two levels. They got our tickets for opening night and they avoided all the news cameras filming the line and interviewing people waiting in line. You see, they run their own business and they didn’t relish customers and the builders they did work for knowing they weren’t answering the phones because they were buying movie tickets :). See? They are THE BEST.
– Taking a field trip to see The Phantom Menace –
When I was a sophomore in high school (1998-1999), I had the most amazing English teacher. As Kathy McCoy taught us the Hero’s Journey, she used King Arthur, the Odyssey, and STAR WARS! We watched A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi in her class! And we watched the whole films! We read Joseph Campbell alongside our viewing and it not only blew my mind (as it showed me how much more there was to a film series I thought I knew so well) but it forever changed the way I think about pop culture. Now I’m always thinking and writing about the intersection of pop culture and academics. I teach classes on Marvel and DC comics and movies, Doctor Who, and even Star Wars. Kathy was the first to show me this was possible and I am forever indebted to her for that. As The Phantom Menace was coming out that May, I asked (never expecting a “yes”) if we could take a field trip to see it. I will never forget how she paused, considered it, and said, “I have the field trip money in the budget. I’d just have to get it approved…” As I stood there, stunned, I presumed it had to be the luckiest day of my entire life. Kathy would get the field trip approved and I got to leave school to see The Phantom Menace at the movie theatre. What could be better??
– The Star Wars Quote Challenge –
Shortly after I graduated from college (somewhere in the 2006-2008 zone), Jeffrey (the Imperial Talker himself, the man who has forgotten more about Star Wars than I’ll ever know) and I embarked on one of the nerdiest and coolest things we’ve ever done – the Star Wars Quote Challenge. Each week we’d email the other a quote from one of the films and the context in which we had to use it (for example, one week I had to respond to a question asked by any student during a test I gave with, “The possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1” and just leave it there). We could give no other context when we said it and we couldn’t reveal the existence of the Quote Challenge. If we could use the quote in the given context, we earned a point for the week. If we failed, then we forfeited the point that week. I had a pretty good streak going when Jeff moved to deliver a cunningly designed knockout blow.
You see, there was this girl. We’d just met and had been flirting. Things were moving along and we had plans to go out to lunch together. Jeff’s challenge, should I choose to accept it, was to look at her as we walked into the restaurant and say, “Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” So. I was at a crossroads here. This was well before Star Wars was as “cool” or “mainstream” as it is now and I was in the delicate early stages of turning some sexy, fun flirting into something more serious with this girl. Obviously, I had NO IDEA how she’d react to this so, do I give up the point? Or do I potentially ruin this budding relationship? Naturally, I did what anyone in my place would have done. Gazing deeply into her eyes as we walked in I said, “Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” She stared at me in silence for a few moments…and then just went on talking and pretended I didn’t say anything XD. There weren’t many dates after that but I didn’t give up the point!
– Opening Night for The Clone Wars movie –
Once upon a time, we all thought Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was the final Star Wars movie we’d ever have. So, when Star Wars: The Clone Wars came out in 2008, it was kind of a big deal. This was a new Star Wars movie! It was kicking off a new Star Wars TV series! And it was coming to theatres! Yay! But of the family and friends I normally saw Star Wars movies with, no one really wanted to see this with me. Was it because it was a cartoon? I didn’t know but I wasn’t missing it. Enter my friend Allison. We had known each other in elementary and high school, lost touch, and then reconnected in grad school. She was a big Star Wars fan too and we were excited to usher in this new era on opening night. We went out for ice cream beforehand and arrived at the theatre to see the 501st (an “official” group of Star Wars cosplayers) in the lobby of the theatre. Stormtroopers were marching! Excitement was in the air! But, uh, hardly anyone was there. There was no crowd. There was no line. The 501st basically marched for us alone. Maybe a dozen people were in the theatre with us. But we were there! And we loved it all the same :).
– Showing Star Wars to Kalie for the first time –
When Kalie and I met in the fall of 2014, I had seen exactly one horror movie – The Woman in Black because I was curious to see what Harry Potter was doing now that he wasn’t Harry Potter anymore (turns out he was giving me nightmares). So when Kalie suggested going to see Annabelle, I said, “That sounds like a lot of fun…for you to do with anyone you know who isn’t me.” But apparently when you’re dating someone you have to “share each other’s interests.” So Kalie, being brilliant, proposed a trade. We’d watch horror movies for her and sci-fi/superhero movies for me. This way we could share each other’s passions. I was in…foolishly, because at this point there were six Star Wars films and the entire MCU was nine films but there were over FOURTEEN ZILLION HORROR MOVIES. Things were going smoothly (even if the horror-to-heroes ration was like 4:1) until we hit Thor: The Dark World. Then whenever I’d suggest we watch one of my movies, Kalie artfully dodged it. Finally I suggested we try Star Wars instead.
Kalie had me take her out to dinner first so there’d be “something fun” in the night. After we’d finished eating, I asked if she was ready to go. She sighed heavily and said, “We might as well get this over with.” But Kalie loved it! How could you not? She was ALL IN and we watched the entire Star Wars series in a week with so many deep discussions about all those films held. Note: Kalie has since come to love the MCU, too :D. Also, thankfully Kalie and I remained best friends after we broke-up because I developed a real love of the horror genre myself and I don’t know anyone else who will see horror movies with me XD.
– Waiting all day in line to see The Force Awakens opening day –
While I didn’t know how to process The Force Awakens when I first saw it, it has become the Disney Canon film I love most. For me, it’s aged the best. When I rewatch it, I feel all the excitement and anticipation I felt leading up to it and I see all the potential it had for future stories to be developed. Every time I watch it – from opening night to my most recent viewing – when Rey calls the lightsaber to her in the snow on Starkiller Base I cry. It’s such a beautiful, powerful moment! To me, that’s the single best moment in the entirety of the Disney Canon so far. Anyway, I digress. Opening day was a BIG deal. I took the day off work and Jeff had come into town so we could see it together. He and I had purchased tickets to see it four times opening weekend (Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday night, and Sunday morning). We spent all of Friday in line at Tinseltown. We changed our Star Wars t-shirts every hour. We bonded and bantered with other fans. We speculated at all the movie could hold.
And there was this guy, dressed in Obi-Wan Kenobi robes, who was behind us in line. He was more than a little dickish, as he kept discounting or outright ignoring everything Kalie said as we discussed the deeper meanings in Star Wars and theorized about what would happen in the film (I guess he didn’t think girls had much to say about Star Wars (which made his heatedly making out with his girlfriend dressed in a scantily-clad Darth Vader costume later that night all the more awkward)). To pass the time in line, he had brought this brain teaser puzzle game (imagine Connect Four crossed with Score Four crossed with Jenga). He was so over-the-top esoteric about it. He said he had played it for years before he could win a game. He kept telling us, “The trick isn’t to play to win. The trick is to play not to lose.” For real. This was a thing he said. I played him while I chatted with people in line and took a FaceTime call with Hannah at work (who had decided not to use a personal day to join Jeff, Kalie, and I in line all day) and had some lunch and I lost. I guess I wasn’t playing not to lose. But then Jeff sits down to play. He goes into this Zen-like meditative state. He closes out all of his surroundings save this game. He is in the moment. And he beats him! Easily! Jeff, being a good guy, didn’t rub his face in it and just said how fun it was to play. However that guy was so upset at losing he refused to take the game out and play again for the rest of the day!
– Watching The Last Jedi trailer for the first time –
While I had always vowed no free trip was worth having to chaperone a bunch of high school students abroad, when the time came and I had the chance to go to Italy for work, I jumped at it – even with fifty-some kids to worry about. We had checked into our hotel in Rome and, after a long day, I climbed the 100 steps over six flights of stairs from the lobby to my room (the hotel was a converted monastery but they hadn’t added an elevator). I got to my room, laid on my bed, and as my iPad connected to the WiFi, I saw the first trailer for The Last Jedi had dropped! Obviously, I had to watch this immediately but I couldn’t do it without Hannah. That would be wrong! But she was still in the lobby. So I ran back down those 100 steps over six flights of stairs to the lobby to find her…only to learn she had went up to bed shortly after I did. So I ran back up those 100 steps over six flights of stairs to Hannah’s room where we eagerly watched and rewatched and discussed and dissected the trailer for ages. Totally worth it!
So there you have it, folks, this is my Memory Holobook! I hope you enjoyed this nostalgic stroll down Memory Lane and if you have any fun Star Wars memories you’d like to share with me, feel free to leave them in the comments below or even write your own Star Wars memory post! Here’s a link to Kiri’s beautiful piece which inspired mine. Enjoy! May the Force be with you, always.