by Daniel Ellis
When Matt contacted me and asked if I would like to write about the impact Star Wars has had on me. I was immediately excited by the prospect. Who doesn’t want to talk about Star Wars, right? After my initial excitement, though, I started to panic because I didn’t have a ready answer other than “duuhhh, lots of ways”. I figured anybody who read this would want something a tad more substantial, so I reached out with my feelings realized two things that Star Wars gave to me: imagination and nostalgia.
I was born in 1976, 14 months before Star Wars blasted its way into theaters. Some of my first memories are of TIE-Fighters, Burger King trading cards, the Droid Factory and Death Star play sets, and turning every stick or branch into a light saber. From the point that I was retaining memory, Star Wars was a large part of my life and a huge inspiration for my imagination. The ability to imagine, using my mind to create a place and time which I am currently not inhabiting, is a gift that Star Wars gave to me.
Star Wars is such a complex creation, full of fantastical situations and environments. My young mind went to those exotic planets often in my playtime. When I rode my bike, I saw the tall trees of Endor, and the sleek nose of the speeder bike extended beyond my handlebars. When I put my army surplus belt on and shoved my toy Mauser pistol into the canteen pouch, I was Han Solo standing down a squad of Storm Troopers. When I found thick grapevines hanging across a ravine behind Mansfield General Hospital, it was time to go to Dagobah and train to become a Jedi. I yearned to visit those places, be those characters, and fight that good fight.
But wait, there’s more! Star Wars did something else for me as well. I had so much fun with my imagination throughout my childhood, but as I grew older, I moved on from the play-acting that was so much fun. As I focused more on grades and girls, I forgot about how important Star Wars was to me until that fateful year when Lucas decided to re-release THE Star Wars trilogy for its twentieth anniversary. I was a junior in college when word got around that Episodes 4, 5, and 6 were coming to a theater near us. When I saw those trailers on the screen, the memory of loving imagination came back to me, and I discovered a love of nostalgia through re-discovering the Star Wars movies from a social perspective. Sure, I owned the movies on VHS, but now I was experiencing the excitement and expectation of the movies’ coming to the theater through the connections and friends I made that year; all based on a love of Star Wars.
As I near forty (less than two years away!), I find that I have a strong connection to anything that reminds me of my beloved childhood moments of “playing Star Wars”. That strong nostalgia also endeared to me the memory of the amazing imagination that I had as a child, and guess what? I still have it! I still see those Endor trees when I jump on a bike, and I still see a light saber in every branch that I pull out of our yard before I mow. I will always be grateful to Mr. Lucas for creating something that instilled in me the ability to still embrace the imagination of a child when I want to. I can’t wait to experience that joy with my son when he’s old enough to enjoy these movies. By the way, when Episode 8 comes to theaters, my son Rhys will be about the age I was when Episode 5 debuted. Is that a coincidence or just simple tricks and nonsense? I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to imagine that it’s the ways of the Force telling me that Star Wars was good for me.
Dan and I met at Milligan. During our Senior year, we duked it out in a campus-wide Star Wars trivia contest. We wound up tied for first because they ran out of questions. So we shared the prizes. Dan and Will are the only other people I know who had the Droid Factory as a kid. So when I started thinking about Star Wars MONTH, I knew I needed to have his insight because we share a similar love for Star Wars. And that love runs deep.
Thanks, Dan, for writing this! The Force will be with you. Always.