Archive | December, 2015

An ode to 1977 (or: Why in the world do I love Star Wars?)

22 Dec


Not many of my childhood memories are vivid.

But that one from the summer of 1977 most definitely is.

My mother, father and three-year-old brother sat in an Austin, Texas theatre with a crowd of moviegoers eagerly anticipating something. We’d heard about the something, but still weren’t quite sure what to expect.

When the crawl of that first “Star Wars” rolled up the screen (in my mind, still the biggest screen I’ve ever experienced), I looked over to my little brother’s face. My mother sat between us, and he sat on my Dad’s lap.

His eyes were huge.

He stared at the words, and then the spaceship, and then the explosions, and then the creatures. And his young eyes simply tried to take it all in.

Ever since, I’ve tried to do the same thing.

I’ve taken it all in as a loving fan girl; I’ve tried to understand why the phenomenon called “Star Wars” has even appealed to me for so long. After all, it’s only a movie.

And I’ve come to a two-pronged conclusion about that:

  1. I go big.
  2. I love my Dad.

Let me explain.

I recently had a discussion with a friend who had never seen any of the Star Wars movies and who wasn’t necessarily anticipating the release of the new “The Force Awakens” installment.

I’m not a Star Wars snob, so it doesn’t bother me that others don’t care for it. But the conversation did make me wonder what it was that made me love it so much—and why it didn’t have the same appeal for my friend.

“Maybe it says something about me, and how I obsess over imaginary things,” I told him.

Hmm. Imaginary things?

I love created worlds—whether they’re in a book, or a t.v. show, or a movie.

I love when a director, or an author, or a sculptor, or a songwriter, creates a world I could never have imagined for myself and then makes it so real that I want to live in that place.

I will become fascinated with those worlds; I will fall in love (or hate) with its inhabitants and stand in awe of the creators who made it for me.

I will immerse myself in those worlds.

In a pretty big way.

Because, if I love something, I want to celebrate it big.

(That applies to real-life, non-imaginary things as well. Just ask my kids about their birthday celebrations. Or how we do vacations.)

So, in the case of Star Wars (or Harry Potter, or Emily Dickinson, or a superhero), I will watch and rewatch, read and reread, discuss and discuss some more. And I might even wear my hair in a Leia-inspired bun, or wear a shirt emblazoned with words from my girl Emily D.

Because I go big, and happy, and unapologetic.

(Some people think it’s a little crazy. I will leave that for any future couch-pondering I may or may not need in my old age.)

And then there’s the second reason.

My Dad.

That first Star Wars viewing in 1977 started a tradition with my father that’s still one of the most important from my childhood.

From that point on, we went to see any new science fiction movie that made it to our double-plex movie theatre. We stood in a line that stretched around the building to see “The Empire Strikes Back,” but we also watched movies with such inauspicious titles as “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” and “Outland” (and others involving questionable 3D and even more questionable men in spandex spacesuits).

It was our thing.

We shared other things—a love for music, a common faith—but this was different. It was fun, and it was ours. (My Mom didn’t understand; she and I were close in other ways that involved the kitchen, and books, and the shopping mall. Those things were just as special, just in a different way.)

I had a special bond, a new sense of community with my Dad.

Ultimately, that community may be the real reason why Star Wars resonates with me, and why its newest iteration means so much to me and its countless other fans.

My Dad and I shared something.

My brother and I shared something (when that three-year-old grew older, he occasionally let me hang in his room with his hordes of action figures).

The other fans and I shared something.

My daughters and I now share something.

And, apparently, this sense of community is important to me–maybe even more important than I realized.

It must be why I look forward to hours upon hours in a stadium, cheering on my favorite football team.

Or why I enjoy concerts so much, as I sing and sway in unison with other aficionados.

Or why church is something I have to do every week—and if I miss it, I feel disconnected.

So, maybe I have my answers.

Star Wars isn’t entirely about “I am your father” or “May the Force be with you”…or Han Solo or the new (awesome!) heroine Rey.

For me, at least, it’s also about:


and being a little crazy,

and community.

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On loss, and fear, and teeth, and flowers

1 Dec


Three months after Raymond died, I dreamt for the first time of my teeth falling out.

I cupped my hands together, and stared at the pile of silver-capped teeth. They had fallen en masse from my mouth and, as is often the case in dreams, that somehow seemed normal.

When I woke up, it felt very not normal.

It was the first time in my 46 years that I dreamt what I soon realized was quite the common nightmare.

For me, it was strange and uncommon and confusing, but I learned quickly (thanks to Google and plenty of amateur dream chasers) that it really wasn’t. In fact, people everywhere have the dream every night.

And it meant something.

The dropping-out-of-my-mouth teeth represented loss. And, more than that, they meant I was afraid of more loss. The “official” explanations I found said that the dream “highlights your feeling of having experienced a profound loss of something or someone in your life” and “signifies powerlessness, fear and loss of control.”

Looking back, it surprises me that it took that long for that particular dream to invade my sleep. Because loss—despite my sunny disposition, strong faith, undeterred resilience—had crashed into my life and settled onto my couch like it was an old friend (or an unwelcome intruder).

Loss—unexpected, inexorable, ugly—had moved in. Had taken an entire family of friends, my three-year-old cousin, a vibrant best friend with a toddler who needed her, my grandmother, our Raymond.

But I guess Raymond was the one that did it.

I’d had enough, and I finally listened.

The dream fairy crashed into my nighttime, kicking and screaming: “Here’s Greg and Karen! Here’s Haven! Here’s Erin! Here’s Grandma!”

And then she howled, “Here’s Raymond!”

Raymond—my dear, loved, haunted adopted son—took his own life on Christmas Eve, and it was too much to bear.

So the teeth fell out, and piled up.

Loss, it seems, piles up too and transforms itself…mostly into fear.

Suddenly you’re fearful of so much—the things that are rational and the things that are irrational; the bumps in the dark, but also the things right out in the sunlit open; the things you know are happening, and also the stories you create in your imagination; the memories of the past, and the future whatevers that you think might manifest.

It doesn’t make sense, and yet you’re simply afraid of something.

Of more.

Of something more.

My middle daughter told me of that dread, that worry that sits heavily on your chest, as she prepared to sing and play piano at one of the too-many memorial services we attended during this span of time. She understood on some level similar to me.

On a dreary, snowy day, she sang of “beautiful things” that come out of the dust, and I think that must be the message that has to emerge from loss and uncertainty and fear.

A while after my wake-up dream, I dreamt again.

I boarded a train and settled into a cushy, velvety seat bound for somewhere. Outside the window, flowers—yellow, crocusy, open-up flowers—began popping, growing, emerging from the ground.

They were all I could see, for miles and miles and miles.

And I didn’t need a book or an expert to tell me (or yell at me) what the dream meant.

The meanings were as clear as day (or as night, in this case):

I’m on a journey.

Things start anew.

Stops don’t mean it’s over.

Fear can’t control you.

We must enjoy the view.

It might take a while (it will take a while), but we’ll get there.

Flowers bloom. They always do.