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15 May 2018, 16:15

I remember the first time the Star Wars universe touched me. And it wasn’t with the “Star Wars” movie. I don’t remember what age I was. I only remember being so young. A little girl. The movie that started it all for me was “Empire Strikes Back.”

I remember that there was a big deal around the whole Star Wars phenomenon. And I remember wanting to go, but not really excited to go. I, and some neighborhood friends went to the Wichita Mall, one of the throwback malls where the inside of the mall was darkened and marbled. No carpet, no kiosks. The inside was made to look like a street, the causeway was wide and buttressed every hundred feet or so with a pair of thick marble columns. Everything inside was the color of dark granite, and the store fronts opened up onto the indoor street. This mall was one story high and about as long as a city block. There were no brightly lit displays or colorful decoration. Each store front or entrance was like a glowing doorway to a small little world. This was the place where we went to play video games at “Le Mans” every Saturday, or eat at “Dr. Redbirds”. It is as solid as a memory in my head as what happened yesterday. And with all these memories of this mall, I have strong and gripping emotion attached. The sentiment is almost overwhelming when I remember back to this time.

The Wichita Mall had a theater, one which at I saw SO MANY movies as a kid. This theater was before the micro-mini-teeny-multiplexes that now dominate event cinema. The screen was a story and almost a half tall, so even if you sat in the balcony (a honest-to-god actual balcony) you still saw the movie fill your whole horizon of sight. This is one of those touchstones of childhood that will burn brightly in my mind until I die.

“Empire Strikes Back” came into the theaters and I know that all my friends wanted to see it so badly. I was excited but not overly so. We decided to go down the Saturday after it opened to see it. My parents gave me $5 dollars ($2.50 for the ticket and money for soda and candy) and drove me and Starla, and Neriette down to the theater. What I saw astounded my little mind. The line for this movie was 5 deep and almost the length of the mall. It was a two hour wait in line to get tickets for three little girls. The mere excitement of the people around me made me almost giddy to see this. It turned into an EVENT.

We sat outside in line, in the 80s, in the hot summer of Wichita. The temperature outside back then, probably reached about 101 degrees, but I don’t remember any of the heat. I do remember excitement and the sheer joy of seeing this movie. I remember the energy and exuberance of the people around me. We were washed into the theater with the WAVE of people and we found seats right in the middle, right almost in front. And the spectacle of Star Wars unfolded for me, and found a home in my (for lack of a better word) soul. “Empire” IS the best one. “Empire Strikes Back” is a sweeping, enthralling epic tale of heroes and love and adventure. I remember almost every word from the movie, I remember every feeling I had seeing it, and I saw it 23 times that summer. I saved every ticket stubb in my scrap book. I bought the bubble gum cards for “Empire”. I named a stuffed monkey I got for my birthday “Mark Hamill” monkey. I had such a big crush on Mark Hamill, I even went to see him in “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” with Kristie McNichol and Dennis Quaid. YEESH, that was a stinker.

This was almost 40 years ago. I have never lost my love for Star Wars. I have never became cynical at the the stories or the schmaltz. The sentimentality I possess for this universe is what causes me to feel the tidal wave of emotion when I hear the old original themes. This is one of the things in my life that is made up of pure joy, something that makes me tear up when I remember it or when I hear the old music. I get the same anxious excitement at the start of every Star Wars movie, hearing the familiar theme, watching the floating crawl on the screen.

I just saw “The Last Jedi”.

I was so floored by it. I regret not seeing it in the theater. When it came out, things in my life were at the lowest they had ever been, since Ken died. In some ways, some things were worse than when Ken died. I didn’t see much of anything during this time. I didn’t feel much. And looking back, anything experienced during this time would have been tainted and ruined for me.

I just saw “The Last Jedi”.

It wasn’t on a big screen. It wasn’t even on a big TV screen. It was on a screen that I was grateful for, in a house that I am thankful for, with the ones that I love around me, the ones that love me. I sat, and got a soda and some microwave popcorn and when the crawl came on the screen, when the old music came blaring out, I felt a wave of emotion almost exploded in my chest. I got choked up. I got excited. I got engulfed.

I just saw “The Last Jedi”.

I watched the movie and I thought it was absolutely wicked awesome. It had my attention and I was completely drawn in to the universe again. I am the person movies were made for – I am the one that suspends disbelief and cynicism completely and I melt into the world presented to me. Yes. Even with the sequels that everybody hates, I loved them too. I am one of those who can watch movies and shows over and over and over again, and keep experiencing the enjoyment and newness. I still love “Jaws” and still feel the love I have for the movie -and I’ve seen it over 500 times – its atmosphere still transports me back to the late 70s when I was a child.

I just saw “The Last Jedi”.

I watched it intently and I felt overwhelmingly verklempt at Rose and Finn (and I’m hoping that turns into something wonderful). I loved the little twists and intricacies where the bad guys aren’t one dimensional villains. I found myself HOPING for Kylo, wondering along with Rey, what her place was. I was over the moon, seeing Master Yoda and his more PUPPET like qualities instead of that weird little CGI character they turned him into in a bunch of the last movies. I saw Leia, old and young. I was totally into the movie, and when snippets of the old themes played in the background, I became weepy.

I just saw “The Last Jedi”.

It was new enough to feel like the universe was progressing, and advancing, that the rebellion was reborn anew. It didn’t feel like they were putting the franchise on life support, squeezing the last dime out of an old work horse. I’m excited to see what will come next, and I will see these movies with new eyes even when I’m old. I cried when Luke and Leia had their scene and the old Han/Leia love theme played, and I bawled like a baby at the end – when Luke sees the sunset. I’m still trying to pull it together. I was touched. And it will be a little while before I see it again, because I kinda don’t want to bawl again.

These movies mean a lot to me. I don’t know what sort of character that makes me, whether I’m a anachronistic throw-back old lady that has lost all her coolness and sophistication. All I know is if I did, I really didn’t have a lot of it to begin with, so there was no real blow in losing it now. “Empire,” especially, was a movie that happened when a lot of my passions were developing at the same time. I was getting my first computer (Commodore Vic 20), the first Apple Retailer opened up in Wichita (Haddock Computers) around that time I think, I had gone to my first science fiction/fantasy convention (Amber-con 4), I had really gotten into planetary science, and wore out the science and craft volumes on my Childcraft encyclopedias (green and blue as I remember it now). I was a little kid with few friends. I remember I wrote a lot, poems and stories, I read a lot, I watched A LOT of Doctor Who, and PBS (Fawlty Towers, Cosmos, Nature, This Old House, etc.). I watched old episodes of Star Trek and STILL got up at 6 a.m. on Saturdays to watch cartoons like Scooby Doo until noon.

I am so glad that something like “The Last Jedi” could evoke all those old feelings and just PURE JOY that I had from the past. And well. To all the critics, these things weren’t made for you. These things were made for me.

I’m so glad I was able to see this today. It added a lot of joy to a time that is not so joyous in my life.

(RIP to Carrie Fisher, much love to her and her memory)