Friday, June 15, 2012

My Little Anakin

While I'm cooking dinner, sitting at the table, or sweeping the floors and picking up, my son Berto regales me with Star Wars stories. He's obsessed with them and has read plenty of books by many different authors even though he has never seen any of the movies.  He needs to unload the emotions stirred by this epic tale, and his dad thinks that Star Wars, Star Trek - any cultural phenomenon that begins with "Star" - is for nerds. So Berto bends my ear, and I thank heavens he doesn't know I fell asleep while watching Phantom Menace in the theater.

He sympathizes with Anakin. I'm always hearing about how hard Anakin Skywalker had it, what bad luck in his family life, Obi-Wan was just a Jedi bully with no understanding, etc. etc...and that's why Anakin was forced to the dark side of the force, forced to become Darth Vader.

One evening when I probably should have been hurrying my behind to get his siblings in bed, I listened fascinated as my son discussed the history between Anakin, Princess Amidala, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. My son is an oral storyteller like his Paca (my dad), and I felt no rush to veer away from a galaxy far, far away into my real life responsibilities despite the fact that my Man kept making "wrap it up" signals over his dinner plate.

My son's zeal spread into his school life. He had a biography book report to do, his last of the year. He considered Elvis and George Lucas.  Of course, he chose Lucas. The students had to dress up like the individual they were giving the report on, and I was put out, because where on earth was I going to find my son a fake beard and mustache several months out from Halloween? In the end I taught him how to paint a beard on his face with brown and black eyeliner, stuck him in a nice checkered shirt, and gave him a name tag that declared he was indeed "George Lucas".

When I walked into the classroom on the day of the presentation, having just ran my tail off across the courtyard to make it in time (as usual), I saw Abe Lincoln, Cleopatra and various other historical figures milling about. Panting from my exertion and trying to keep my toddler corralled on my lap and my preschooler in line, I watched as Berto got up. What a handsome bearded director he was! His smile was broad (yes, he was glad to have me there), only a few of his lines were forgotten, and he shared how Lucas got the idea for the Force after a devastating, near-fatal car wreck when he was a teenager. Then my boy called out with aplomb, "Alright, people!!" while holding his plastic telescope aloft as a video camera, a truly inspired Lucas.

When I was a kid and braided buns over each ear, Darth Vader, and squat, yet exceptionally wise Jedi Masters permeated the culture, I remember being as enthralled by Star Wars as the next kid. I don't think my son would have approved of my favorite character, however. I loved him because he was slug-like and very odd. I also liked his tail and his name: Jabba the Hutt.

(I always rooted for some of the least loved characters. When I saw King Kong for the first time as a little, little girl, I ran to my mother near the end of the movie, crying, "The bagrilla died! The bagrilla died" I was traumatized about that for years.)

I was a strange child, so Jabba the Hutt was just my kind of...whatever the heck he was. Apparently I liked westerns, too, because I remember sticking a twig in the back of my pants in imitation of Jabba's tail, grabbing a fake pistol, and stomping around in cowboy boots to approach various members of my family and say, "Do you wanna see Jesus?" in a rough southern accent. That was a distinctly odd mixture of sci-fi, wild west, and fire and brimstone influences, but my parents thought their strange girl was hilarious. My siblings thought it was less amusing, more like a warning of embarrassments to come.

My son of course would be horrified to know how shallow and muddled was my interpretation of Star Wars then. But like so many things of my youth, I have put aside my love for Jabba the Hutt and even my tears for gigantic mutant gorillas who tragically fall in love with women. In fact, this complicated Anakin character really piques my interest, and the Force, like so many things in a great number of famous tales, is a great device to illustrate the fascinating pull between good and evil humans experience daily.

My son's been begging me, and I'm ready to watch the movies again. After all, I don't have time to read all the books he tells me to read, but I do want to share this with him. We'll make a marathon occasion of it with popcorn, Darth Vader bobbleheads and maybe some nifty light sabers. We'll stay up late and have a ball. And this time I won't fall asleep. The Force will be with me.


  1. When I was a kid, my mum forced me to go to school with plaited braids wound round my ears. If only Princess Leia had been around then, I could have been the coolest kid in class, rather than the one everybody laughed at...

    1. Sharon, that is hilarious! But I am sorry you got laughed at. Really, I bet you looked great in those braids, and you can always claim you were ahead of the trend. Thanks for visitng and commenting. I think you're a lovely person and writer.


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