By Dr. Steve Schlozman
Like lots of people, I can remember the first time I saw “Star Wars.”
It was my first summer at sleep-away camp; I was 11 years old, and suffering from homesickness bad as a fever. I think I had about three weeks to go in an eight-week session that was hardly, in retrospect, torture. Still, when you’re 11, there are some things that never stop being terrifying. For instance, walking across the cold Minnesota dirt to the morning group shower was a daily tribulation. I was ready to go home.
Then, inexplicably, the camp director announced one morning during breakfast that the normal activities of the day would be cancelled. There would be no canoeing, fishing or riflery. He had a special treat, he told us, and we were to clear our trays and head out to the parking lot, where a bunch of school buses would be waiting to take us on a surprise field trip.
The parking lot was, to me, a lot like a landing pad. Five weeks earlier we had all been deposited there by these same buses, and since that time, while it had not been entirely off-limits, its hallowed ground was rarely frequented — lest we risk revisiting the fact that we would not be talking to our parents except through written letters for the next two months. (“Dear Mom and Dad. How are you? Today I caught a fish and cooked it. It tried to bite my finger off.”)
“Star” Wars is fundamentally about nostalgia. And nostalgia, remember, is a good thing.
We boarded those buses, and drove through the small town that harbored our camp, pulling into the parking lot of the only movie theater in town. It was a small town, so the theater itself was not that big; it couldn’t possibly accommodate all of the gangly legs and arms that emerged from the three big yellow buses, so we were divided into waves. I was in Wave 1 — I entered the theater near the front of the pack, while many of my fellow campers were left to while away the time at a local park until the next movie began.
And the movie we were to see was, of course, “Star Wars.”
Remember that this was during what some have called the golden age of summer camps. By definition, there was no contact with the outside world. We had no access to phones, or Internet, or even newspapers. There was certainly no television. I had no idea what “Star Wars” was all about; I hadn’t even heard of it. For me, it was enough to be sitting in the air-conditioning. But then, those words started scrolling across the screen:
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
And I’ll be damned if that movie wasn’t about a boy who willingly travels far away from his own home.
We burst out of the theater at the end of the movie ready to take on whatever foes blocked our inextricable march toward justice. Continue reading