BY SEAN LAVERY
"Look out Smurfs!" echoed the faint, gruff voice of Papa Smurf from the television. The noise from the TV, combined with the sound of tiny feet banging around the living room and the clattering of a half-full cereal bowl, made it impossible for my parents to sleep. As a child I was generally an "early-riser" but on this particular spring day the excitement brewing in the pit of my stomach woke me before the sun could find its way through my toy soldier curtains.
My not-so-awake father entered the toy-scattered living room to see me kneeling attentively by the television. I was fully dressed and ready to leave the house . . . at 6:30 in the morning. He wasn’t at all surprised. Today was the day I’d been anticipating and boasting about all week. Today was the biggest, most important day of my four-year-old life. Today I would take my first trip to the movie theater. We were going to see Return of the Jedi.
Growing up in the 80’s with an older brother and sister, I became immersed in the captivating "Star Wars Universe." We didn’t have a VCR, so I was unable to watch the movies over and over again, as I surely would have. Instead, I relentlessly searched the TV channels in an attempt to find something to spark my imagination. My imagination could not fathom a movie theater. A theater was as uncharted as deep space.
On this Saturday afternoon I was Luke Skywalker standing on that desert plateau and gazing off into the sky, wondering what lay beyond. Instead of staring at two moons, I was staring at the ticking clock above my television set, wondering what the movie theater would be like.
I was sitting through my weekly Saturday morning cartoon ritual, changing my seating position every ten seconds, when the trailer for Return of the Jedi appeared. I jumped up and began running around in circles through the kitchen and living room, screaming, "Star Wars is on TV! Star Wars is on TV! We’re going to see it today! We’re going to see it today!"
"Uh, no we’re not, Sean," my half-asleep brother piped in. "The movie theater’s closed down. We can’t go see it."
"Yes we are! Yes we are! You’re lying," I snapped back. Not even my brother’s cruel banter could tarnish my day of glory.
Seven hours later my parents, my brother, my sister and I got into our boat-like, brown Monte Carlo and headed for the movie theater. My body was fidgety with excitement, which made it nearly impossible for my mother to buckle me into my car seat. As my dad pulled out of the driveway, I ordered him to "switch to lightspeed," but he ignored me and sustained his crisp thirty miles per hour, which soon had even my mother complaining.
We finally arrived and were forced to wait in line for what seemed like years. Anticipation mounted outside the theater. Everyone in line was busy making last minute guesses as to whom Luke’s father really was and what was going to happen to Han Solo, while I stood there wondering why I hadn’t seen any Star Wars characters yet. I figured I would at least see the Millennium Falcon or an X-Wing in the parking lot. I continued waiting. For the entire ten minutes that we stood in line, I paced back and forth looking up at my father telling him how "awesome" this movie was going to be while simultaneously reciting the long list of food I heard was "needed" for the movies.
When we finally got our tickets and walked into the theater, I immediately asked, "Where’s Star Wars?"
"The movie doesn’t start for another twenty minutes or so," my sister said in an attempt to keep me calm. "It’s this way," she said as she took my hand and led me down the dark, red-carpeted hallway.
I entered the theater with an armful of candy and popcorn. The huge, dim room full of people and the towering white screen startled me. I thought the screen would be like the one my father used for slideshows at home, but this was much bigger. I was also expecting a stage of some sort.
"Luckily there’s still some seats up in the balcony," my father said, "Down here, Sean won’t be able to see."
Lucky I was. We went up to the balcony and were greeted by five empty front row seats. I sat in my seat for as long as I could, but excitement fueled me to search for some sign of the movie, anywhere. One moment I "needed" to talk to my sister and the next there was something "very important" that I needed to tell my father. I was no longer allowed to ask any of my family members where "Star Wars" was, as they were now seriously annoyed with that question.
The lights dimmed, and I knew something was about to happen. My eyes searched around for a second signal, but I saw nothing. My body was as tense and rigid as Han Solo frozen in carbonite, while excitement brewed in my stomach like lava in a ready-to-erupt volcano. When the credits began, I stood tall on my seat, grabbed the balcony wall, and screamed, "Staaaaar Waaaaaars!" as loud as I possibly could. No one in the theater heard the famous movie score because the entire crowd was in a state of uproarious laughter, including my family.
After my outburst I calmed down a bit and began watching the movie, which, as I remember it, was unbelievable. The first image to appear on the screen was that of a giant, gray spaceship hovering towards a half-completed "Death Star."
Though I sat in a trance-like state, completely absorbed by the film, the state of my bladder began to take precedence. I shook my soda cup and heard only a noisy rattling of ice. I forced my father to take me to the bathroom and as we left our seats, he glared at my mother as if saying telepathically, "We’re taking turns."
When we returned to our seats, I lit up at the sight of dozens of creatures roaming around Jabba the Hutt’s palace. I was right behind the bold and defiant Luke Skywalker when he bargained insistently for Han Solo’s life. I could feel the slight draft of the Rancor’s breath coming from beneath my feet. I clutched the arm of my seat and awaited my fate as Jabba spelled it out for me (though I couldn’t read his subtitles).
At one point near the end of the movie, as I watched the Millennium Falcon sail through space to destroy the Death Star, I looked up at my father and asked, "Dad, where do they get the spaceships for this movie? I mean if you’re an actor, like Indiana Jones, do you get to drive them for real?"
"No, they’re fake. It’s a camera trick," he said, trying to shrug me off. He had missed most of the movie answering my questions or taking me to the bathroom.
"Oh," I said, as if I’d known all along. "Well, I want one. I mean I want to make one!"
When the film ended, my family had the arduous task of prying me from my seat as I explained that I wanted to see it again and wasn’t moving.
When I walked out of the theater, my excitement was at the same level as when I’d screamed "Star Wars" so boisterously. I kept saying, "That was so awesome; that was so awesome!"
"I can’t believe Darth Vader is a good guy now!" my brother uttered in his usual sarcastic tone as we approached the car.
"But those spaceships and the Ewoks and…and Jabba the Hutt! It was awesome!" I exclaimed as if just witnessing a miracle.
"I don’t know. I liked the original better. It had more battles. And besides, I couldn’t even concentrate because I was too busy laughing at you," he said with a smirk.
I blushed a little and, pretending to ignore him, walked over to my father and proclaimed, "I’m gonna be in a movie someday. I wanna be in a movie."
Before my father could respond to my premature occupational decision, my brother piped in with, "Okay, Sean. I’d like to see you try!"
Remembering Yoda’s famous words from The Empire Strikes Back, which I saw on TV, I looked over and said in a serious voice, "Do or do not…. There is no try."