In 1977 I was six years old, a tiny wild girl and certified beach bum with long blond sun-streaked hair, who rarely wore shoes. I lived a typical seventies childhood, which meant I was largely unsupervised and free to carve out my own unstructured adventures. It meant I spent my days drinking Mello Yello soda until my teeth ached and watching TV until my brain turned to mush. But that summer, it also meant being under the reluctant care of my big brother.
My 14-year-old brother was left to look after me while our parents went to work each day. For two and a half months, he was in charge of my daily fate. While he was undoubtedly less than enthused about carting around his annoying little sister, I was thrilled. I idolized my big brother and lived to catch his attention and impress him. This unabashed adoration of my brother meant I loved whatever he loved because I wanted him to love me. To a 6-year-old little girl, there is no one cooler than her big brother and even to a 42-year-old grown-up girl, there is still truth in that statement.
My brother was a sci-fi loving, comic book reading geek. Not much has changed in that department either. If he wanted to make paper transponders and play Star Trek, you better believe I was folding notebook paper into little rectangles right alongside him. If he wanted to borrow my mom’s eyeliner and use it to draw eyebrows on me and turn me into Maya from Space 1999, I thought it was the best idea. And if I had to be the bad guy in every single superhero game we played so he could be the victorious good guy, I became the evil one every time with little to no complaint.
Throughout my childhood, my brother fed me a steady diet of science fiction and superheroes, but during the summer of 1977, he fed it to me alongside mountains of scrambled eggs. It was the only dish he either knew or was willing to cook and so I ate them, almost every day. There was never an attempt to change things up with say an over-easy egg, or poached, or sunny side up, no, always it was scrambled eggs. Since he was solely responsible for my care and since I wasn’t about to question him or disappoint him, I choked down all those rubbery eggs.
But that summer something else happened, something that made up for the almost inhumane quantities of scrambled eggs I was forced to eat. A new movie hit theaters, a little space adventure called Star Wars. Like every other kid in the country, my brother was determined to see it and no little-sister-baby-sitting-duty was going to stop him. Even if he had felt the need to convince me to go see it, which he of course did not, it was unnecessary. Where he went, I followed and it wouldn’t have mattered if it was to the end of the earth. Since he wasn’t old enough to drive, we walked not quite to the end of the earth, but instead several blocks in the summer heat to the closest bus stop and rode the bus to the movie theater.
It was the first time I had ever been to a movie theater and to be there holding the hand of my big brother made it even more magical. Inside the theater, I was introduced to that galaxy far, far away. Nothing I had ever previously watched in my life had prepared me for the epic space story that unfolded on the giant screen before me. The music, the special effects, the spaceships, droids, and heroes, all overwhelmingly larger than life to my six-year-old senses.
We repeated the bus ride and movie ritual not once, not twice, not even three times that summer, but 14 times. Fourteen times I sat in that same theater, watching Luke, Leia & Han struggle to escape and defeat the Empire. While I understood that it was a battle of good versus evil and I genuinely wanted the good guys to win, I couldn’t help but be fascinated with the Dark Side. Up on that big screen, Darth Vader was powerful, menacing, and absolutely glorious and he won my little heart time and time again.
The summer ended, I swore off of eggs, but Star Wars stayed with me. That fall, the stores filled with Star Wars costumes for Halloween. I knew exactly who I wanted to be. My mother rarely tempered my freedom to be myself and so that year I went to school dressed as my favorite character, Darth Vader. What I strange sight I must have been amid the sea of other 1st grade girls parading around as princesses and fairies. To my classmates, I was the weird girl, but it didn’t deter me. I held my ground in my black plastic mask, long blond hair flowing out from behind it, as I filled the air with the unmistakable breathing sounds of my beloved Sith Lord.
Previously published on Words are My Weapons