An Unexpected Christmas Gift #starwars #nospoilers

  
I have always loved Star Wars.

In the summer of 1977, I was nine years old.  We were in Massachusetts, visiting my grandmother.  My godparents, Liz and Sarkie, and my brother’s godfather, Butch, lived right next door to her and owned several movie theaters and drive-ins around the area of Haverhill, MA.  It was a foregone conclusion that we would go to the movies at least once while we were back there.

On a warm, muggy August night, my parents piled my brothers and I into Butch’s Trailblazer, along with Butch’s son, Brucie David.  We headed to one of the drive-ins to see a movie..any movie.  We had no idea what we were in for.  

It took a few minutes to really figure out what was going on.  A drive-in, after all, is not the best place to sit and get lost in a movie.  Once the lasers started firing, and Darth Vader came stalking in through the smoke, black cape billowing behind, we were transfixed.  I would bet that was the first time during that whole trip that my brothers and I sat quietly, probably with our mouths open just a bit.

When we got back to Phoenix, I talked of nothing else, until my cousins finally convinced my aunt to take them to see it.

That was it.  It only took one viewing to turn Star Wars into our obsession.  My cousin, Tom, and I were hooked.

My mom has said that she never understood my fascination with Star Wars, and she couldn’t understand why I was so excited about the new version that came out yesterday.  In trying to explain, I said that at nine, Star Wars became the toys we played with, the trading cards we bought, and what we played at recess.  It was on the tee shirts we wore, on the lunch boxes we carried, and completely took over our little kid brains.  We wanted to BE Han Solo.  We wanted to fight with the princess and learn the ways of the Force.  There were spaceships, and creatures, and sword fights, and heroes.  And, yes…at ten, I was a tomboy.  I thought Han Solo was the COOLEST.  I dressed as Princess Leia for Halloween; but, Solo was IT.

It’s similar to how kids today are swept up in all things Marvel, or Frozen.  I mean, geez…you can’t go anywhere without seeing a miniature Spider-Man or a little Elsa walking around.  We just had less “stuff” and fewer product tie-ins than kids do today.  We had to work a little harder to find ways to feed our imaginations.  I’m pretty sure that George Lucas can be thanked for the marketing overkill we have today.

Through the years, my love for Star Wars never faltered, though I grew less obvious about it.  Occasionally, in conversation with a co-worker, I’ll drop a random Star Wars quote, and it always fascinates me to see a face light up in recognition.  Ah…a fellow nerd!

When the prequels came out, Dave and I took our kids, eagerly anticipating a return to that experience from our childhood. Though they were fine, they didn’t capture us the same way that the original movies did.  I know that I came away a bit melancholy.  Perhaps it was time to let go.

When it was announced that there would be a new trilogy, set after the original three, I was interested, but wary.  Then, JJ Abrams was announced as the director, and a little spark of hope flashed.  He’d done a good job rebooting the Star Trek franchise.  Could he do the Star Wars universe justice?  Dave is a Star Trek fan…he edges slightly more toward the Star Wars camp, though.  This is a good thing.  I’m pretty sure that though we disagree on many things, including politics, religion, music, television shows, and DC vs. Marvel, our marriage would not survive a Star Wars vs. Star Trek argument.

Production began, and casting was announced.  Our original heroes were returning.  I started to get excited.  Really excited.

When previews started coming out, I found that even the Lucasfilm logo was enough to take my breath away in anticipation.  The release date was announced and we toyed with the idea of getting our tickets in advance; but, we didn’t want to stand in huge lines to wait to see it.  Maybe we’d savor the anticipation and see it on Christmas weekend or for Dave’s birthday, New Year’s Eve.  The more times I watched the preview, or drew doodles of characters, the more I wanted to see the movie.

Yesterday, Marcie stopped by the office after lunch, and said, “Let’s shut down!”  We have worked so hard this year, and we finished our last renewal with time to spare.  Our goal for this year was to have the holidays off.  I hadn’t been sure that we could pull it off.  This time last year, we were still buried.  We will take next week off,the first time we could take time for Christmas.

I called Dave as I left the office, feeling good and wanting to celebrate.  I suggested that we might consider checking to see if any tickets were available.  Dave was tired after a long overnight shift, so he said he’d think about it.  I didn’t push; but, I hoped he would be up for it.  I hung up and called my mom.

By the time I got home, he had purchased two tickets for the 6:20 showing.  Suddenly, I was breathless…excited and nervous.  We took off for the theater, thinking we would still have to stand with a crowd, and that we’d have to fight for decent seats.  At the theater, though, there were maybe twenty people in line for our showing and the Harkins staff was almost done cleaning the theater from the previous screening.  I got in line while Dave headed to the snack bar.  In front of me stood a guy my age wearing a Rebel fighter jacket, with his two kids.  The son had a Stormtrooper jacket and the daughter had a Star Wars tee shirt on.  Behind me, a family walked up, the son carrying a Darth Maul double light saber.  I chatted with the kid doing crowd control, asking him if he’d seen the movie yet.  He shook his head ruefully, and said that Disney doesn’t allow advance showings for theater workers…that stinks!

I’d only been in line a couple of minutes when they let us into the theater.  I called to Dave, still standing at the concession counter, and told him I’d get seats.  Happily, our favorite seats, right in front of the rail, were wide open.  A good omen.  Dave joined me and we settled in, anxiously making predictions about what we’d see.  Finally, the previews started.  Five previews, not one that interested me.  Then, it was time.

From the very first scroll, I was transfixed.  It’s a long movie…over two hours, and I never fidgeted once.  I couldn’t see enough.  It was everything I had hoped for, with some really good surprises, and a return of humor that had been missing from the prequels.  There was one prediction that I’d made, and I turned to Dave at the end and said, “This is one time it sucks to be right.”  There were moments throughout where I realized that I was glad I’d hung on to my napkins…I cried a lot …tears of joy, tears of shock, tears of sadness and horror, and tears in the release of such tremendous anticipation.

Look.  I know it’s just a movie; but, as I stood in the lobby afterwards, waiting for Dave, I found that I couldn’t stop crying.  It was like I had been given the gift of being nine years old again, before life had kicked me in the teeth a few times.  It was a return to the innocence of youth, a return to the joy of seeing a movie you know nothing about, a return of your heroes…like old friends.  And, now, we have new friends…new heroes, new favorites.  I’m so glad.  

We are going to see it again.  Ben didn’t go with us last night; because he’d already made plans with his friends. We won’t see it this weekend, but definitely durning the next week.

I’m sitting here this morning, still weepy. When you build something up in your head, usually you find yourself disappointed. There are so many bad things in this world…so much stress and worry.  To be able to lose yourself in something that gives you some relief from that?  What a gift.  If that makes me a nerd, I accept the title gladly.

Star Wars:  The Force Awakens is not a perfect movie; but, it’s the perfect Christmas gift for me.

  

Stuffing, Shaken, not Stirred #30DaysofThanks

  
It’s Thanksgiving morning, and I’m still curled up under a blanket.  This afternoon, we’ll go to my cousin’s house, to have Thanksgiving dinner with part of our extended family.  I don’t normally cook the big meal on the actual holiday, as we typically go to my mom’s house.  I usually get a turkey breast, and we do our own Thanksgiving dinner later in the weekend.

I’ve probably shared this before; but, as my grandmother is always on my mind around the holidays, I thought I would share a laugh.

When I was a little girl, our family all lived very close together.  My grandparents and one of my mom’s sisters lived within walking distance of our house.  I was in the same classes as my cousin, Tom.  The other aunts, uncles, and cousins were all within a short distance.  Thanksgiving was a very large get-together, with lots of food, more alcohol, and kids in and out of my grandparents’ eclectic home.

My grandmother would make the turkey and the stuffing, and others would be assigned various side dishes.  With eleven grandchildren, and 110 fingers between them, there were never too many cans of black olives.

With time, we moved to Colorado, and other parts of the family spread out, as well.  Thanksgivings got smaller, but the recipes were shared.

Cut to my first attempt at cooking a turkey and making my own Thanksgiving dinner in our new house.

I had planned out the meal, but needed to get my grandmother’s directions for stuffing.  I didn’t care for stuffing; but, it was tradition…we had to have a small batch to go with the bird.

I called my grandmother, and after chatting for a bit, I asked for her recipe.  Bread, bacon, onion, celery, chicken stock, spices…check, check, check.  

“How much vermouth?” 

Silence…then, my grandmother asked, “What?”

“Vermouth.  How much vermouth do you put into the stuffing?”

“Why in the world would you put vermouth into the stuffing?”

“My mom puts vermouth in…doesn’t she make it the same way you do?”

“There’s no vermouth in stuffing!”

Suddenly, my grandmother burst out laughing.

“I don’t even like stuffing…I don’t like vermouth,” I said, sending my grandmother into another fit of hysterics.

Apparently, during one of those hip, happening celebrations back in the sixties, the martinis had started flowing early in the cooking process.  A little vermouth in the martini, a little in the stuffing…my mom had seen this, and thought that it was part of the recipe.

I hung up the phone, my grandmother’s giggles ringing in my ear, and called my mother.

“Do you know there is NO vermouth in stuffing?” I demanded.

My mother was as confused as I had been.  I relayed my conversation to her, and we both laughed.

From that point on, vermouth-less stuffing has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes!

I can’t ever think about Thanksgiving without remembering those days back in the seventies, playing with my cousins, getting underfoot in the kitchen, and celebrating with my family.

To my family, and all of my friends near and far, I love you, and I am so grateful for each and every one of you!

  
  

Broken Glass, Bowling Ball, and Burgers #30DaysofThanks

  
This morning was all about errands.  Last week, someone broke into Isabel’s car and broke out the two windows on the driver’s side.  They also stole the registration, title (we know…it shouldn’t have been in the car,) and the insurance cards.  They took her “book”…the little receipt book she used for work, and all of her bowling stuff.  

The title and registration stuff was taken care of that same day.  Dave went with Izzy to deal with that.  The old title has been flagged, so it can’t be used to sell the car out from under her; and, more importantly, no one can get a title loan using it.

Over the weekend, Kelly got her a new receipt book, and Isabel’s coworkers pitched in and got her a new bowling ball and a new bag.  They gave it to her on Saturday…Izzy texted me to tell me, and said that it had made her cry.  

All of this to talk about the thing that I am grateful for today.

When Isabel was sixteen, she came out to me.  She had wanted to tell me earlier; but, it was hard enough negotiating high school and figuring things out for herself that she waited awhile. I won’t say that I was the model of acceptance.  To my shame, I went through a period of denial, and of fear.  It’s not that I have issues with someone being gay.  It’s the readjustment that had to take place in my own head.  Every parent has some picture in their head, of how they see their kid and how that kid should be.

It took some time.  Eventually, I came to the realization that, if I was truly honest with myself, I had always known.  What were, and continue to be, my biggest concerns, are Isabel’s happiness and safety.

There is only so much that I can do about Isabel’s safety.  Cautioning her is as much about being a young, attractive woman as it is about anything else.

Isabel’s first crushes, unfortunately, were on girls who weren’t gay.  That made those last years of high school tough on all of us.  The first girl really led Isabel on an emotional chase.  She said that she was gay; but, it was blatantly obvious that she wasn’t. Today, she is married to a man and has two kids.  The second was even tougher, because they were friends first, and the girl was likely bi.  

Through all of this, my objections to these “relationships” had nothing to do with Isabel falling for girls and everything to do with how they treated her.  Isabel was never happy.  She rarely smiled, and she seemed uncomfortable in her own skin.  It was terrible to watch.  As a parent, you want your kid to find someone who is as crazy about your kid as your kid is about them.

After a long summer in 2014, when Isabel essentially ran away from home, she came home sadder and wiser, having realized that her romance wasn’t real.  She got a job at the entertainment complex near here, and gradually made new friends.  And, she met Kelly.  

This is Izzy’s first real, reciprocated love.  She and Kelly make a striking pair…they are both gorgeous, and they have eyes for only each other.  Kelly came with us to Vail this summer, and Isabel spends time with Kelly’s family.  They are good to each other and thoughtful.

For the first time in a long time, Isabel is happy.  She smiles, she’s funny, and she carriers herself with the confidence that had been buried for years.

It makes my heart happy.

So, this morning, Isabel, Kelly and I went to get the new insurance cards for Izzy’s car.  Then, Izzy treated us to lunch at In and Out.  After that, we stopped to get her bowling ball redrilled to fit her hand and order new shoes.

It was a gorgeous, sunny November day.  We laughed and sang along with the radio, and had an easy, comfortable trip.

I am grateful for my smart, wickedly funny, beautiful daughter.  I am grateful that she is confident and happy and in love for the first time in her life.

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