Friday, June 13, 2008
Early Father's Day!
When I was 9 years old, a little movie called Star Wars made it's debut and, to steal a phrase, it was a time when Star Wars ruled the world. I like many my age immediately fell in love with this movie , it's characters, and all the strange adventures that unfolded on the big screen. The one character that stood out, at least to me, was Darth Vader. So what does Star Wars and Darth Vader have to do with Father's Day?
It seems that at a local mall that is long gone now, J.C. Penny's was having a special visitor one Saturday. Now being 9 years old and knowing so much about the world and Star Wars in particular, you would think I would be begging my parents to take me to see this dignitary from a different world. Fact is I didn't even know this event was going down. My dad however, always the wiser to the schemes of the Empire, not only knew about, he had made plans to confront the Dark Lord of the Sith himself.
I remember loading into the Vega that warm Saturday morning to make the trip to the mall. The Vega was my dad's work transportation at the time, it had his usual mess of carbon copy gas receipts and spilt coffee in the drink holder, I still can remember the smell. A hatch back, that thing was a tank, I used to climb all over that car when it was parked in the drive way. We made our way through the back roads to Walzem Road, home of Windsor Park Mall, for what seemed like hours upon hours. The trip actually takes about 30 minutes the back way, 15 by highway. By this time I was let in on the plan of the assault. That's right we were going to see Darth Vader! My dad calls him Dark Vader and often confuses Star Wars with Star Trek, I think just to get me going.
I was beyond excited as we pulled up into the parking lot, we had to park on the lower end of the mall, by the J.C. Penny's entrance, which happens to be a straight shot to the center of the store, where the Empire had deposited it's Dark Lord. Now I'm thinking walk in, have a few choice words with Mr. Vader, maybe a photo op or two, get him to sign an autograph, maybe even get away with his or a Stormtrooper's helmet. that was far from the case, the store had set up a little stage, Darth Vader was about 2 feet off the ground with two store employees helping him line up his marker with a black and white glossy that he would pass out, or rather hold out for the mob to grab at. This was truly the first and only time I have ever been in a Beetles type mob, with people pushing and shoving to get an autograph.
Being nine I was also a lot smaller than most of the teenagers and parents that were there, so I made my way as fast as I could to the front, my dad trying to keep up. I am not exaggerating when I say it was a mob. I stood right under the imposing figure of Darth Vader as he whipped out an autograph and practically handed me the photo. I reached for a corner, I didn't know if it was trap or not, that dude was big, and before I could pull back with my prize a man grabbed the photo and tore it. Not wanting a torn photo the man discarded the little corner he ended up with on the floor and went for another photo. I didn't know what to do, by this time my dad had seen what happened and dove down into the crowd, risking life and limb, to get the rest of the picture. He secured the missing piece and we made our way out of the fray.
We talked all the way home about how cool it was to see Darth Vader and the crowd. The thrill of getting a piece of history and the such. I think my dad just humored me while I spoke of these things.
Upon returning home the two pieces were joined back together, like two pieces of a treasure map, with a piece of tape. All the care in the world was taken to make sure all lined up just right. To this day this photo hangs in my studio at home, same piece of tape, not only my most cherished of Star Wars collectables, but memories. I think back on that moment in my life when my dad went out of his way to make his son happy, over a movie and a piece of paper, and know that, that is what it means to be a dad. I have tried to model my father hood on that idea and keep the Vader as a reminder... okay that and it's a cool autographed photo of Darth Vader.
Happy Father's Day, Dad!