The seventh in our incredible series of Star Wars memories, written by you as a testament to the incredible power of the saga to transcend age, genre and cynicism. If this inspires you to submit your own, check out the details here!
I was robbed of something essential when I was eleven years old, in the first week of high school. It’s not all that sinister, except for a relatively small group of people. Unfortunately, I’m one of them. Let me explain: one of my first friends in high school was called Luke R, and we sat together in a lot of classes. In geography, our teacher Mr Cauldwell asked for our names.
‘Luke R,’ my friend said. It’s his name, it’s a reasonable response.
Then, suddenly, Mr Cauldwell claps his hands over his mouth, labours his breathing and lets his voice rumble: ‘Luke, I am your father.’
It’s 1997. I have never seen Star Wars at this point. So Mr Cauldwell’s response is a bit of a non-sequitur. It would be another year before I got even a peek at that galaxy, and even when it happened, I was almost asleep by the time my drunken uncle played The Empire Strikes Back on Boxing Day. I have a half-memory of the Battle of Hoth. Or maybe that’s from Rogue Squadron for the N64 when Luke and I figured out the cheat codes and played through the secret Hoth level. Or maybe it’s from the rows of AT-AT models in every toy shop.
Being late to the party by birth and circumstance, I knew “of” Star Wars before I “knew” it. It kind of existed off to the side somewhere until I was seventeen. So, going in, I knew Darth Vader was Luke’s father and wondered if it was supposed to be a surprise. It is, as it turns out. Mr Cauldwell, if you’re reading this, you’re a monster. To this day I can’t watch that scene without thinking “wow, Luke Skywalker’s being harsh on his dear old dad.”
I can’t help it. I was born into this world.
I have also been force choked more times than I have the energy to count. You’d think this would be confusing. It’s not. When someone force chokes you (and ‘force choking’ is really the only way to describe the act of reaching out and pinching your friend’s throat from across the room), you just act like you’re being choked. You might not have seen Star Wars, but you know you’re being telepathically assaulted through some kind of cultural osmosis.
However, I still had to consult the Rogue Squadron walkthrough to get past that Hoth level. Twelve-year-old Jamie didn’t know the A-Wing had cables, and he should have tripped the AT-ATs with them. Twelve-year-old Jamie, if you’re reading this, you’re an idiot.
So, I was seventeen when I made first contact. I realise now this is shameful, but try to understand that some part of me figured I’d already seen it. I knew what was going on. Light side, dark side, Luke-I-am-your-father, terrible prequels, yeah, yeah. We all know the deal, Star Wars, you can stop bringing it up.
But, oh, that first contact. The John Williams score! The droid banter! The pulp-serial editing techniques! (I was then, and remain today, a giant nerd.) I blinkered myself from reality and awoke three films later to a changed world.
Or, rather, that would certainly be the case if I hadn’t been lying to you for the last two paragraphs. I actually first visited the Star Wars galaxy at the age of thirteen. There was nothing to do on a rainy Saturday, so I tagged along with a couple of friends to the next town over. There, we ended up at the cinema. You know where this is going. Please don’t make me say it.
I watched The Phantom Menace.
I’m not proud of it, but there it is. If you’re keeping score, I saw Episode I before I saw the original trilogy. I was dragged into it, I swear. I was part of their target audience, they made Jar Jar Binks for my generation, and for that I can only say I’m sorry. It was raining. Please forgive me.