The Force is strong in our household.
For the past several months, Star Wars has permeated the life of my young son: R2-D2 and Stormtrooper action figures strewn across the floor; Lego star cruisers displayed on the mantle above the fireplace; Darth Vader fruit snacks for breakfast and an endless array of AT-AT walker and X-wing fighter T-shirts.
Star Wars sticker books, audio books, comic books — yes, we’ve got them all.
This minor obsession is a bit of an oddity given that until recently my wife and I didn’t allow our son to watch the classic movie.
That changed last month when my son turned six.
For months, we’d promised a special viewing party on his birthday. This was in part because we felt he had the maturity to deal with the topics of the film and some of the scary or violent moments — Tusken Raiders attacking Luke or Greedo getting blasted by Han in the Mos Eisley cantina.
But it also had a lot to do with my own history of watching the film.
You see, I was six years old in 1977 when the original Star Wars debuted. Along with my older brothers, I watched the movie seven times in the theater — perhaps a tactic by mom to get a break from three energetic boys that summer.
I was transfixed by Star Wars — the strange characters, the epic battles and surreal landscapes that I’d never seen before. It was a movie unlike any other.
Star Wars transported me to another place — an experience I wanted my son to enjoy in its full splendor.
The timing could not have been better when my son’s sixth birthday rolled around last month. The plan was to watch the original trilogy — Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi — by the time the new movie debuted.
With The Force Awakens now in theaters, we are nearly ready.
But before we got to this point we decided to celebrate our son’s birthday in style. Yes, there was the customary Star Wars cake, party favors and Darth Vader piñata.
But we took things a step further, organizing a Star Wars-themed scavenger hunt in Seattle’s Llandover Woods. A dozen kids gathered in the parking lot — also known as the Rebel Base — where they received detailed instructions from Obi-John Kenobi (that’s me) on the task in front of them: Discover clues hidden in the woods, get instructions from Yoda, R2-D2 and C-3PO and defeat Darth Vader before returning to the Rebel Base. (I convinced a good friend and ultimate Star Wars geek to dress in the full regalia of Darth Vader and scare the crap out of the kids, certainly a memorable moment).
Watching a dozen five and six-year-olds run through the woods on this Star Wars quest was pure joy.
It all culminated with a special viewing party in our basement of the original Star Wars. When the opening scene started and the words scrolled across the screen, I couldn’t help but feel a deeper connection to the movie and my son.
Popcorn flowed, and juice boxes were consumed. A few plastic light sabers were flashed.
But looking around the room, I noticed something truly remarkable.
While at most birthday parties the kids and parents splinter, this party was different.
The kids settled in, but so did the parents.
The importance of this is palpable. There are few things in entertainment that connect one generation to the next.
At least for me, the sports teams we watch are different. The music we listen to is different. The toys and technology we play with are different.
But there’s one strange constant that binds us: Star Wars.