Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The power of the force

I grew up in the 1970s surrounded by a bunch of boys who never ceased to remind me what they could do better. And, in my case, it was most everything. I didn't measure up to the girls either, for that matter. You see, I couldn’t run fast and do backhand springs and pull ups like my little sister. I didn't know karate like the little girl across the street. I wasn't drop-dead gorgeous like my best friend who lived five house down.

Nope, I was awkward, and I liked to read. I really liked to read. It made me different. It set me apart, and in the 70s, as a child growing up on a country road, that wasn't a good thing.
Thank God, I had Princess Leia. When the boys started saying how much girls sucked, I had Princess Leia. I could be her, and I could win whatever contest, whatever challenge, whatever game we were playing.
I saw Star Wars for the first time with my dad. We got into his air-conditioned blue Ford sedan that his office bought at auction from the local sheriff's office and rode the five minutes into town to the Alamo, a movie theater that's now converted into a bar and, mercifully, spared its demise.
Dad and I settled into seats on the right hand side toward the back, feet sticking to the floor from the years of spilled Cokes. I can only recall seeing one other movie prior to that, and it was The Aristocrats. I'll have to check the dates to see if my memory serves correctly in that regard, but I vividly recall what happened that night as the camera rolled, and the film flickered, and the magic that was, and is, Star Wars, began. I was mesmerized from the "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," opening crawl, to the trash compactor scene, to music that accompanied the final credits.
In a world where "You throw like a girl!" was hurled at me daily, I was suddenly empowered. I could be Princess Leia and not just the braids. Princess Leia was a tough smart ass. No one told her to be quiet or watch her mouth, and if they did, she'd respond in a way that I'd always wanted to. The neighbor boys were both in love and afraid of her, a combination I secretly longed for - and had - when I pretended to be her. That went a long way for a girl with a strong imagination who was teased unmercifully for being who she was.
As an adult, I read Carrie Fisher's book Wishful Drinking and learned my early idol was different. She had a drinking problem and a history of mental illness. The queen of all princesses went through electroshock therapy multiple times and lived to write about it, humorously. Beyond that even, she was the person scriptwriters called in the middle of the night to fix the mess they had written. She was smart. Brilliant, maybe. Who knows what she could have accomplished without those albatrosses hanging from her neck? Perhaps it’s because of, or in spite of, them that she did the things she did. I don't know. I just know that I'll miss my heroine, and I'm glad my children got to know her through Friday family nights spent watching the epic space saga.
May the force forever be with her and those who are a little bit different.