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Archives for : November2014

An Encounter With Darth…

Years ago in a land closer than I care to think of, the genius of George Lucas became a household name in millions of families; unfortunately my own was included in those numbers. Initially, my fear of the unknown (outer space) caused my own psyche to dread the next movie which I knew my children would demand to see. They lived, ate and breathed the characters of that series. I was the baby-boomer who grew up witnessing the old TV series The Outer Limits and was traumatized by dreams of alien creatures for years.  Over the years, my husband and I suffered through the constant begging, tears and outright tantrums by our children to see the NEXT Star Wars movie.   The absolute deluge of the Sears Roebuck catalogs wherein those Star War toys appeared were dog-eared, circled and slobbered over for months before the Christmas holidays arrived.

“Mama…Look at this one!” My daughter exclaimed. “I just HAVE to have that one too…and THAT one … and THAT one…and THAT one! “My daughter however was not so much a fan of Princess Leia as much as Han Solo. At Christmas time while our children were small, Christmas morning would bring Star Wars themed underwear and pajamas under the family tree, usually with many of those Star Wars toys as well. However, one year our daughter was totally traumatized and highly agitated when she received Princess Leia and what she REALLY wanted was Han Solo! Needless to say, a trip back to Walmart brought her Han Solo underwear instead of the Princess. (Yeah…, THE Princess…!) In order to appease her and get what SHE wanted, I had to purchase the boys underwear which she wore proudly. However, later she related… “Mama, I like my underwear with Han Solo on them but I’ll tell you something…boys’ underwear is NOT as comfortable as girls’!” My husband was NOT pleased…

There were MANY uses for the Sears & Roebuck catalog, some from some back woods old wives’ tales were somewhat unmentionable, but the most prevalent use was as every child’s “Wish Book.” In this case with my own family and children, it truly lived up to its name. Our son yearned for the treasured Light Sabre, Millennium Falcon and Imperial Cruiser and my husband and I worked extra jobs at times to pay for those treasured trips to the movie theatre as well as some of the toys they requested.   We tried very hard to give them those toys they so highly desired…within limits of course.

The theme song played in our family cars on the trusty and treasured 8-track tape and we were forced to hear those booming trumpets each time the engine turned over.  Oh, what we parents sometimes are forced to endure for the love of our offspring! That theme song would show up in many different ways years later in my own personal telephone when my playful and loving daughter placed that big and booming tune as my ring tone. (What a shock that was! Grrrrrrrr!)

We survived all those years of Star Wars episode after episode and after a while I even grew to enjoy them.   My children are now adults and sweet memories of that theme song and all those movies remain a treasured part of my family life.

I have now been employed in the Computer Operations Department of the Clerk of Court for the last fifteen years and was pleased to have met Stewart Collins when he arrived to share my office in CJC. As such I found him to be extremely pleasant and knowledgeable in his field of work and enjoyed my time with him in room A415 of the Criminal Court House.

I learned in talks with him over the course of our work relationship that he was an avid Star Wars fan as well. He shared many funny stories with me over the course of his employment here but it wasn’t until Halloween of his first year that I realized just how heavily entrenched into that culture he really was.

His joy became crystal clear when he related his trips to Dragoncon each year. Some individuals dream of the Christmas holidays; Stewart dreamed of the next convention. Dragoncon, founded in 1987 takes place in Atlanta, Georgia and offers the opportunity for attendees to dress in their favorite characters to play act in a joyous return to memories of childhood. Like-minded people who shared Stewart’s love of character attend in huge numbers for an entire weekend in “Hotlanta”. Apparently it is so well attended each year, even though the city boasts a multitude of hotel rooms, one might have difficulties in reserving a choice hotel room. Stewart fretted he couldn’t reserve a choice hotel if he didn’t ‘get his name in the pot’ immediately upon leaving the last convention! His reasoning was extremely valid since the main venue was in a specific location and they would have to walk from one place to another to receive the entire experience. The entire weekend could be quite exhausting!

Over the period of time I worked with Stewart I witnessed his frantic attempts at times to assure the proper hotel so he could once again entertain his beloved hobby. When the weekend for the event was to be held, his evident excitement would have him loading up the van with all his goodies and off for a ‘fan’tastic weekend he, his wife and their friends went!

The day employees were allowed to dress in costume I arrived in my office to a very large suitcase, various paraphernalia and a very intimidating round black box placed on my work table in the printing room.

I knew he really enjoyed the various characters but was certainly unprepared for items he began removing from those various boxes and bags.

The day before Stewart had requested my help in getting into character in case he would not be able to dress himself. Apparently between himself and his wife Chris, it sometimes took two people to dress in his chosen character. Initially I felt a little strange in such a request; it was certainly NOT improper or frightening to my own sensibilities. It was just that I felt a little strange at the possibility at helping a young man dress… and he wasn’t my own son or grandson! (My old fashioned sensibilities were a little on edge!)

As my day progressed and I realized time was drawing near when he would begin his transformation into his favored character, I left our office for a call to help a user.

Upon my return I was met at the printer room door by a character dressed from head to toe in black. He stood well above six feet four or five and was quite an impressive figure! I knew it was Stewart behind the suit but he was just SOOO imposing!

My initial reaction was surprise but a little on edge as well at the image in front of me. He asked me for help in getting into the remaining part of his costume and it appeared his attention to detail to make this character as real as possible was extremely well planned and thought out. His absolute glee in showing me his helmet, the black cape and the button on his chest which forced the familiar breath was magnificent! Once he placed the helmet on his head, he BECAME Darth Vader.

He stalked the hallways of CJC and FCJC and initially all the employees of the Clerk’s office had no knowledge of who actually lurked beneath the black garb. His manner was imposing and even at times a little threatening; memories of those long ago feared alien creatures lurked in the back of my mind…

He stood perfectly still at times and secretly pressed the treasured button which would produce a breathy, almost menacing sound from the mask…truly Darth Vader in the flesh! (I almost expected to find the Imperial Cruiser parked in the parking lot!)

When he had toured all our Clerk’s buildings and returned to our office, his face was flushed, he was sweating profusely and his excitement was written all over his being! He truly reveled in this event and I could tell the memory of the day would remain with him for a very long, long time.

He related stories of surprise, apprehension and much laughter as he toured all of our offices and shared his wonderful joy in Halloween. We laughed so hard that day and I truly shared his enthusiasm of what was once a dreaded time in my life…when I would have to endure once more memories of that circled, slobbered upon and treasured Sears & Roebuck Wish Book of Star Wars toys my children asked Santa Clause for!

Oh what fun that day was! His youthful exuberance and joy in once again dressing and acting “in character” brought such wonderful memories of my own children’s youth. It brought such a pleasant lump in my throat, in my heart I had to thank Stewart for taking me back a little ways to witness the joys of youth…my own children’s youth and Stewart’s as well!

My thanks go to Stewart for taking me back in time a little ways and I sure was pleased and proud to have met ya Mr. Vader…!