Nostalgia, Part 2–May The Force Be With You–And, Also With You

“Don’t get me wrong, being an adult and living on your own is pretty great. The only problem is I now have access to adult money, which means I can buy whatever I want, which means I end up buying shit like this and having zero regrets about it.” #AdultMoney

–Jake Hall 

My grandmother had a rocking chair next to the window by the front door.  Across from it was the dining room table.  This was one of those antique dining room tables that would fold down and could be stored against the wall.  I only remember once or twice that the table was unfolded and set up in the living room to accommodate the entire family during the holidays.  Most of the time, it was folded up with a small portable television on top.  I don’t think my grandmother ever watched television, aside from the morning news.  I was 6 years old when we lived with my grandparents and I would often watch my programs on that little TV.  

One night, I was watching the Muppet Show.  This episode was about Luke Skywalker, R2D2, and C3PO storming through the wall of the theatre looking for Chewbacca.  I remember watching and thinking–who are these characters?–this was not normal fare for The Muppet Show.  What is this “Star Wars?” I  vaguely recall thinking “I am now going to like Star Wars”.   

I had no idea what the plot of Star Wars was or who these characters were.  I had no concept of the magnitude and scope of the Star Wars Universe, I just knew that somehow, that silly half hour show made a life-lasting impact on me.  

I don’t remember how, I’m assuming television commercials, I discovered the Star Wars action figure universe.  I  wanted them so bad, but my parents did not usually just randomly buy us toys.  They did however, every once in a while, bring back a present for me and my sister when they had been traveling to churches.   They randomly bought me my very first action figure.  

This is who I got:  

Imperial Stormtrooper: Hoth Battle Guard

I thought they had given me the world–but I honestly had no idea who he was, just that his name was “Imperial Stormtrooper: Hoth Battle Guard.”  I had no idea how he figured into the Star Wars universe or whether or not he was a main character. I didn’t know if he was a good guy or a bad guy– I just knew that I loved him and I created all of these pretend situations, using my grandfather’s recliner as his fortress.  

That year for my birthday, my grandmother planned a surprise Star Wars birthday party for me.  She had someone make me a Darth Vader cake and invited all of our church friends and commissioned everyone to get me a Star Wars action figure as a present.  

I know for a fact she had no idea who any of the characters were but somehow she organized it to where I didn’t get any repeats that day.  I was truly surprised and amassed a huge collection of action figures that day.  Even after that, she kept a list of the characters I had so that she knew what NOT to get me.  

I just want to point out that I still have never seen any of the movies.  This was long before VHS were available for purchase or even rental.  

In the spring of 1983, Return of the Jedi was released.  One day, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go with them to see the movie.  I was so excited–finally, I would get to see my first Star Wars movie.  I ran to my dad and asked him if I could go and was heartbroken when he said no.  I was devastated, I did not know why I wasn’t allowed and, in retrospect, I don’t remember him giving me a reason why.  It was just no.  My parents were missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene.  The laws of the church strictly prohibited its members from going to the movies.  I can only assume that is the reason why I wasn’t allowed to go (on a side note, it wouldn’t be until 1988 that I would go to my first movie–without my parents knowing).

About a year later, we had moved back to Brazil and were living in Recife.  We lived on the top floor of an 8 story apartment building.  Because we were on the top floor, our apartment had two stories.  The TV was upstairs in the family room and while watching TV one afternoon, I saw a commercial that Star Wars was going to be on TV that night.  I was ecstatic.   I stayed up that night and watched Star Wars, dubbed in Portuguese,  for the very first time.  But I didn’t care–I was finally seeing my action figures’ story.  

A few months later, a friend of mine from school scored a copy of Return of the Jedi on VHS.  Sitting with him and some other friends, I was able to finally watch a crappy recording on a small TV of what was to become one of my favorite movies.  

I finally got to watch The Empire Strikes Back at the home of our fellow missionaries.  Someone had sent them a copy that had been recorded from HBO (at the time, I couldn’t believe there were channels you could pay for that would show you entire movies).  

By 1986 I had amassed quite the collection of Star Wars action figures and I got greedy.  My American action figures had considerable value to my Brazilian friends, so I decided to sell the majority of them.  I sold them for 8$-$10 per figure–to my 12 year old brain, I made good money.  I assumed I could always replace them when we.  Regardless of my plan to rebuy them, when we returned to the US that December, I never replaced any of my action figures.  The popularity of the movies was starting to wear off and my beloved action figures were starting to be harder to find.  I was also getting older and didn’t pay with them nearly as much as I once had.  

Over the years, my remaining action figures found their way into a plastic bag and into a drawer where other detritus of our past had been shoved. One night, I pulled them out of the drawer, cataloged which ones I still had and curiously started searching for action figures on Ebay.   

Of course, mint characters were going for almost $100.00.  The action figures I still have were well taken care of, but they are nowhere near mint.  I love the fact that mine are played with and show they have been well loved.   I also found out that you can purchase the weapons and accoutrements for each character–those were the first things that always got lost.  I have a list of the things each action figure needs to bring him (I need a Princess Leia!) back to complete as well as a list of the characters I want to replace.  

So, 35 years later I have unabashedly started rebuilding my collection.  There is a thrill in the hunt, combing through Ebay and finding the exact action figure to purchase. I want it to be played with, not mint, but still in good condition.

The first character I bought?

This guy.

I also clothed poor naked Yoda again. I found a replica cape, snake and cane. I had to buy a vintage belt for him as those can not be replicated. But, after 35 years, he is finally dressed again.

Yoda, naked no more.

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