I am not well-versed in the basics or the minutiae of the Star Wars franchise. More than one nephew will cringe to hear that I occasionally confuse Star Wars with “Star Trek.” I did not even realize that six films preceded The Force Awakens, which recently opened.
I did see the first Star Wars movie in a viewing experience I can only describe as borderline traumatic. Sometime in the late 70’s I watched it with a group of my exchange students in a German cinema. Always on a budget, we sat in the cheap seats – the third row facing a rather large screen.
I chose the movie because the kids had seen it and would be able to follow the German version. On the other hand, I was watching Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader for the first time.
The opening text, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” that scrolled up the screen appeared in German, to which the kids paid no attention because they already knew what it said. Our close proximity to the screen, however, made my reading of the text quite difficult. I had to move my head physically from left to right as the text crawled upward; five minutes into the film I was exhausted – and queasy in a seasick kind of way. Continuing my “pingponging” head movements to follow the characters across the screen interfered with any enjoyment or memory of the film.
I am happy for science fiction aficionados that the eighth installment of Star Wars is a mere 17 months from cinema appearance. For my part, I just have to accept that the force will never be with me.
While the Star Wars hype continues, so does the daily litany of terrorist news and political sludge. The former is frightening and unsettling, the latter ridiculously predictable. More than usual, my perception that I can do nothing to combat either scourge is downright frustrating.
My only defense against a world seemingly off its rails is to make the little piece of the planet I inhabit as lovely as possible. In physical terms that might be a pot of flowers on the porch or a set of wind chimes ringing in the breeze.
There are also numerous opportunities to create a kind of social beauty, with many options right here in Champaign County just waiting for support. We need only combine our efforts with any number of organizations to help those lacking the basic needs of life.
At the very least, we can smile our way through the day, adding kind words whenever possible. A cup of coffee with a friend in a restaurant or nursing home is as welcome as it is therapeutic – on both sides. Handwritten cards or catch-up phone chats are easily accomplished and always appreciated.
Becky Jackson often reminds me that circles of friendship still ripple out from Graham’s exchange program. And according to Mother Teresa: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” While it may be Pollyannaish to think that making our own space more beautiful can have any effect on these ugly times, who can say there is no power in ripples from one beautiful place meeting ripples from another beautiful place?
Finally, as we close out the wearying year of 2015 and look to a shiny new 2016 with some measure of hope, I want to make a suggestion. Occasionally a reader shares that some family member has done what I do each week by putting pen to paper to record special events, descriptions, or details. Any family with such a scribe is indeed fortunate.
When my siblings cleaned out my parents’ house, they discovered writing treasures: the diary my father kept during basic training and years of calendars filled with his scribbles about crops and weather; the notations my mother made in her Betty Crocker cookbook and a letter she wrote home during her time in nurses’ training. Words from my parents written in their own hand a lifetime ago – there is nothing more precious.
Such meaningful memories are lost to upcoming generations when family members, lacking confidence in their powers of expression, hesitate to record their recollections. Form is not important; children discovering some scrap of writing by their parents could care less about spelling, grammar, or complete sentences. Words straight from the heart will be read and cherished.
Here is my suggestion: whenever a memory flits by, jot it down on the nearest writing surface. I started with old napkins and subscription cards that fell out of magazines before graduating to Post-its. A small notebook or calendar is perfect for the occasional scribble.
When a scene in an old movie or a song from the 50’s jogs the memory, write a few words. When a new grandbaby smiles in that new grandbaby kind of way or a double rainbow fills the sky, write a phrase or two. What a window into times past those words will provide to the family members who will eventually miss their parents and grandparents.
It is equally important to remember the past and to anticipate the future. I hope my readers will join me in celebrating the happy times of 2015 and in hoping for more happy times to enjoy – and write about – in 2016.