I fell in love with Darth Vader when I was seven years old.
My First Star Wars Memory
I’ve told this story numerous times, most recently on the first episode of our podcast. I used it to introduce myself on panels. It’s in my byline on various blogs. And I wrote it out for the fortieth anniversary:
I met Vader in Return of the Jedi. I was seven, and he was sad. Although I didn’t know it at the time, his son had turned down the opportunity to rule the galaxy with him. Which reminded him that Luke’s mother had also opted out of ruling the galaxy with him. Because she, and his best friend, indeed all his friends, had hated the Empire and all it stood for and all those who stood with it, including Vader. And now, so did his son. So he was sad. And he was also scared. The last time he’d taken a stand he’d lost everything and put evil in power. He was shy about trying again.
When Luke was attacked, Vader fought back. He couldn’t save himself, or any of the people he lost or hurt, but he could save his son. He loved Luke more than himself, more than the Empire, more than the whole galaxy. I was seven and Darth Vader wasn’t a monster, he was the father I wanted. Someone who would throw his whole life away for me. Return of the Jedi defined love for me, and still does.
My parents divorced before I was three, my mother remarried almost immediately and my stepfather adopted me. I only know fragments of the story. My mother met my stepfather before my father, but they had a 16 year age difference. My father was good at math and computers but couldn’t hold down a job. I was born in Florida but my mother moved us back to her hometown in Connecticut when my parents separated. I’ve no memory of living with my father and I saw him only a handful of times after we moved north.
My stepfather raised me, alone after my mother died, and he’s who I mean when I talk about “my father”. I know he loved me. But I also know it was different. I have three brothers, his sons. I’m the eldest. I’m the girl. And I’m the one with another bloodline, a bloodline it was intimated I should be ashamed of. My stepfather “saved me” but no one ever told me from what. And no one ever told me why my father agreed to give me away. They told me not to talk about it or him, that it wasn’t fair to my (step)father, that I had to prove myself and my love.
My adoption went through the same year I saw Return of the Jedi, my first Star Wars. It’s not difficult to understand why I imprinted on the Skywalker family dramas, why I wanted a father who loved me as much as Darth Vader loved Luke, who would choose me over everything else even when they’d been fighting three minutes ago. But that’s not why it stayed with me, that’s not why it still matters to me thirtysomething years later.
Anakin taught me it’s never too late to make better choices and Luke taught me it’s okay to love someone who doesn’t deserve it. Some might say that’s an unhealthy lesson but it’s my choice. Star Wars is whatever you or I need it to be.
Like Rey, I chose my family name. I didn’t choose Skywalker, that would be too obvious. I share my name with Magneto’s daughter, Lorna— but not Magneto, because it’s her adoptive name. My family history is important to me, but so is my sense of self, my ability to choose who to be. That’s the lesson I learned when I was seven and fell in love in with Darth Vader. It’s my choice.
What was your first Star Wars? What was it’s impact on you?