The Force Awakens is now nearly a week old, and for many of us – including myself – the film returned us to that galaxy far, far away. The anticipation seeing the new film stirred up memories of the times I saw each of the Original Trilogy films in the theater for the first time. And while each of those moments were mind-blowing and captivating, my mind is centered on my first experience with Return of the Jedi, in 1983. The film itself was awe-inspiring! Despite those furry-little man-eaters and a second Death Star (which didn’t really matter to me at age 11), the film answered the many questions that Empire left us with. Not to mention, those suspenseful moments in Jabba’s lair and the duel between Skywalker and Vader that had me hiding behind my bucket-o-popcorn. Indeed, the film remains near the top of my list and my heart. Today, however, I reflect not so much on the on the film, but rather on standing in line for the film.

At the time, there was nothing magical about the line – in fact, I probably even did my fair share of deep sighs and whining – but looking back, it’s the line that will forever remain more magical than the film. Today is the anniversary of my dad’s funeral. It’s odd really, to recognize that I’ve officially lived more of my life without my dad, than with him (well, from a certain point-of-view, anyway). And, now, as a middle-aged father of two kids, I look back at that time in line with my dad and remember just how much of a hero he is/was to me. I remember being so thrilled that my dad would take me to see “the new Star Wars movie,” and even engage in post-movie fan talk with me. I remember pieces of our conversation in line, with him asking me what I thought was going to happen in the movie. I remember his excitement with the film’s twists and turns – though I now suspect his excitement was more likely a response to seeing his son so enthralled with the film.

It’s a blast to be part of Star Wars fandom – to engage and interact with people who are so passionate about the saga – and the older I get, the more I realize what makes the saga so special is the shared experience. Whether it’s discussing theories of a character’s bloodline, wondering why the evil leaders of the galaxy can’t defend a super weapon from a handful of snub fighters (again!), or simply reflecting on standing in line with the people you loved a long time ago…

(cue “The Throne Room” music from Episode IV…)