You're welcome, George Lucas.
I'm that guy. I'm the original “Star Wars” fan from 30+ years ago who is passing the passion along to his son, a 3-year-old who wouldn't have known a light saber from a paper towel roll if I hadn't stepped in.
I'm the 41-year-old man-child who paws through piles of fake vintage T-shirts at Target trying to decide if Henry needs R2-D2 or Chewbacca or Darth Vader or the X-wing fighter or all of them.
I'm the dad who surfs Craigslist looking for good buys on collectible action figures that no nerd in his right mind would put into the hands of a toddler.
Why do I do it? Why do I send more money to Lucas, who is clearly quite comfortable down on Skywalker Ranch? I guess because I'm a film fan and a toy fan and when you talk about combining the two, nobody did it better than Lucas with “Star Wars.”
I had mostly forgotten about the franchise after seeing “The Phantom Menace” at the theater in 1999. I didn't bother with the next two films until they were out on DVD and I've never watched “The Clone Wars” TV series. Any toys I still had were packed away somewhere.
Then my son came along in 2007. And after a couple years of “Goodnight Moon” and yet another viewing of just part of “Cars,” I decided it was time to help my son get in touch with the true wonder of all things fake. I dug out a well-worn VHS copy of the original “Star Wars.” Henry was only about 2 1/2, he couldn't read and I don't think he was listening to classical music, but John Williams and the London Symphony got his attention in a heartbeat as the opening crawl moved across our TV screen.
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ... dads spent time with their sons outside and saved their money for that child’s education, not plastic toys ...” Wait, that's not right!
It took one viewing for Henry to be hooked. I quickly moved to turn my young son into my lifelong sci-fi compatriot — albeit a well-rounded one who still liked books and baseball. We rewatched that first film and then moved on to “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”
When Henry moved out of his crib and his nursery became a big boy’s room, the first thing I hung on his wall was the original “Star Wars” movie poster. Now a life-size cardboard cutout of Han Solo stares down at Henry while he fires the cannons on a giant, plastic, vintage AT-AT walker that should be on a shelf out of his reach. His potty is covered in Darth Vader and Yoda stickers and every cup he puts to his mouth seems to have a spaceship on it.
It didn't take long for my little project to get away from me. On the morning of his third birthday, we raced Henry down to Seattle's version of Comic-Con where fantasy and reality collided brilliantly in an epic meeting of little boy and big men acting like little boys. “There's stormtrooper! There's Boba Fett! Mom, mom ... it's Luuuke!”
That afternoon, when Henry got three plastic light sabers and two blasters from friends at his “Star Wars”-themed birthday party, I worried about countless battles ahead. I've been slashed and blasted ever since, all to the sound of that John Williams theme music, which seems to be on a constant loop around our house, thanks to one of those musical birthday cards that is forever being opened and closed, opened and closed.
Oh well. I blame myself. I turned the movies on, I drove the car to the toy store, I surfed the internet for the right Millennium Falcon.
But there's not any real guilt. I hooked my kid on a harmless fantasy about good and evil with loveable characters and loads of action and adventure. He builds “Star Wars” puzzles and loves flipping through books about the characters and the making of the films. On an airplane, seated next to you, he's the quietest 3-year-old at 30,000 feet because he can't take his eyes off Princess Leia on his DVD player. So there are worse things he could spend his time obsessing about.
And besides, the mania has slowed some in recent months.
“Dad, dad! ... ‘Toy Story’!”