The Vampire Strikes Back

This past weekend, I showed my four-year-old son Star Wars for the first time. It felt like an important moment. Seeing George Lucas’s film was a seminal event in my early years. I would’ve been six-and-a-half years old when I saw the movie in theaters and like every other kid I was captivated by it.

A year-and-half ago a couple of cousins of his gave us their old Star War toys and when we pull them out I list the names–Luke Skywalker, Han Solo–like they are characters out of the Bible. Still, I’ve hesitated to show him the movie. Entering the Star Wars world seems like a huge decision. It’s not just a series of films, it’s almost a way of life with its promulgation of a moral system–“Luke, the force…”–and so on.

Then there’s the attendant merchandise. I was obsessed with the Star Wars action figures the first time around and there’s so many more toys today. We have been wrapped up in the Marvel world for almost two years now, our house overflows with not only action figures but comic and coloring books, as well as the Super Hero Squaddies and Squinkies. The amount of times I’ve had to sit with B and watch the Avengers animated show is incredibly mind-numbing. While Star Wars and its spinoffs might be a nice change I’m not sure I can handle another franchise so soon.

Also, as much as I love the first original two movies (what are known officially as episodes IV and V) and parts of the third, I dread having to watch the newer installments. Plus, I fear that my son will like these movies and their simplified characters most of all, particularly Jar-Jar Binks. I don’t think I can handle that.

Despite these concerns, I showed him Star Wars this weekend and B dug it. He asked me questions throughout the whole thing. Why is Luke doing that? Is that Obi-Wan Kenobi, often garbling their names. C3PO became CP30, for example. When the movie ended, B wanted to dig out all the toys and I thought a fascination with this new world had begun. So I rented Empire–which he mistakenly called The Vampire Strikes Back–but halfway through he wanted to turn it off. Days later he has mostly lost interest and has said no when I’ve asked him if he wants to watch the rest of Empire. The Star Wars toys are being neglected and the Marvel ones are back to their prominence. I’m saved for now.


First Time for Everything

Our living room floor is almost always covered with toys–usually some type of action figure of my four-year-old son’s as well as some random baby toys–and walking through it is like trying to step through a minefield. Sometimes there’s so much stuff scattered around that we just have to clear space, for instance, so baby G can use his walker. It’s all part of the general disarray of B’s enormous collection of toys. He will frequently ask me to help him find something–like all his Captain Americas–and I will use the opportunity to point out that if he were to put his toys up (man, I bet that’s annoying) we’d know where they were.

So far, it’s seemed to have little to no effect, but then randomly Monday evening we were sitting on the living room rug in the midst of the chaos when out of nowhere he said, “Let’s clean up,” and for the next few minutes–with me joining in–picked up all his toys, putting his action figures in the “men” bucket–“There’s an incredible investment of money in there,” I thought to myself–G’s stuff in his respective container, etc., until the living room looked almost pristine. Then it was off to bed for both of the kids. The next morning, it was amazing to come downstairs to a completely clean room. I briefly mentioned it to the old lady but then dropped the topic, not wanting to jinx whatever spirit had come over B. I just hope it returns.

Playing with My Son’s Mens

I was seven-years-old when Star Wars came out and it was great to experience firsthand, especially in the form of the accompanying action figures. I loved the Luke Skywalker figure with the oscillating light saber that was attached but was also removable. I removed it so that Luke could play quarterback and throw an imaginary deep ball to a streaking Storm Trooper while eluding the rush of Chewbacca. I don’t know why I liked to have them play imaginary sports contests–perhaps because I played sports so much myself, but I never really liked to play with them as they were intended.

That year, my parents gave me my first sibling and after that one every other year for the next six years. All that procreation ruined my monopoly on my parents but it also meant that I was surrounded by toys, so even though I was technically too old to have the 3.75″ G.I. Joes that Hasbro put out in 1982–I loved the 12 inch bearded version I had as three or four-year-old–there were lots around for me to play with, characters like Snake Eyes and Destro. I loved to play imaginary football games with them, too (especially when Hasbro produced a limited edition figure of the actual NFL player, William “the Refrigerator” Perry).

Even when I went off to college, I would play with my brothers’ toys when I returned home for break. I knew I was too old to play with action figures but as long as nobody made a point of it, why not, I was having fun. But then my brothers all grew up, their toys were gone, so I had to move on and put away childish things.

A decade or more went by with no toys to play with, then along came my first son. Sometime in the Fall of 2010 he got his first action figure, a 3.75″ Iron Man. He loved it, so did I. Thereafter ensued a frenzied acquisition of much of the Iron Man line of action figures, like Suitcase Armor, Deep Sea Diver, and Iron Monger. There were so many.

It was logical to then pursue the Marvel line of action figures which we have ever since. Spider-Man was our first I believe, maybe Wolverine, but they were followed by Silver Surfer, Captain America, Hobgoblin, and Falcon, among lesser known ones like Absorbing Man. Most nights around here end up at some point with me upstairs with my son playing with his “mens.” While he is having them jump around and fight each other I grab the ones he’s not interested in and recreate a gridiron battle. Captain America is a great quarterback, for instance, who can throw a bullet to a streaking Silver Surfer who is crushed by the fierce safety, one of our many Iron Mans.

My wife watches all of this in amusement, her three-year-old son and 41-year-old husband playing with the same toys. Sometimes I catch her smirking at me but just shrug it off and turn back to my imaginary game where Silver Surfer has just dived into the end zone. Touchdown!

Something to Chew On

Even though it was more than 30 years ago, I vividly remember the time I walked into a room to see my baby brother chewing on the head of one of my superhero action figures. I was pissed because most of the paint was gone off the head of whoever it was, Batman or Green Lantern, I don’t recall. They were the ones from the 1970s that were eight inches tall with hollow, rubber heads, perfect for a baby to chew on as it turned out. My parents tried to calm me down, but I fumed as my dad laughed.

This memory comes back to me a lot now as I watch B’s baby brother occasionally snatch one of his men–like Spider-Man or Cyclops here–off the ground and stick it in his mouth. I’ve tried to warn B–partly in an effort to get him to pick up his toys but also out of solidarity with a fellow big brother–that he better put up his action figures or they will be devoured by a little baby looking for something to gnaw on.

At the same time I take a little secret satisfaction in the Schadenfreude of it all. It happened to me so it should happen to B, too. And like my dad, I can’t help but chuckle a bit. G has no idea what he’s chewing on nor what an offense he’s committing. It is a little funny.