I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t love Star Wars. I was 5 when it was released in theatres (though I think I fell asleep during the matinee where I saw it for the first time; I remember droids in the desert, but nothing about a space battle at the end), and if I recall correctly, my first action figure was Bossk, who appeared in my Christmas stocking after Empire came out. Once my younger brother and I got started with the toys, what had started as a child’s playtime hobby would quickly grow into something far more. By the time Jedi was released, I was old enough to fall in love with Luke Skywalker, I’d begin to equate The Force as my first real understanding of religion and the nature of faith, and Star Wars took its place in my heart as a life-long obsession.
I joined the Official Fan Club right around then, and really never looked back. I wasn’t so much a collector as just a kid who wanted everything I could get my hands on, and I’m happy that most of it has more or less survived in my possession to this day. It’s all in terrible shape, but I wasn’t collecting it to one day sell it for an atrocious price – its value was far greater to me than to anyone else. To me it was priceless; as much so to me now as it was then. In some cases, even more. Star Wars – the whole scope of that galaxy long ago and far away – became more than just a fandom to me. It became a part of who I am.
I even got Carrie Fisher to sign one of the old photos I got in my original fan club membership kit – water-stained, pin holes and all. It hung on my bedroom wall for years and had seen its share of the ravages of time. The photo is of Luke and Leia on the Falcon after Ben dies in A New Hope (spoiler alert), and it’s always been one of my favourites, so having her sign it was a huge honour. Now I just need Mr. Hamill to make it to Toronto one of these days!
Anyway, one of my biggest regrets, however, was in giving away my Luke Skywalker Bespin Fatigue Jacket – an exclusive of the official fan club, and something I’d begged my parents for what seemed like forever before they finally agreed to buy it for me. I can still remember going to the post office and buying a money order in US funds and dropping it carefully into the mailbox with my order form, clipped out of an issue of Bantha Tracks, the club’s newsletter. I think I’d rarely wanted anything so much in my entire life, before or since. Then, of course, I had to wait another forever for it to finally arrive in the mail, but when it did, it was perfection. All I could have hoped for and more.
Which was rare, really. Usually when I really want something, it ends up being not nearly as great as I thought it would be. That jacket, though, was even better than I’d dreamed, and I wore it everywhere, imagining myself to be Luke’s young Jedi sidekick or sorts.
Until I out-grew it.
Not emotionally. Physically, I grew too tall and it would no longer ever fit me again. I was kinda devastated, but reluctantly agreed to give it to our friend down the street, who was the same age as my brother, and therefore smaller than me. I cut the tag out of the collar to save as a memento, and gave away my greatest treasure. I mean, our friend was a huge fan, too, so I knew it was going to a good home, but still. It wasn’t my home.
Years – nay decades – went by, and I could never quite get that jacket out of my mind. Because my real obsession didn’t kick in until Jedi was released, I’d never gotten the action figure of Luke wearing it, so one day I bought a pretty sweet loose one in a comic book store, just on a whim. He was in better shape than many from that era, though missing his blaster and lightsaber. I didn’t care, though. Again, I wanted it for me, not to re-sell some future day. I even keep him separate from my other action figures, just because that one is a little bit extra special to me. Even still, though, the jacket – I couldn’t get the jacket completely out of my head. I wished I still had it so I could make a display for it – the smaller the jacket, the easier to display, even. It would have been perfect!
I’d occasionally peruse Ebay, looking for sellers who were getting rid of theirs, but on the rare occasion that I would find one (they only made so many in its very short original run), they were absurdly out of my price range. I knew I’d likely never find another one, and even went back to the mom of the guy I’d given it to, and asked if it was still by any chance in a box at her home or in storage somewhere. Zero luck.
Until one day, during another supposed fruitless Ebay search, I found one. Not only had it been in storage since it had been purchased, but the seller even still had the original packaging in which it had been mailed! What’s more, I could afford it. What’s even more, there was a Buy It Now option that I could use, instead of bidding on it and risking losing it to someone richer than I. The only problem was that I no longer had any credit cards, because bankruptcy.
That’s where Tim stepped in and saved the day!
He bought it on his credit card, and I gave him cash a few days later once we’d gotten paid (and once we knew the conversion rate after shipping, etc, of course). To this day, I can not believe my luck! I tracked the shipment – multiple times a day, just in case it got any closer without me knowing – and waited with bated breath for my new old treasure to arrive.
When it finally did, I was almost in tears. Actually, even now, just thinking about it. It was perfect. As good as new, and so soft – I’d forgotten how soft it was. The tissue paper and brown sturdy paper envelope with the fan club’s original return address label on the outside, even the 80’s postmark…everything about it came rushing back in an overwhelming wave of emotion and memory for me. The seller hadn’t even known what size it was, but again, I didn’t care. I wanted to display it eventually, not wear it around. Now my Jedi sidekick-ish-ness is mostly done incognito, after all. 😉
Naturally, though, I tried that sucker on.
And it fit.
What the Force?! How did a kid in her late 30’s/early 40’s get so lucky as to find her one regret, her missing treasure, decades after having given it up because she’d grown too tall for it – and then find one that she could somehow afford and that actually FIT? I may not have eaten the healthiest for a few weeks there to make sure rent was still covered, but come on! That’s freaking amazing!!!
My next task was to sort out exactly how to display it. My initial plan had been to get one of those glass-doored display boxes for baseball jersey’s and bats and such, because I wanted to include my Luke Skywalker Empire Strikes Back Lightsaber hilt from Master Replicas – signed by Mark Hamill, the man himself! But I also really love the custom display case that it came with, and putting that in a second case seemed silly. So instead, I got a frame for just the jacket, and then rearranged some shelves on a bookcase in my living room to fit all of it – the framed jacket as the centrepiece, the lightsaber and loose action figure in case, along with a few of the other little Star Wars trinkets I’ve acquired more recently. I even added a couple of original Empire trading cards in the frame with the jacket – doubles, of course – featuring Luke wearing the very same one.
It’s pretty spectacular, I have to say!
I have a ton of Star Wars stuff, from then, from the in-between years, from more recently, and even a bit from the newest film in the franchise. My collection is always growing, but it is still every bit of it for me. It’s a part of me; a part of my memories, and a part of my life. Even more a part of my very foundation as a person. They say the years before 5 last the rest of their lives, but I think sometimes, in the years which follow, things can also happen to change and shape you into the person you become. I think part of me will forever reside in that long ago and far away place.
In the meantime, though, my next ongoing project (among so many others) is to acquire loose versions of the original Kenner action figures:
And yes, I have a checklist on the go. 😉