With all of the hoopla lately about the new Star Wars movie, the seventh in the series, I can’t help but think back to when the first movie came out, way back in 1977.
My husband and I really had been looking forward to seeing it, mainly because of its enticing description: “A technologically advanced science-fiction movie with never-before-seen special effects!” So on a Tuesday night during the first week it was playing in Concord, we headed to the theater…and found a line of people stretched all the way across the parking lot.
“I hate waiting in lines,” my husband groaned, ready to turn the car around and head back home. “I had enough of it when I was in the military.”
“Well, we’re here now,” I said. “We might as well go see the movie.”
So we joined the line. When we finally got to the point where only five people were ahead of us, an employee informed us that all of the tickets had been sold out and the next showing would be in three hours.
The look on my husband’s face told me the only movie we’d be seeing in three hours would be at home and on TV.
Unfortunately, back then, no one had home computers or fancy phones, so tickets couldn’t be purchased in advance. We had to keep returning to the theater and waiting in line. And every time we did, we failed to get a ticket. My husband became less and less enthusiastic about seeing the movie.
“Want to go see Star Wars tonight?” I asked him one Thursday night, a few days after attempt number three had been yet another dismal failure.
His expression told me he’d probably prefer to have an appendectomy… performed with a potato peeler.
“I promise this will be the last time,” I said. “If we don’t get in tonight, we won’t try again until at least a month from now, when we’ll be sure to get a seat.”
He rolled his eyes. Finally, he said, “OK, but this is it. I’m not standing in any more lines. I don’t care if the cast promises to show up in person and reenact the entire movie live, onstage. This is the last time I’m going to waste a night standing in the movie theater’s parking lot. I think I’ve memorized every bump, crack and pot hole in it.”
So back to the theater we went, and took our places at the end of yet another very long line.
“Time to spend another hour looking at the backs of people’s heads,” my husband muttered.
When the line dwindled until there was only one person left in front of us, we started to get nervous.
“Do you think we’ll actually make it this time?” I whispered to my husband, reaching for his hand and clasping it in a death grip.
“Don’t be silly,” he answered. “You know what kind of luck we have. Prepare to have the ticket window slammed shut in our faces.”
But to our shock, we finally got our tickets. I didn’t know whether to use them to get into the theater…or have them bronzed.
After the movie, my husband and I, wide-eyed with awe, both agreed it had been worth all of the time and trouble we’d gone through to see it.
And on that night, two Star Wars fanatics were born.
The next day, we went shopping for Star Wars toys and collectibles. We bought small action figures and large ones. We bought plastic lightsabers and a huge model of the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s ship. We even bought Star Wars sheets for the bed.
And over the next few years, our Star Wars buying frenzy continued. We accumulated so much stuff, we had to rent a storage unit to keep it in. And much too often, we’d spend so much money shopping for additions to our Star Wars collection, we’d end up having to eat peanut-butter sandwiches for a week.
Finally, my mother sat me down one day and said, “Look, this Star Wars habit of yours has got to stop. You’re throwing your money away on this junk! Be smart and put it into a CD or a money-market account instead of wasting it on dumb toys.”
But my husband and I were too hooked on collecting to stop. Our Saturday nights no longer were spent going to dinner and a movie. Instead they were spent roaming through the aisles in Toys R Us and tossing Star Wars items into our cart, and then heading over to Bradlees or K-Mart to do the same thing.
By the time we finally decided to take a breather from our collecting addiction, we’d spent over $2,000. Considering the fact that the average price of a new car back then was about $4,000, our Star Wars spending spree was no small matter.
And once again, my mother was more than eager to remind us of that.
“You’re both supposed to be adults!” she said when she came to visit and noticed bags of Star Wars toys on the kitchen table, before we’d had the chance to take them to the storage unit and hide them. “Mark my words, the day will come when you’ll regret not depositing your money in the bank and having a nice nest egg instead of just a bunch of worthless Dark Vader dolls!”
“It’s Darth Vader, not Dark Vader, Mom” I said, impressed she even knew that much about the movie.
“I don’t care what his name is!” she said. “I just hope he’ll pay for your rent when you end up broke and homeless!”
Years later, in 1998, I bought a collectors’ price guide to Star Wars toys and painstakingly looked up the value of each item in our collection. Many of the little 3.5-inch action figures, which we’d paid $1.99 each for, were listed as worth between $100 and $300 each. The 12-inch action figures, which we’d paid $11.95 each for at K-Mart, were worth up to $500 each, depending on the character. The grand total for our original $2,000 collection, according the guide, was about $70,000.
With a smug sense of victory, I couldn’t wait to show the guide and my calculations to my mother. Her expression couldn’t have looked more shocked if I had shown her a photo of a naked man.
“Are you serious?” she asked. “All of that junk you bought is actually worth good money?”
I nodded. “Much more than any money-market account would have been.”
So after that, whenever our birthdays or Christmas rolled around, my mom would gift us with Star War toys. We were happy we finally had won her over from the Dark Side.
When I was wandering through Wal-Mart the other day, I happened to see an entire aisle of new Star Wars toys. I felt myself being drawn to it, just like back in 1977, and I had to resist the sudden urge to run down the aisle and wildly fling action figures into my cart.
But what stopped me was the realization that for $2,000 nowadays, I’d probably be able to buy only about 20 toys.
OK, so maybe I did give in and buy just a couple action figures – Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren – even though I have no clue yet who they are.
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