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TODAY

Sunday, September 22

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Airbags

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away... OK, so it was more like Little Village and 1977 to be exact, I first saw Star Wars. I didn't know what I was about to see, all I knew was that we were going to the show to see some "great" movie. My brothers and sisters were pretty hyped, while my 5-year-old self was hyped over the popcorn and snowcaps.

What I saw on the screen that day, however, blew my mind. Forget the popcorn and snowcaps, good god this was drama! This was a pretty lady in a dress, acting tough; some kid who was a real crybaby suddenly becoming brave; this was explosions and a cute guy with tall boots and stars and flying and dang, that big guy dressed in black that I instantly preferred over everyone else, though I wasn't quite sure why.

For days afterwards, I had my mother try to comb my hair in Leia buns, and begged my sister to take me to see it again. I didn't fully comprehend the storyline or what was going on, but all I knew was that I liked it — and I wanted more.

Jump ahead three years, I see The Empire Strikes Back fully dubbed in Spanish. R2-D2 was now being called "Arturito" — the diminutive of Arturo, Arthur in Spanish. I want to yell, "That isn't 'Arturito.' He's R2-D2!" but amid the cries of "¡Orale!" and "¡Hijole!" it seemed pointless. I sit in the theater complaining I want to see the movie in English too, and then, oh shit! Han is frozen -- my tears start rolling. My mother nudges me as if to say, "That could happen to you if you don't behave." Wait, what? My man Darth is Luke's papi? ¿Que? I leave the theater stunned and for days afterward I wonder, exactly what kind of frog is Yoda anyway?

Jump another three years, we are crammed in the front row of Ford City theaters, necks tilted so far back I can hardly swallow my Coke. So that's Jabba, huh? Interesting. Hey, the Ewoks are cute! Luke and Leia are twins? But she looks so much older than he does. Wait a minute, Luke and Leia kissed in the last movie. Gross! Darth Vader takes his mask off... and, holy cow, he is not the hot guy I thought he would be. Kinda pasty, actually.

Long after the first Star Wars trilogy ended, they still remained a part of my life. As a teenager I continued collecting some action figures and coloring books, my friends and I would take to Yoda-speak just to annoy those around us, and many times when faced with a difficult choice, I would think "What would Leia do?" She was, after all, my first feminist icon. Many times, the Star Wars crew became my own personal Jimminy Cricket: a sci-fi reference for my "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" in my life.

Of course, when the newest trilogy was finally brought to fruition, I was so giddy, I could hardly control myself. Each new movie was a trip back to my childhood, only now, I had my personal experiences and hindsight to add to the what the movies could offer me.

So much has changed in my life since Attack of the Clones came out. In that time, I've bought a house, my first car in over 13 years and I have become a mother; all things which never even crossed my mind while I sat there watching Yoda kick some ass with his little bad self back in 2002.

This week, my son sat on my lap and watched Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time. Sure it was only the first 30 minutes, but he was enthralled. His little eyes were glued to the screen as he smiled at C3-P0 while quietly sucking on his finger. I don't think he's ever sat so still before.

When he's older we'll watch them all together, and as he grows, he will inherit all the Star Wars memorabilia both his father and I have collected over the years and I'm certain the original trilogy will mean something completely different to him than it did to me, but if anything, I hope he will take to heart these maxims I pass on to him, courtesy of the Star Wars gang:

From Luke Skywalker — Don't settle for the life you see. You always have the potential to be more than you ever imagined.

From Princess Leia — Don't sit back waiting to be rescued. You are your own hero.

From Chewbacca — Even if your friends don't understand your language, let them know you have their back.

From Yoda — Your size does not make you brave, strong or powerful. It is your mind that does.

From Darth Vader (that sexy, sexy) — We all make mistakes. The important thing is to realize what you have done and learn from it.

With that in mind, I'll put him to bed and watch Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi again until he can fully partake of the experience as well. And in case you hadn't noticed, Revenge of the Sith opened this week, so get a sitter for your kids and go see it or go with your older kids and introduce them to some old friends.

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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