1980. The Empire Strikes Back. I don’t really remember seeing the first Star Wars movie, but catching Episode V on the big screen down at the Rivoli was an experience. This was a time when going to the movies still meant something. Before VHS rentals became DVD rentals became Blueray rentals. Before Netflix and high definition cable. I think most people in my generation have fond memories of seeing at least one of the three original trilogy movies in the theater when they came out. Ever wonder why we’re called Generation X? I’d like to think it has at least a little something to do with the X-Wing.
One of my favorite scenes in Empire was the opening sequence battle on Hoth. I was born and raised in Wisconsin and no stranger to frozen ice planets. One particular frigid morning on the way to school, I had Hoth on my mind. We lived pretty close to Woodview Elementary and it only took me minutes to get there via my moon boots. Five if I hurried, fifteen if I dawdled. Most of the walk consisted of crossing a big field between my school and the middle school.
That morning as I stepped onto the field dressed in my snowsuit, boots, mittens, and ski mask, I wasn’t a student in Mrs. Smith’s first grade class. I was a member of the rebel alliance and didn’t have to imagine the conditions. The snow was deep, the air icy cold, and the wind was merciless. Mighty AT-ATs towered over me. Laser blasts whizzed by my head. One of my comrades in a T-47 Snowspeeder just crashed into a fireball ahead of me. The blaze warmed me for just a second before the wreck was demolished by the foot of a mighty imperial walker.
As I got closer to school, I was Luke Skywalker, wandering aimlessly through the blizzard after escaping the Wampa’s snow cave. Muttering “Ben” under my breath, I staggered and fell to the snow. Got up on my knees, and fell again. “Degobah system…..Ben…..”
Then I jumped up and ran the remaining thirty yards to school because I was freezing my tiny plums off.
I didn’t think too much about the little fantasy that morning until days later. I recall sitting at the kitchen table eating and my mom was telling a story to my dad. I was tuned out, probably pretending I was in the Mos Eisley Cantina, when something my mom said got my attention. She heard second hand from another mom, that a lady saw some poor little boy collapsing in the snow on the way to school the other day. She stopped her car and yelled for the kid to see if he needed help or a ride the rest of the way, but the boy didn’t answer.
I kept my mouth shut as the conversation turned to other boring adult topics. I really didn’t remember any lady yelling for me and I felt guilty that I made her worried because of my stupid make believe session. For all I knew, she might have thought I died of hypothermia or something. It bothered me for days because I was such a sensitive kid. We had lots of sensitive guys on Hoth. Poor bastards. Most of them didn’t make it.