Hope Hope. – Last word of Princess Leia, Rogue One   My grandparents were wonderful, naïve people. They decided it would be a marvelous bonding experience to take each one of their Midwestern grandchildren on a California vacation to Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knotts Berry Farm, the beach and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. The only two things they did not prepare for were their two children having so many kids and me.     I was not an easy child to say the least. In fact, some of my childhood exploits have become Paul Bunyan-like tall tales, except they are all true. I was not a bad kid. I was just extremely active and knew no fear. Yet, my grandparents decided they were capable enough to take one of my cousins, my sister, and myself halfway across the United States for a week, thus putting an end to these west coast trips. They even recruited my oldest cousin to go along with them.   Two adults and a teenager watching three elementary school children, what could possibly go wrong? Well, my grandfather would almost lose his eye, but that is a story for another time.  Let’s just say my poor grandparents found themselves in the middle of a National Lampoon’s Vacation movie long before Chevy Chase and his family took the family truckster to Wally World.   I would be entering second grade that upcoming autumn. Blonde haired, I was the model for Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes long before Bill Watterson put pen to paper for that strip. California entranced my young mind. It was nothing like the small Iowa town I grew up in. It was another universe.   I can still remember sitting in the backseat of the rental car as we drove back from the beach to the hotel and came to a stoplight. Then I saw it, a line of people rivaling and easily surpassing anything I had seen at Disneyland. They were wrapped completely around this box-like building. With stars in my eyes, I turned to my older cousin and asked what was that.   He replied that they were people waiting to get into a new movie that had just been released called Star Wars.   What was this Star Wars he spoke of, I inquired. He told me about this young farm boy named Skyrunner or Skywalker, who saves the universe from an evil tyrant known as Darth Vader. A young farm boy in a strange, new universe? Looking at the people, I had to see it and told my grandfather such in as loud a voice as I could muster. “We did not come to California so you could go to a dumb movie,” he remarked as the light changed to green.   Still, I felt the force calling me. One little problem, my grandparents were pretty smart people. They had rented a two-room hotel room; with an inner room that the only way you could exit was to go through the other room in which my grandparents and my sister and younger cousin would be sleeping. I would be sleeping in the inner-room with my guard and older cousin.   1I was Steve McQueen heading to the cooler in The Great Escape every night.  Steve might have been the king of cool but he had nothing on me when it came to making great escapes. As soon as my cousin fell asleep, I crawled commando style across the floor to the bathroom and then jumped out the window, a simple tuck-and-roll when I hit the ground, and I was free.  I sprinted towards the movie theater. I did not have a nickel in my pocket. I was not even in second grade yet.  I was in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, not knowing a soul, except for my sleeping grandparents who would not have been happy to have the police knocking on their hotel room door, asking if this child belonged to them. This is where a sane child would have seen newspaper headlines of a child found in an abandoned refrigerator box. I was focused simply on this magical thing called Star Wars.   Arriving at the theater, even though the sun had gone down, that magical crowd was still there. Everyone seemed happy and joyful, like they knew what lay in store for them. Near the front of the line, I spotted three teenage girls. They must have been sixteen or seventeen. Picking out the pretty blonde with the large feathered hair, I ran up to her and started crying, the kind of sobbing where you cannot catch your breath. Teenage girls love little children, especially little ones that tap into their just awakening maternal instinct. Through pauses to catch my breath, I spat out that my brothers had taken my money, abandoned me, and all I wanted to do was see Star Wars, but I was not going to ever get my wish. I was going to have to walk home, never seeing this masterpiece. I am pretty sure I even mentioned several times how pretty and nice the three of them were.     Yes, I realize in hindsight that I was using the dark side of the force. I was not Luke Skywalker in this situation, rather I was Vader, just without the asthma. But, I was going to get to see Star Wars. With a look of disgust and anger at all teenage boys their age, each one of them gave me extra long hugs and told me that everything was going to be okay. Holding my hand, they purchased my ticket into the movie, made sure I got to share in their snacks, and held me through the entire film. My head pressed against the pretty blonde girl’s shoulder, the reflection of the movie glistening off my tears, the smell of her over the counter perfume permeating the air, I would occasionally tell her in my best totally pathetic second grade voice how nice she was, which would cause her to press me harder into her chest. I like to imagine this is what heaven must be like.     Warm and secure, I learned two things that day. I really, really liked girls. I had no clue what you did with them, but I liked them. Second, Star Wars blew my mind.  With CGI and other technical advances, I don’t think young people can understand what a life changing experience a little movie made by an unknown director named George Lucas was. It opened up a whole new universe of the imagination.  When everything is possible, nothing can awake one from their slumbers.  An orphaned farm boy on a desert planet, a princess held captive with no hope of rescue, and a braggadocio smuggler piloting a ship that could fall apart at any moment, little people with almost no hope, but just around the corner lay an adventure they could scarcely dream of. An unemployed soap opera actor, a 33- year-old carpenter who had been asked to read lines to the other actors until another actor could be found for his part, a socialite daughter of two major celebrities who would go on to battle alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental illness and could have easily been her generation’s Paris Hilton, and an avant-garde director, who many in the studio system thought was in over his head, created a movie that not only changed the movie industry, but the entire world.   Hope comes from little places and the least likely people. It is not birthed in luxury apartments, seats of power or usually that which everyone is focused on. Worlds can open up from a simple book, a kind word, or even a movie. It is easy to be cynical, especially when you are young. It is harder to maintain hope and realize there are entire realities that can open up if we want them to. Carrie Fisher, thank you for the new worlds you offered a second grade little boy. For you taught me, there is always hope, new adventures and possibilities.   
Hope. – Last word of Princess Leia, Rogue One   My grandparents were wonderful, naïve people. They decided it would be a marvelous bonding experience to take each one of their Midwestern grandchildren on a California vacation to Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knotts Berry Farm, the beach and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. The only two things they did not prepare for were their two children having so many kids and me.     I was not an easy child to say the least. In fact, some of my childhood exploits have become Paul Bunyan-like tall tales, except they are all true. I was not a bad kid. I was just extremely active and knew no fear. Yet, my grandparents decided they were capable enough to take one of my cousins, my sister, and myself halfway across the United States for a week, thus putting an end to these west coast trips. They even recruited my oldest cousin to go along with them.   Two adults and a teenager watching three elementary school children, what could possibly go wrong? Well, my grandfather would almost lose his eye, but that is a story for another time.  Let’s just say my poor grandparents found themselves in the middle of a National Lampoon’s Vacation movie long before Chevy Chase and his family took the family truckster to Wally World.   I would be entering second grade that upcoming autumn. Blonde haired, I was the model for Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes long before Bill Watterson put pen to paper for that strip. California entranced my young mind. It was nothing like the small Iowa town I grew up in. It was another universe.   I can still remember sitting in the backseat of the rental car as we drove back from the beach to the hotel and came to a stoplight. Then I saw it, a line of people rivaling and easily surpassing anything I had seen at Disneyland. They were wrapped completely around this box-like building. With stars in my eyes, I turned to my older cousin and asked what was that.   He replied that they were people waiting to get into a new movie that had just been released called Star Wars.   What was this Star Wars he spoke of, I inquired. He told me about this young farm boy named Skyrunner or Skywalker, who saves the universe from an evil tyrant known as Darth Vader. A young farm boy in a strange, new universe? Looking at the people, I had to see it and told my grandfather such in as loud a voice as I could muster. “We did not come to California so you could go to a dumb movie,” he remarked as the light changed to green.   Still, I felt the force calling me. One little problem, my grandparents were pretty smart people. They had rented a two-room hotel room; with an inner room that the only way you could exit was to go through the other room in which my grandparents and my sister and younger cousin would be sleeping. I would be sleeping in the inner-room with my guard and older cousin.   1I was Steve McQueen heading to the cooler in The Great Escape every night.  Steve might have been the king of cool but he had nothing on me when it came to making great escapes. As soon as my cousin fell asleep, I crawled commando style across the floor to the bathroom and then jumped out the window, a simple tuck-and-roll when I hit the ground, and I was free.  I sprinted towards the movie theater. I did not have a nickel in my pocket. I was not even in second grade yet.  I was in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, not knowing a soul, except for my sleeping grandparents who would not have been happy to have the police knocking on their hotel room door, asking if this child belonged to them. This is where a sane child would have seen newspaper headlines of a child found in an abandoned refrigerator box. I was focused simply on this magical thing called Star Wars.   Arriving at the theater, even though the sun had gone down, that magical crowd was still there. Everyone seemed happy and joyful, like they knew what lay in store for them. Near the front of the line, I spotted three teenage girls. They must have been sixteen or seventeen. Picking out the pretty blonde with the large feathered hair, I ran up to her and started crying, the kind of sobbing where you cannot catch your breath. Teenage girls love little children, especially little ones that tap into their just awakening maternal instinct. Through pauses to catch my breath, I spat out that my brothers had taken my money, abandoned me, and all I wanted to do was see Star Wars, but I was not going to ever get my wish. I was going to have to walk home, never seeing this masterpiece. I am pretty sure I even mentioned several times how pretty and nice the three of them were.     Yes, I realize in hindsight that I was using the dark side of the force. I was not Luke Skywalker in this situation, rather I was Vader, just without the asthma. But, I was going to get to see Star Wars. With a look of disgust and anger at all teenage boys their age, each one of them gave me extra long hugs and told me that everything was going to be okay. Holding my hand, they purchased my ticket into the movie, made sure I got to share in their snacks, and held me through the entire film. My head pressed against the pretty blonde girl’s shoulder, the reflection of the movie glistening off my tears, the smell of her over the counter perfume permeating the air, I would occasionally tell her in my best totally pathetic second grade voice how nice she was, which would cause her to press me harder into her chest. I like to imagine this is what heaven must be like.     Warm and secure, I learned two things that day. I really, really liked girls. I had no clue what you did with them, but I liked them. Second, Star Wars blew my mind.  With CGI and other technical advances, I don’t think young people can understand what a life changing experience a little movie made by an unknown director named George Lucas was. It opened up a whole new universe of the imagination.  When everything is possible, nothing can awake one from their slumbers.  An orphaned farm boy on a desert planet, a princess held captive with no hope of rescue, and a braggadocio smuggler piloting a ship that could fall apart at any moment, little people with almost no hope, but just around the corner lay an adventure they could scarcely dream of. An unemployed soap opera actor, a 33-year-old carpenter who had been asked to read lines to the other actors until another actor could be found for his part, a socialite daughter of two major celebrities who would go on to battle alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental illness and could have easily been her generation’s Paris Hilton, and an avant-garde director, who many in the studio system thought was in over his head, created a movie that not only changed the movie industry, but the entire world.   Hope comes from little places and the least likely people. It is not birthed in luxury apartments, seats of power or usually that which everyone is focused on. Worlds can open up from a simple book, a kind word, or even a movie. It is easy to be cynical, especially when you are young. It is harder to maintain hope and realize there are entire realities that can open up if we want them to. Carrie Fisher, thank you for the new worlds you offered a second grade little boy. For you taught me, there is always hope, new adventures and possibilities.