As we get older in life, it sometimes feels like parts of our youth seem to fade into dreams or myths or events that somehow we remember, but it is a memory clouded by the mists of time.
I can’t tell you the exact time or the exact date, but I can tell you that one of the earliest memory I’ve ever had is of going to a movie called The Empire Strikes Back way back in 1980. In the small town of Somerset West where I lived, we had a single cinema called Mini Cine 1. This was before the days of multiplexes and massive shopping malls and an endless supply of movie choices.
But I remember entering the dimmed theatre surrounded by my two brothers and my sister and my mom and my dad – who was the exact same age then as I am now.
It was the first movie I ever remember seeing in a cinema. And still now, 35 years later, I can recall the thrill that filled me, and the anticipation that surrounded me, and the exhilaration that I felt at the adventure on which I was about to embark. For this was something new, something fresh, something I hadn’t done before.
And after seeing a bunch of ads for cigarettes – yes they existed then, the biggest screen I had ever seen in my life leapt from its canvas with an explosion of sound that only John Williams could produce – a sound accompanied by images I had never seen. And, as if I was being hit by a massive lightning bolt, I was thrown from this world and hurled across space to a galaxy far far away. My sensors went into overload – tapping all the parts of the brain that my young and new body had never seen or felt.
Because as I watched this outer world adventure of swashbuckling heroes and ominous villains, it wasn’t just the movie I appreciated. It was being in a moment of time that when I look back now is etched into my soul – like an immovable object that stays firm while the world around it changes.
And when I think back to that night, there are some details that are as vivid as if I was back there this very second. I enter the doors and walk on the carpeted floor that slopes downwards. I sat in those brown seats that were so big, it felt like I had my own sofa. The music that would fill my ears with delight, as I watched the opening scrolling words rise up before me. And I remember how the cinema was empty – so my brothers and I were running up and down the aisles, sitting in every seat we could to try to get the best possible view.
And then there are others details that go beyond the description of mere words. Because they are feelings. The feeling of excitement that filled me. Being out during the evening on a cool winter’s night. The excitement of receiving free lollies as we’d enter the cinema. The smells of popcorn. The hum of the projector starting up and the bridge of light transmitting above our heads. The ticket stubs that unlike the ones of today were like flyers decorated in colours and images.
Life changes for all of us, but there are moments that seem to transcend the normal passage of time. Moments which cannot be simply defined. Moments that are precious and unique and special and moments that no other person on earth can ever feel the same about – because they are yours alone.
And when you’re a kid of 6 years old, the whole world is a mystery. Every moment of every day is an adventure to itself. The smallest things we take for granted in our daily lives are colossal events that define you and make you dream in a world where dreams often fade away like morning mist.
That night, in a small town in South Africa, in a place farthest from the brightest centre of the universe, Star Wars took me on a journey that sometimes I still feel I’m on. Oh – I’m aware of the real world. And I’m aware of its pitfalls and tragedies. And I’m aware of the despair that sometimes accompanies life. But I’m also aware of the wonder and mysticism and the adventure and the excitement of dreaming about worlds so different to our own.
And now many years later, as I’ve reached the same age as my dad was when he took us to see Star Wars, I too will take my kids to a new Star Wars movie and share with them a moment in time and an adventure – one that will hopefully one day in the future, many years from now, cause them to remember a moment in their childhood with fondness and with mystery and with excitement the way I still do.