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The Force Awakens in the Zinchuks’

By Brian Zinchuk

In a little over a month’s time, a journey that began when I was just two years old will take its next step.

It’s as if Star Wars has always been a part of my life, and I guess, it has. It’s going to be hard to sleep the night before December 18, premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The difference is this time, I will be sitting beside my two kids, their eyes wide in wonder as they take in their first Star Wars movie in a theatre.

As a kid, I grew up during the initial trilogy, although, curiously, it was at the periphery, in drips and drabs. I never actually saw the original Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back until they appeared on television in the mid-1980s. We didn’t have a VCR when I was young, nor, do I think, was it available anyhow. But I did see the making-of specials. And in 1983, my mom took me to my second movie ever in a theatre, Return of the Jedi. (I was eight, the same age my son is now.)

So my early years as a Star Wars nut coalesced around a read-along book of the Empire Strikes Back, with its own 45-rpm record, a picture story book about Star Wars, and eventually, the novelization of Return of the Jedi. I also had bubble gum trading cards from Empire.

My first Star Wars toy was an ‘action figure’ of a parka-wearing rebel trooper from the Hoth sequence of Empire. Dad bought it for me while in Toronto. I was suitably impressed.

I somehow ended up with used Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker figures, a Yoda, a C-3P0 and a Bespin guard. That was about it. Dad picked up a mostly-complete Millennium Falcon from an auction sale. Christmas brought a sand crawler and the ultimate, the AT-AT walker.

Those were pretty meagre pickings, especially compared to what my kids have today. But a long time ago, on a farm, far, far away, it had to do.

When the prequels came out, there was a bit of a quandary. You see, The Phantom Menace was released the week I was to get married. What to do – what to do? This was a question not only for me, but our friends who had to choose between standing up for us or sitting in a theatre. Somehow, we accomplished both. (My newly minted wife and I saw it on our honeymoon.) But my wife didn’t really appreciate having to go to Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as part of our anniversary celebrations.

Thus it’s probably a good thing The Force Awakens is coming out on December 18, my slowest time of the year. That should allow me to take the kids at least three times, without too much conflict.

It’s interesting to watch Spencer’s growing eagerness for Star Wars. For Christmas a year or two ago, I gave the kids the entire collection of Phantom Menace figures that I had hoarded after it came out. I thought maybe someday they would be worth some money, but searches of eBay found that not to be the case. (Care for a Senator Palpatine or Jar Jar Binks, anyone?). He’s also inherited all my original toys from when I was his age. The AT-AT, sandcrawler and Millennium Falcon seem to have gone missing after my high school years, but he has the figures, along with G.I. Joes and Transformers. He hardly plays with them.

But he is totally wrapped up with Lego Star Wars. He’ll show me new creations daily, sometimes hourly. Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars Lego: The Yoda Chronicles, both animated TV shows, are favourites not to be missed. To him, these are the bubble gum trading cards and read-along books of my day. And that’s why he was Darth Vader for Halloween.

If Star Wars is the family story of the Skywalkers, then being a fan may be the family story of the Zinchuks, and that of millions of other families around the world.

Will there be a Millennium Falcon under the Christmas tree? Wouldn’t a little boy want to know…