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Oh 1983, How I Miss Thee

As we get older, I often wonder if nostalgia loses its effect on us, or becomes more powerful.

On one hand, as we age, we gain wisdom about the people and world around us; a normal thought is “Why couldn’t I have this understanding when I was younger?” On the other hand, in the modern world it can often be a challenge to find positive things about said world. Our parents age and depart. Our political leaders fail us. Everything is worse than it was, which naturally gives rise to wishing for a time when things weren’t so bad. Hence, nostalgia.

I don’t think any single thing stirs nostalgia in me quite like Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983). I am often amazed at how I look back on my life and see how significant Star Wars events coincide with inflection points within my life.

Friday, May 27, 1983, my dad picked me up after completing his work week and we drove to the local theater in Farmington Hills, Michigan, not long before the 6 p.m. showing. But he had a plan, due to the lines already forming around the building. “We’ll get tickets for the 8:30 showing, that way we don’t have to stand in that line. We can just walk right past everybody and straight to our seats.” A brilliant plan. We spent the next two hours at Scoops Ice Cream Parlor, just a block away from the theater. From there, we watched as that line grew, eventually going out the front door, wrapping around the theater structure twice by the time we made our move. 

After that day, I never questioned my dad’s plans ever again. Thanks dad.

Seeing that movie that night was one of those experiences in life where there was a definite “before” and “after.” Before, I didn’t know how my favorite story ended. I made no assumptions, I was ready to accept what I would learn as Biblical fact. After, I felt like I reached the end of something, at age 10.

I equated the end of the trilogy to the end of my childhood, as I perceived it at the time. I put physical effort into repressing tears through the final 20 minutes of the film, knowing the end was fast approaching. I didn't want my dad to see my raw emotion. I somehow knew nothing would be the same, and that thought turned out to be prophetic. Six months later, my dad announced to us that he received a promotion, but it would mean moving two hours away to a new town none of us had heard of. Four months after that, we left that Farmington Hills house for the last time.

However, Star Wars remained central in my daily thoughts. The Kenner action figures made their way through area stores throughout the summer of 1983. The line was never as large and diverse as it was for Jedi. Luke Skywalker, in that iconic all-black outfit, was found at Sears. My mom found a Gamorrean Guard for me in Canada, and gave it to me on our front porch. The Emperor would arrive in the dead of the winter, because his figure was to be kept secret, for some reason. I had the mini record/book of the film. I had the theater program, which I read over and over again, as well as the hardcover storybook of the film. Both books live on in my collection to this day.

I perceived there was a kind of wave of euphoria around the country in the aftermath of Jedi’s release. As I now knew the complete story, millions of others now attained that same awareness. There were store displays up with the Jedi logo and various secondary characters like Bib Fortuna and the Emperor’s Royal Guards. Massive street signs with the movie’s poster distracted drivers as they traveled around in their cars. Jedi books were on prominent display at bookstores. There was a sense of shared experience and joy among everyone who loved Star Wars, and had finally seen George Lucas’ epic story come to a conclusion.

I miss 1983. I miss the music. I miss playing hockey that year (I was team captain for the only time in my career). I miss the fresh sense of satisfaction at seeing the Star Wars story complete. How we treated one another in 1983 was in some ways, better. And worse.

If one looks at nostalgia in a cold, clinical fashion, one might think it wasted emotion. You can’t reproduce the good of nostalgia, and one could argue it only brings on present-day negative feelings. 

I don’t choose to see it that way. Instead, I choose to believe the wise words written by Dr. Seuss: “Don’t be sad it’s over. Be happy that it happened.”

Brad Monastiere  |  Follow me on Threads @bradmonastiere
The Bearded Trio - The Site For Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Williams and a whole lot more.


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