59: The Force Was with Me

59: The Force Was with Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

The Force Was with Me

The Force will be with you. Always.

~Obi-Wan Kenobi

I was a senior in high school and graduation was approaching. “What would you like for your graduation present?” my mother asked.

“I’d like to meet Mark Hamill,” I replied. Some of my classmates wanted money, cars, or expensive jewelry. Even if we’d had the finances for that, I wouldn’t have been interested. I just wanted to meet a Jedi, or rather the actor who had played one in the movies.

Mum laughed. “I don’t think we can really arrange that.” I shrugged. She’d asked what I wanted.

Nobody who knew me would have thought my request — to meet the actor who had played Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy of films — was at all out of character. As a child of the 1980s, I’d grown up with Star Wars, and it had been one of my favorite things. I drew countless pictures of the characters. When we lived in New England for a few years, the snowy fields became the frozen wastelands of Hoth, and I pretended I was Princess Leia, scouting for trouble on the snowbanks. My friends took on the roles of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.

My favorite Christmas present one year was a toy Star Wars space-craft. When I was seven, I made my own comic book starring Luke and Yoda. I had a collection of Star Wars action figures and activity books.

While I loved most of the characters, I glommed on to Luke Skywalker in particular. I admired Luke’s determination to follow his heart and do what he thought was right, even when nobody else agreed with him. He’d never have saved Darth Vader if he’d listened to anyone else, after all.

My Star Wars mania ebbed as I grew up, but it was always lurking in the background. By the time I hit high school, it had returned in full force. It confused people and made it even more difficult for them to figure me out. I was a bright bookworm who alternately dressed like a goth or wore tie-dye leggings, I did ballet and listened to hard rock, and I voluntarily spent weekends wandering through museums. There wasn’t anything much happening with Star Wars in the mid 1990s… What did I see in it? Even I didn’t totally know. It didn’t matter. I named my cat Chewie, as in Chewbacca. I dressed up like a Dark Jedi for Halloween one year. I had a toy TIE Fighter in my room. I even chose a quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi to accompany my senior yearbook photo.

On my graduation day I was allowed to choose a fancy restaurant for lunch with my mother and aunt. I opted for the prix fixe lunch at The Russian Tea Room. After our glorious meal, we decided to amble down to Fifth Avenue to show my aunt some of the sights.

As we approached the Warner Bros. store on the corner of 57th and Fifth, I froze in my tracks. There was a huge poster in the window: Meet Mark Hamill!

The date on the poster was the next day.

At first, I wondered if it was some sort of joke. It wasn’t. Hamill voiced the role of the Joker for Warner Bros.’ animated Batman series and was doing some promotional work for it, including a meet-and-greet at the studio store. I didn’t even need to buy anything to meet him; I just needed to show up and get in line. I had a ballet recital that day, but the meet-and-greet was early enough that it wouldn’t conflict with my performance schedule.

The next morning, I stuffed my ballet costume and shoes into my backpack and went off to the store for the meet-and-greet. I brought a friend for moral support; we were two of the first people in the queue. I’d like to say that I was dignified and mature when I finally met Mark Hamill, but I’d be lying. I was as giddy as you’d expect a seventeen-year-old lifelong Star Wars fan to be. It was a wonder that I was able to say anything coherent at all. In the photo I took with Mr. Hamill, I had an ear-to-ear grin. Somehow, the Force — or an amazing amount of synchronicity — had been with me, and I received the graduation gift I’d dreamed of.

~Denise Reich

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