I was three when I first saw Star Wars. It was the first movie I had ever seen. I distinctly remember my father standing at the bottom of the stairs, and me looking down on him, as he talked to my mother about taking me. Apparently, they had spoken to a neighbor about the film and he had deemed it appropriate enough for young children, with the possible exception of the Cantina scene, which he thought might be a little frightening.
Obviously, I don't remember much else about the experience, though I do recall specific images. Vader's entrance comes to mind, his black form stepping through that Blockade Runner door and marching down the corridor, while all those white Stormtroopers clackered around him.
My first experience with Star Wars as a collectible, was, quite typically, also my introduction to the Kenner toy line. My mother had bought me a Story of Star Wars picture disc, and I can remember running over to my friend's house down the street to listen to it and play with the couple of figures he had. The infatuation with the record didn't last long--it developed a scratch of sorts and would repeat "of course I know him, he's me" over and over again--but I really dug playing with my buddy's figures. We'd sit under his bed with his Ben and Luke X-wing Pilot figures, while he held up the Ben like some ghost and said corny "use the force" stuff. Its funny the things that stick in your head....so much of it is weird stuff that only a five-year-old would ever think of. There were two Snaggletooths among my playmate's figures--one, a small red character, the other one blue with funky silver boots. One became the big brother, and the other the little brother, and we invented scenarios having them as some crazy familial crime team...as simply as that we just plowed it under and assimilated it. To this day, I think of that story whenever the Snaggletooth issue pops up.
Well, I must have done something particularly good, or possibly just started spending too much time down the street at my friend's house, because my mother finally did break down and buy me a figure--an R2-D2, with a bright and shiny head that clicked when you turned it. I was excited. I had no playsets to knock him around in, and no pretty Princess Leia figure to pat his head and feed him deadly readouts, but he was my start at "collecting them all" and I was happy. Unfortunately, so were my peers. Brutish children, for the most part, the neighbors' kids were older and they enjoyed tormenting me. Suffice it to say, that R2 went Dagobah in the backyard creek, and his sticker was gone in a hurry. I had scored my first figure, heard its head click, and seen it ruined all in the course of a couple of days. It was my first lesson learned as a collector, and one that sticks with me to this day--don't let anyone touch your stuff! I later replaced that figure with a new and improved sensor scope version, and once again, some 14 years later, with a light-saber weilding variant; but I still have that naked, battered first R2-D2 as a reminder of my earliest collecting days and the feelings that went along with them.
I collected throughout the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi years, sticking almost exclusively to the toys, while fervently trying to complete that set of figures. As I think was the case with alot of kids, those toys became a part of my everyday existence, to such an extent that I can't even conceive of my childhood without them. As a matter of habit, my mother carried a series of tattered blister cards around in her purse, the backs of which I had circled and scribbled on, carefully marking each figure I needed to reach my goal of completion (the Stormtrooper always stayed circled, 'cause, hey, you can always use more Stormtroopers). Not to be left out, my father did his part by marking the bottom of each newly acquired figure's foot with an "x", so that it wouldn't get "misplaced" in some other kid's Darth Vader case. He did this with a hot soldering iron. Man, I can still smell that melting plastic...
I consider Star Wars figures to be the first thing I really collected, and that's what I did with them, for the most part. Aside from those early experiences, I can't remember actually playing with my toys much, though I would frequently set them up in dioramas and yell at anyone who touched them. Like any normal American child, I saved my POP's, lost all the weapons and reluctantly bought every stinking Ewok Kenner managed to put out, right up until nabbing Lumat and Paploo to complete my ROTJ set.
Eventually, it just stopped. Star Wars became a thing of cartoons, Ewok television and the video aisle, and it just didn't have the force behind it required to hold a young boy's interest. There was punk rock and sports and Nintendo and hormones, and by the time the Power of the Force series hit, the collecting bug had been displaced. I didn't think about those toys much in the following years, though today I'm glad they survived my teens, a distinction which might very well qualify as an act of God. At about 13, my friend set just about all of his old toys on fire. I remember thinking that Dagobah looked pretty much the same charred and melted as it did brand new.
Today, I collect. Its not that I feel somehow obliged to my past to pursue this stuff, or indebted in some fashion to the fun I had with it as a kid, or even that I have a need for some kind of souvenior to augment my enjoyment of the film itself....I don't know why I collect, really. I guess it doesn't matter. I do remember how it used to feel, however, to find those new figures and to rifle through them on the store pegs; or to cut out POP's, send them away, and wait for what seemed like years to receive the figure; or to get that great plastic smell right after pulling the bubble off a blister card. I remember my mom telling me "they'll be worth money some day," and then trying to fathom the great expanse of time that "some day" implied. I remember my sister swiping my Leia figures, using them in her doll house and losing all the capes. I remember the big shoebox I stored my figures in and the lightning reflexes you had to have to close your Darth Vader case before all the figures tumbled out. I remember calling Hammerhead "Hammerhead," and wondering how the Dianoga got into the Death Star. I remember watching those Kenner commercials and hoping I wasn't as geeky as the kids starring in them. I remember waking up to a Star Wars alarm clock, hopping out of my Star Wars sheets and into my Star Wars underoos, brushing my teeth with a Star Wars toothbrush, eating Star Wars cereal out of a Star Wars bowl that was sitting on a Star Wars placemat, and wearing Star Wars shoes....
I remember alot of things; things that will never happen again, and feelings I've probably lost the ability to feel. In a way, I guess that's a collection all its own.