The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. I was very young. So, young it’s hard to believe I remember seeing this movie. According to Wikipedia the film was released on May 25, 1983, six years after the first movie. Those days it felt like movies were in the theaters for months on end. It’s likely I saw it months after it hit theaters. In 1985, Return of the Jedi was later re-released and it’s possible that this is when I actually saw the movie.

Since the first trilogy was released and another one and another plus more movies, an animated series and a live-action series, May the 4th has become the unofficial, or is it official now, Star Wars Day. A day chosen because it sounds like one famous phrase from the movie ‘May the force be with you’ or as we say on this day May the 4th be with you. Its the most dad jokes of dad jokes. I fell for this joke more than once in high school. It goes like this, ‘Hey what day is today?’ and the response ‘May the 4th’ is followed by the questioner saying ‘Be with you’. Cue laughter. Yea, the joke is that bad.

It’s hard to describe the over-sized influence Star Wars has had on our culture from claiming its own day to inspiring a generation of filmmakers and lightsabers. For a young me, it was wanting to be like Princess Leia. Today young girls gravitate towards Rey from the new trilogy. But Leia’s combination of feminity, intelligence, and toughness spoke to me and still does. Plus, I wanted to hang out in a village in the trees with cute Ewoks riding speeder bikes.

Speeder Bike Chase from Return of the Jedi

Growing up we watched VHS recordings of the movies over and over again. Sword fighting with my brothers was a favorite past-time. Our pretend swords may have been plastic Wiffle bats but the tears when one of us got whacked were real.

My brothers and I may not pretend sword fight anymore, but we still go to see Star Wars movies together when they are released. We even take our parents. The new movies don’t have quite the same magic. Special effects, which made the first trilogy special, are commonplace now. Last Thanksgiving we watched the Mandalorian, the first Star Wars universe live-action TV show, together at home. While not perfect the new series had more of the heart of the old movies with lots of callbacks and references to the first three. Disney, who now owns the franchise, plans lots more Star Wars from more TV series, to one-off movies, and another trilogy. The universe is vast and filled with stories to tell but where will we be watching them?

Star Wars has generally been about communal watching. I’m left wondering when these times will come again. It may be quite a while before theaters will re-open. Going to movies with family and friends is on hold. Will we be able to spend next Thanksgiving together watching movies or TV shows in my parents’ living room?

These times will come again. They may be different. We have been watching more and more movies at home. But when I remember being a very little girl and going to the theater with my parents, I know how much those outings meant to me. How much they still mean to me. Star Wars has always been about the story we share together with family or friends. In the story we share now, the one happening in real life, there are no Luke Skywalkers or Princess Leias or an enemy to vanquish. There are only millions of us doing the best we can. Millions hoping we can stay healthy and go to movies again. On this May the 4th, may the force be with us all.