May The Force Be With You… Always

First, apologies for such a long gap between posts. Definitely not my intention, and it’s something I’ll rectify pretty quickly now that we’re settled. We moved from Burbank into Hollywood right after traveling for Christmas, so it’s been hectic. I’ve started a couple posts that need more work, but something happened this past week that I have to share. My son became a Jedi.

So just this past week Ryder suffered his first real illness. Nothing major, just a cold, but serious enough to require the whole family to hole up over the weekend and get him well again. And, of course, a large part of his recovery consisted of watching TV – kids’ shows like Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train (all Jim Henson productions, thanks again to the master) – as well as his favorite movies and some of ours.

Having a child watch television with you is a demanding task. Content becomes very important, and you begin to evaluate which of your own favorite flicks are suitable for a very receptive age. Ryder now repeats back most of what he hears, and so we’re much more careful about what we say around him. Those little ears are like FBI wiretaps – they hear all. But, there’s only so many times you can watch Kung Fu Panda in a week, no matter how awesome it is. Eventually you want something with real people. So when we chose entertainment for all of us, we kept things like language in mind.

Eventually I decided that it was time to initiate Ryder into the ways of the Force. No bad words in Star Wars, so Episode IV: A New Hope was popped in, and our journey to a galaxy far, far away began. He was hooked from the second the iconic logo hit the screen and John Williams’ unforgettable score blasted thru the speakers in what is probably better sound in my living room now than in the movie theatre where I saw the same movie for the first time at the tender age of four or five.

While it may seem like a little too much nostalgia for me to bring up Star Wars so close to a post about the Muppets, it’s not entirely my fault. Some genius decided that it was time to jump on the 3D revival bandwagon and re-release The Phantom Menace in theatres this year. Apparently, George Lucas is serious about his retirement from filmmaking and has realized that he may need some more cash if Red Tails doesn’t take off.

First, let me explain that in this household, there are only three Star Wars movies, and they were all made before 1985. Absolutely NONE of them use CGI for anything. Well, certain corrections and enhancements, but by and large, I’m a purist, and after the disappointment of the second (first??) trilogy and the completely unnecessary tampering with the original trilogy, I feel like the franchise has run its creative course. However, like every male of my age, I have a deep and abiding love for Lucas’ original efforts, Ewoks notwithstanding (I dug them at the time, but I was ten years old and the perfect target audience).

Regardless, Ryder and I had a ball watching the movie, and he’s now a fan. The rest of the night, he would repeat “Star Wars!” over and over again with a giant cheshire grin on his face. And it was because of this that I noticed just how much my little son is paying attention. The next day we were running errands in the morning and we passed a billboard for the upcoming 3D atrocity. I caught a glance of the billboard thru the driver’s side window and promptly ignored it. And then I heard a tiny voice from the backseat say, “Star Wars!”

Ryder had seen the billboard, too. We had watched Episode IV, the original Star Wars movie, with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, and the rest. Not a single one of these characters was anywhere to be found on the billboard. Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jin and a young Obi-Wan were splashed across the surface. He hadn’t recognized any of them, had in fact never seen them in any recognizable context before. So how did he know the billboard was for Star Wars?

He had seen the logo.

The iconic Star Wars logo is the first thing that appears whenever one of the movies begins, and it’s one of the only things that connects the first trilogy to the second. Everyone  born after 1974 knows it. Including, apparently, my 22-month-old son. He had, in essence, read the sign.

That blew my mind. I know he’s smart. He picks things up super fast, and he repeats words back to me every day. We now have miniature conversations where he tells me what he wants, describes things that happened to him, tells me about people he’s been around, all in one and two-syllable words, all the time. We read at least a dozen books a day, and he has several of them memorized. He can recite the end of all the rhymes in The Cat In The Hat. But it blew my mind that he could recognize words that he had only seen for the first time the day before in a completely unfamiliar context and recall their original context. He makes cognitive leaps every day. Every. Single. Day. I know this, I just didn’t expect it to be proven so distinctly.

My son pulled off a mind trick worthy of a Jedi.

I mean, I know that’s what he’s doing, I know that it was going to happen anyway, and I know that the logo is really more of a graphic than just simple text. I also know he’s not thumbing thru my Riverside Shakespeare. But he’s on his way, and it’s an astounding thing to watch, every single day. He does amazing stuff all the time, and it’s an absolute joy to watch his little mind at work. You can literally see him thinking all the time, and it’s fascinating and astonishing and human and altogether wonderful. Makes me glad that he’s alive. And he’s not even two years old yet.

The Force is strong with this one.

So I guess we’ll be buying lightsabers soon, which is awesome.

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