On this occasion of my favorite holiday, Star Wars day, aka May the Fourth, let me tell you about how I was raised in the Jedi order.
Not by my parents—everyone knows that Jedi are taken from their parents at a young age. Though they were always tolerant to supportive of my Star Wars obsession, they were not the people who raised me as a Jedi. My parents weren’t even the first people to show me Star Wars1.
I was raised in the Jedi order by the neighbors’ kids.
When I was in fifth grade, a new family moved not quite into our neighborhood, but neighborhood adjacent. There was a boy my age, and a girl my sister’s age2. Our friendship was unlikely—I was right at the age where Boys and Girls Can’t Be Friends Because that Means You Have Crush on Him and That’s Gross. And all four of us were just a very unlikely combination. They were from the south, abrasively polite, and said “Yes ma’am” and “no sir” to the adults, while I called all my friends’ parents by their first names and had a smart ass streak. They were not Mormons, like most people in my Utah community. They thought the mountains that I had grown up with were the most amazing things they had ever seen. I thought those mountains were pretty average. They had a hyperactive Labrador and an above ground trampoline, while we had a borderline comatose malamute and parents with a fear of dangerous fun.
But they also loved Star Wars as much as the MT and I did.
And so Star Wars became the first common language of our friendship.
Look at the tiny jedi! And get a load of MT in those Yoda ears.
For the better part of two years, the MT and I saw them most days, tumbling through an elaborate universe that was partly George Lucas’s, partly of our own making. We bought lightsabers and coordinated Halloween costumes and Legos and action figures. While our parents hiked behind us or walked through an amusement park or a convention centers, we ran ahead, just a little too old to be playing pretend this aggressively in public. We even wrote a brilliant musical parody, The Sound of Blasters, which ran for one magnificent night in their backyard4.
I spent two years living as a Jedi knight with this family and the boy I will always think of as my first best friend.
And then the next year, they moved away. As quickly and mysteriously as they came.
It was a delirious, wildly happy two year period for me, and when I look back on my younger self, I can point to this time with them as one of the many reasons I write books for young people. Because I spent those two years more in love than I ever have been since, both with Star Wars and with these neighbors next door. I loved Star Wars like I couldn’t love anything anymore because at some point in your growing up, you get told you can’t love things *that* much anymore, and I loved those kids like I can’t anymore because even the most vanilla life will give you some well-earned trust issues. But when you’re a kid and a teen, no one tells you not to love things that much.
And that’s why I love young people, and why I love writing for them. Because they love things. I think of the way I loved Star Wars. And the way I loved those neighbors who lived in Star Wars with me. I want to write for people who are that open and willing to love.
- Though I have a distinct memory of going to Media Play, back when people bought music at stores, and sitting at one of the tables with my dad and watching Empire Strikes Back for the first time.
- And then they also had a middle son who fell awkwardly in between us.
- If you would like to talk about magnificent parents who never forced gender norms on their kids, when I said I want to be Queen Amidala one year and then Anakin Skywalker the next, they never batted an eyelid at either of these things. I have excellent parentals.
- And included the legendary YMCA parody, YODA, of which the first line was “YODA! Been living eight hundred years, I say YODA, he’s got them big old green ears.”