He is cute.
Yet for all the things Mickey Mouse represents, to my boys this beloved character is more defined by what he is not.
He is NOT Luke.
He is NOT Anakin.
He is NOT Darth.
He is NOT a guy with a lightsaber.
When we visited Disneyland last month, my boys blew past the Mickey this and the Mickey that. They poo poo'd anything with a princess on it. They pronounced the Winnie the Pooh ride as "for babies." The only other character at Disneyland to give them pause was good old Buzz Lightyear and his futuristic zapper. They love Buzz, but they love and fear Darth.
This year, in 2009, it's all about Star Wars.
My boys are obsessed. It began small, in preschool, then quickly blossomed into a full-blown obsession.
I don't fuel the obsession by showing them Star Wars or Clone Wars movies. But I do indulge them with the occasional Star Wars Lego set or Star Wars action figure...oh, and I might have shown them a You Tube video (or ten!) of children at the Disneyland Jedi Training Academy.
Needless to say, my boys were just a wee bit excited.
They made it their life's ambition to get on stage with Darth.
But who would get chosen? Just one of my boys? None of my boys?
Should we just opt out and not take the chance?
I cautioned my boys that they might not be chosen, or worse, that only one of them might be chosen.
You should be happy for each other if only one of you gets to fight Darth, right?
I tried to believe them, but I knew from experience that sibling rivalry in our case could be more menacing than any lightsaber.
We decided to go for it, putting all our chips on the table.
First, I dressed my boys alike, in matching red shirts and matching sun hats.
Then, we made a crude sign using materials found in our hotel room. Thanks to our friends in Disney PR who sent my boys a birthday gift basket full of souvenirs and markers, we were able to come up with quite the nifty sign.
We arrived a half hour before the first show was to begin, staking out our place on the floor, the first to arrive. In the hot sun we sat, with me hiding from the sun behind our cardboard sign.
PICK US YOU WILL.
It grew on me, this Yoda inspired saying.
PICK *BOTH* US YOU WILL or we will be forever resentful of the one who gets picked, thereby tarnishing our relationship as siblings - as twins! - for life and incurring years of family therapy!
I told my boys, when the selection process starts, you must jump up and down and scream excitedly.
Yeah!! Yeah!! Pick us!! Pick us!!
Never before had my boys listened to me so well.
Finally, the announcer appeared, explaining the procedure.
We will call you by describing what you are wearing, by your shirt color, by your hat color, they explained.
I looked over at my boys, looking like a two-for-one deal in their matching outfits and big sign that ought to have said, "Two boys on clearance!" and I had a good feeling.
Very quickly, the announcer pointed at my sons and said: I want you two in the matching red shirts!
Score! My boys were among the first picked.
Mostly, kids in the front row got picked first. They were the ones who acted excited and confident, the ones who were jumping up and down and holding signs. Kids wearing solid colored t-shirts were often chosen, as were kids wearing Star Wars t-shirts. Lots of boys, a few girls. Eventually, it seemed that most of the children who had wanted to be picked did get picked, about 25 in all, with some children in non-descript clothing rounding out the ensemble.
The children all ran to their places on stage, with nary a glance back at their parents. They were outfitted in jedi costumes and given lightsabers and then put through some practice drills.
It was all good and then the adrenaline pumping sounds of the Imperial March filled the air, sending all the children fleeing to one side of the stage. Oh yeah, it was all good, but then it got even better.
He loomed over the space, presiding over his universe.
Even I, a non-Star Wars fan, could feel the force pulsing through my veins.
As only Darth Vader can be, he was terrifying and exciting at the same time. Joined by Darth Maul, it was the union of two dark forces.
What's a newly turned 5-year-old to do?
Why, break out the lightsabers, of course!
Each child got to "fight" one of the Darths on center stage. Every child did so, no child fled. I was surprised!
I feared for my children.
My boys braved the dark side and held up just fine, each one battling against Darth.
It was a high that stayed with my boys through that hour, through that day, through that visit to Disneyland and even through to today and beyond. They will never forgot it.
Even when they move on to the next obsession (but does one ever really move on from a Star Wars obsession?), they will remember their time at the Jedi Training Academy. The rest of the day was icing on the cake. My boys even agreed to wear their mouse ears.
Original post to Chalk and Cheese Chronicles.