Thursday, April 10, 2014

Warping through Childhood (StoredStory#16)

When I was a kid, I had a friend from church who would come over on Sunday afternoons. Usually we reenacted scenes from movies, especially light saber fights between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Matt, smaller, skinnier, and suppler than I, would always be Luke Skywalker. As a fatter kid, I would get winded easily, so I didn't run or do any acrobatic stunts. But, I sure could walk. The important thing about Darth Vader is that he walks menacingly; I could do that walk.

We found sticks just about the right size for light sabers and would whack at each other pretty unmercifully. Apparently this got a little worrisome for my dad, who decided to show us how to play nicer. As soon as he left, we went right back to the way we had been doing it.

Oftentimes, Matt and I would watch movies and then begin to work through parts of the movie, sometimes creating our own versions of the scenes. I especially loved when we did Star Trek, which quickly became my favorite Sci-Fi during my most formative years. After watching Star Trek III, Matt might be Captain Kirk, and I would be Scotty or Sulu. I had a small rocker from my baby years that I could still fit in. I'd stretch Monopoly over my lap as the console to punch in commands. Imagination is such a wonderful part of being human.

Matt is two years older than I, so we reached an awkward phase where I was still a child and he was, well, transitioning. In the bowels of his grandparents' basement, Matt and I began to Star Trek our way through encounter with the Klingons. He was several feet behind me, and I was using a record player for my console this time.

"Direct hit, captain!" I began falling over as the torpedoes hit our ship. All the while, explosives sounds came out of my mouth along with a lot of spit.

We had been doing this for a few minutes--both of us full throttle with our Start Trek speak, our falling over, our sound effects--but then I felt a chilling moment of utter silence behind me.

In mid-spit-explosion, I turned and saw Matt's cousin Angie standing there. Matt was shrugging as though he had no idea what was going on.

That might have been the last time I Star-Trekked with another person. Luckily, I still had my wonderfully vivid imagination. During the height of The Next Generation (TNG), a slew of great toys came out, including a replica USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D with sound effects. There were four buttons on the neck of the ship: warp speed, torpedoes, phasers, and I think phaser/torpedoes with explosions.

I driveled all over this ship in the store. We couldn't afford it; we often couldn't afford things, and I learned early on that its ok to want things, and it might hurt a little when you can't get it, but some things are worth waiting for.

While I didn't have the Enterprise, I did have buckets of Legos. I found a way to construct NCC 1701-D. Though it had a square saucer section, my mind rounded the hard edges, and it flew proudly whenever TNG came on TV. Where we lived, the Fox affiliate signal was often distorted, snowy even. Roof antennas could only do so much in the mountains. This didn't deter me from watching. What couldn't be seen clearly was cleared up in the my own internal filter. (Maybe this is how I learned to be an optimist). Watching through snowy pictures, I went on many adventures with my Lego ship in hand.

One day I had the amazingly remarkable surprise to get the actual Enterprise toy I had salivated over. I can't remember what the occasion was, but I loved that ship so much. It replaced my Lego Enterprise, which sat lonely and dusty like the Velveteen Rabbit. I kept it for posterity sake for a long while and sometimes would take it out for a spin up to warp 9 just like you do with any classic.

On one rather cold, gray day at the new house we'd moved into, I took my Enterprise out and began to orbit the house in a standard pattern. This didn't last long. Somehow I couldn't smooth the house's corners into planetary roundness. There were no Cardassians or Romulans in the space of my yard. Whole Star systems died out and there were only trees, and bushes, and a concrete bird bath.

I had reached my transition where the reality of the world presses itself into your consciousness. My imagination didn't die, but it took new forms. I was sad to put down my toys. Toys. I was sad to see them as such. But, this is what happens, I suppose. Yet, those early years stay with us and are held deeply inside. I still have the Enterprise, which now hangs happily from the ceiling in my Star Trek corner. Sadly, I have not found the Lego Enterprise, though I hope it didn't get sent to the shipyard for dismantling. May NCC 1701-D, Lego and true replica, always proudly serve the fleet of my imagination.

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