Thursday, December 3, 2015

Star Wars Memories 03: My Ninth Birthday Party

Few things summon up memories of childhood faster than
a Ben Cooper plastic mask.

In 1978, I was living in a new house, in another part of town, and my Star Wars room was gone, save for the sleeping bag, poster, and Han and Chewie mirror. I’d already ensconced myself into Star Wars consumerism; I had toys, magazines, bubble gum cards, comics, and lots of one-off weird items, like the aforementioned silver mirror. None of my other friends had that mirror. I was the only one I knew of for decades that had one. So, basically, I was a Star Wars kid. That was the hook upon which most adult decisions were made about what to get me for birthdays and Christmas and any other gift-giving/child bribery occasions.

It was inevitable, I suppose that I would have a Star Wars birthday party that year. I can’t recall everyone on the guest list, because I didn’t make it, but I know Dennis was there, having been schlepped over by his mother, because we were no longer living down the street from one another. If you showed me a picture from the party, I could name the kids, but right now, all I can see is us, wearing the plastic vacu-form Halloween masks that were the best party favor of all time. Everyone had a different mask, from Chewie, to Vader, to the generic Stormtrooper, to C3PO, and Luke in his pilot helmet. There were extra Stormtrooper masks. Duh. We snatched those up instantly and didn’t take them off; we merely levered them up on our forehead to eat cake.

Oh, the cake. Pictures of the cake survive—a Star Wars cake, with black icing (space is dark), and the droids and the death star captured in spun and molded sugar. It was glorious. I remember my mother telling the story of trying to find black food coloring and having to drive all over town (she eventually found some in a bakery supply wholesale shop). We were all impressed. Black icing for space. We’d never seen the like before. That icing, by the way, stained all of our lips and gums a dark purple-blue color, making us look like creepy undead children. Bonus!

My birthday being a week before Halloween meant that there was a little bleed over into the holiday spirit. My parents actually set up an apple bobbing station in the hopes that we’d give it a go, and we did, mostly. But pulling apples out of a tub of water with your face paled next to discussing the awesome powers of the Dark Lord of the Sith.

What did I get for my birthday? Star Wars loot, of course.

There’s a few reasons why this birthday stands out for me: it’s the only one I can remember prior to the age of thirteen. It’s also the only one I can recall with my father present. That’s not to say he wasn’t present for any of the others, but I honestly have no memory of my birthdays before Star Wars. And as an only child, I’m fairly certain I was spoiled rotten, so I don’t know why that is, exactly. But it’s one of the last times I remember being happy with my parents in the same room.

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