R2D2 Where Were You?

It was September of 1977 in Hopeless. Star Wars had been out for a while and was still in the local theatre, and I was hooked. I had seen the movie a handful of times by then, but the internal trauma of the abuse was still very vivid. I was suffering from night terrors. I had a Ronald McDonald doll that had been given me. It seemed to come alive when I was trying to sleep and it terrified me in my room. I was not sleeping well, and I was eating candy bars and other junk foods to alleviate the feelings of shame, disgust, fear and rage within me.

But it was one September morning – on a Saturday – my mom took me with her as she ran her errands. We had stopped in a few different places that morning. The early fall fog was present through the town. Honestly it could have also been the pollution from the several pulp mills that surrounded Hopeless. The leaves on the trees were turning from red to yellow and had started to litter the streets and parks with the fall blanket, preparing the ground for the eventual snow that would bury it for several months. A typical fall morning in a northern town. One of the final stops was Reids Pharmacy.

It was a different time back then for small businesses. Computerization was on the way in, but things were still done by hand. Clerks actually were able to earn a living wage, and it seemed that as a result people that worked in shops were genuinely happier and engaged the customers more – so much more than today. I had been in Reids so many times I knew my way around. Once we were in the door I departed from my mom’s side and snaked my way through the aisles, looking at the latest tensor bandages. I had come to the conclusion that Luke Skywalker’s legs were wrapped up in tensor bandages, and that the Sand People too, had their heads completely wrapped up in them. My dad was a welder and I was pretty sure the goggles of the Tuskens were welding goggles. I would go over how I could wrap my head in bandages while wearing my dad’s goggles…completely unaware that I may have accidentally asphixiated myself in the process. I was hoping that my mother would by a large stock of tensor bandages so I could attempt my own Tusken Raider look. Luckily we never had such a need.

The final stop on my rounds in that store was the small selection of toys, right next to the birth control products. It never dawned on me (being a child and all) the irony of having toys and birth control sharing shelf space. It was that September morning that I spotted my very first Star Wars toy. The movie had been out for months, but for some reason the toys took a lot longer to hit the shelves – unlike today when you can find the toys for sale months before the movie even comes out. Mass film marketing was new back then, and Lucas was pioneering that field as well. I stood there, in front of the small selection of toys, staring at the Kenner action figure of R2D2. I immediately picked it up and held on to it. My mother was not one to give in to impulse purchases but when I showed her the toy she agreed to buy it for me. I already had it out of the packaging before we were even back in the car. As we drove home I looked at my very own mini-R2. It’s head clicked when you twisted it. There was a little blue telescope you could pull up, and it had two legs to stand on. As far as an action figure goes it really wasn’t that exciting I suppose – but to me it was amazing. I played with that figure for a long time.

Before long I started my collection of Star Wars toys – I ended up having a very large collection by the time Return of the Jedi came out. I did something with my toys that was really not heard of back then – I kept all their packaging and though I played with them, they were always returned to their cardboard homes. All of them, except my R2D2 – R2 stayed by my side.

As the years passed, the boxes went into storage, complete with their original contents of toys, manuals and catalogues. Ten years ago I was excited to have my original collection brought to my house. Everything seemed fine, but I didn’t open them up to see the toys as I had packaged them up as a teenager. I was sure they were safe. They sat on my shelves untouched until one day I noticed that the tape sealing the boxes was brown. I was sure that I had used clear magic tape. I opened one, then another. Every one of my original boxes had been emptied, the contents replaced with cut ends of wood and resealed with brown tape. I know it is petty to mourn the loss of possessions. I did because what the toys represented to my childhood – my escape from the years of abuse. It took a while for me to get over my loss. It became clear what had happened. My half-sister had keys to my parents garage when they had been away at one point. She had gone through my toys and removed the contents of the boxes to pawn for drug money. I remember standing in the room where I had stored them, staring at the cut wood ends. I did what I had always done when stressed or upset. I reached in my pocket and pulled out my R2 unit. You see, when I had that first toy in 1977 I forged a bond – a bond with a piece of plastic in the shape of R2D2. As a result R2 had been with me for many adventures – as a child and as an adult. R2 was there when I endured physical fights in school. I would clutch him as I walked home and it was somehow comforting. R2 was there when I graduated high school, through university and my time living in London. R2 was with my when I was married, and has been to the Soviet Union with me when I was performing. He shared a spot in my Black Knight costume in Scooby Doo 2. R2 accompanied me when I was in the hospital with my dying father, the birth of my children and when I have spent endless hours marking. He was there when I had to take my cat to the vet to be put down, and when I was granted my PhD. R2 has been witness to my greatest achievements and my lowest moments. And though I had boxed up my other toys as a teenager, my childhood attachment to it kept my robot always diligently by my side. And R2 was there when I faced the pile of empty boxes. He has been my touchstone through most of my life. He is well worn, a little deformed from the years of being carried in pockets. He is my constant partner. I have ranted to him when I have been upset and when I have tried to think things out. He has also become a very important part of my story written about abuse. If you ever want to challenge me to his whereabouts all you have to do is ask to see him. He is always either on my, in my house with me or in my car. He is never far away. I know it is materialistic of me, but that first Star Wars gift from my mother, is not only a memory for me, but is also a constant companion. He is my security, my witness to events. R2 is my first toy from the Star Wars series I have owned. He is also now the last one left, having escaped the plight of my other toys being sold for drug money. My R2 is special to me. He represents the hope I had as a child for something new and happier times. He was more importantly a gift from my mother – physical proof of her love for me. If only we knew as adults the power of such moments as children. R2 was at one time my world. Now he is a reminder of my past. He is lovable, loyal and he is my droid.

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One thought on “R2D2 Where Were You?

  1. Bernice Fehr

    What a tender beautiful story! Thank you Nick. Bernice………P.S, When we lived in Nakusp and Rebecca was little, I got to be the projectionist in the movie theatre, and she would come into the room as I worked. It was when there were two big projectors that had to be switched just at the right moment.When Star Wars was playing,it was on a lot longer than most movies, and we never tired of seeing it again and again.

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