I was only 4 when the original Star Wars movie bowed in theaters on May 25, 1977, and so, I don't really have a solid memory of seeing it. I do, however, remember watching it several times over on recording over the years, and becoming more eagerly involved in the entire saga as I grew with it. I remember feeling utterly gutted when in Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo disappeared into the carbon freezing chamber, looking so anguished as he tried to capture Leia's face in his memory, fighting to keep her gaze until he was no longer able to see. I also remember the utter fun and joy that Return Of The Jedi was, from the first introduction of Wicket the Ewok to the Battle of Endor, and how heartstopping I felt the action between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the Emperor was at the time. It was 1983, and I was 10; I'd been an avid collector of all things Star Wars already for several years - I'd gotten my collectors' badge in Brownies because of my rather impressive and mounted collection of Star Wars trading cards.
It's hard for me to envision a world where I hadn't had the influences of Star Wars to fall back on. It's one of those films which I still watch endlessly today; it's the interactions between Luke and Obi-Wan where I can now look back and see the thread of the relationship growing, and the esteem that Mark Hamill held Sir Alec Guinness in even then. It's the swift interplay between Carrie Fisher, who at just 19 commanded presence in a way that no other actress probably could at the time, and Harrison Ford, verbally sparring on screen while the romance between the two percolated just under the surface of the characters' dialogues. It's the ultra-cool droids, aliens and ships - I used to think that I'd want my own R2-D2, and who wouldn't want their own personal translator in the guise of a shiny golden droid, with an English accent, no less.
I also loved the thought of having a buddy like Chewie; even though you couldn't understand a word that Chewbacca said to Han Solo, you could tell the affection between the two of them was sincere, and fueled part of the fun that was Star Wars. Did I figure the series would last as long as it has? Sure - that was the naive hope of a starstruck, sci-fi loving kid who spent hours using sticks as lightsabers with her neighbors as they tore through neighborhoods, imagining that we were Jedi fighting off some sort of evil. There were also times that we just re-enacted the movie, whether it was the original or the sequels. We didn't care; Star Wars gave us magic in a way that few other things had done at that time, and we reveled in it.
Now, 40 years and two children later, I still turn to Star Wars when I need an escape. I don't go with the Special Edition, either. Much as I could appreciate what George Lucas had done with his classic film in the Special Edition series, the original film is what triggers the inner kid for me. I remember stretching out to watch it with both my girls years ago; I was practically giddy with excitement, eager to share this special part of my childhood with them, and while they're not quite at the level of fandom I once was, it has very definitely become a part of our family, as it should be. There are jokes, reactions to classic scenes, and of course, eager anticipation for what's to come next in the Star Wars universe.