Things Found In A Midwestern Safe

A couple weekends ago my dad came over at his usual time of 9am for our Saturday coffee and conversation. As he came into the door our miniature schnauzer greeted him with the usual shrieks, barks, and bellows… excited for what grandpa had in the Ziploc baggie for him.

As I was walking to the kitchen to pour us a couple cups of dark roast my dad said “Hey, I’ve got something for you.” “For me?” I replied surprised. I turned back around and dad handed me a Ziploc baggie, much like the one that contained the crunchy cookie bones Otto devoured like a land shark. Inside my Ziploc baggie were relics from the past that I had honestly thought I’d only dreamt of having in my youth.

Dreaming of long lost things that never were is something I tend to do often. The most recent and realistic one was a few years back. I had a dream I’d gone to my parents house. When I stepped into the front door, which steps right into their living room, to the far left corner there was a door way. In reality there is no door way, it’s simply four walls with furniture, end tables, lamps, and a TV right by the door. Straight ahead from the front door is the walkway into the kitchen, and right before the kitchen to the left is the hallway which leads to three bedrooms, a half bath, and two hallway closets. But in this dream there was a secret door way revealed in the living room.

As I walked over to the this secret door way it seemed to have been a hallway decades ago, and I somehow understood that my parents were renovating their home built in the 70s and opened this long lost passageway back up to make something of this hidden, dead space. As I walked in the dusty, musty walkway I found a small closet where there were some toys and baby blankets that had apparently been mine when I was barely old enough to remember. Memories came rushing back; hints of melancholy and nostalgia formed in my brain as did moments of time that were lost to some drywall and paint covering the entrance to these moments. It was a surreal feeling, as if being reminded of something you were a part of yet it was erased from your brain.

I woke from this dream with those dusty toys and baby blankets with their ancient designs of bears and race cars still stuck in my brain. “Were those real? Did I actually own those toys and blankets? Was there a hidden hallway in my parents living room?” The answer is no to all of those questions. Well, I think the toys were just amalgamations of toys I did own as a kid. But there was definitely NOT a hidden hallway in my mom and dad’ house. Four inches into the wall in the living room and you’d be in the kitchen. The laws of physics don’t apply in dreams.

So anyways, back to the baggie.

I looked into the crumpled clear plastic and saw something that made me look twice. Much like those dreams I have, these relics from the early 80s felt like things I’d only imagined in my 8-year old mind. There were two Star Wars patches that I’d gotten back in the summer/fall of 1982. I was a part of the Bantha Tracks, the official Star Wars Fan Club. Being part of the Star Wars Fan Club had its privileges. Such as exclusive posters, merch, and things like crew-only patches. Also, you could buy movie posters and with the bi-monthly reader that came in the mail you could get the scoop on what was happening in George Lucas land before the lame kid next door would.

When I asked my dad where he’d found these treasures he said that he was in their safe looking for his birth certificate because he had to renew his driver’s license. As he dug through the compact closet vault he came across the baggie with the patches, as well as a $50 savings bond that was made out to my older brother. My Grandpa Dale had given it to him back in 1986 as a graduation present. My dad figured it was time to hand these things over to the proper owners.

The safe in question was a thing of mystery to me growing up. Every once in a while I’d sneak into my older brother’s room when he wasn’t home and I’d give the safe a look. It was kept in his closet since he had the most room. I’d use the key to unlock it and lift it’s heavy lid, looking into various envelopes, contracts, and some jewelry boxes. One thing that always entranced me was a single page of a Warsaw Times Union that sat all by its lonesome. The page that sat in there had the movie showtimes at the three local theaters. One of those theaters was the WaWa Drive-In outside of North Webster. It was a XXX Drive-In. I can’t recall the films that were playing, but I remember the thirsty look on the illustrated woman’s face.

Anyways, back to those patches.

I remember four very distinct items I received from the Bantha Tracks club: a movie poster, two patches, and a “signed” head shot from none other that Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher. It was a pic of her in Hoth gear. Would I have preferred her in the Jabba slave outfit? Yeah, but we were still about 6 months from Return Of The Jedi from coming out.

Since this was several months from Return coming out, the patches and the movie poster were donned with something quite unique: ‘Revenge Of The Jedi’, not ‘Return of the Jedi’. I’m sure you already know the movie was supposed to be called Revenge of the Jedi, but Lucas changed it to Return of the Jedi. The story was that Lucas decided that Jedis would not seek revenge, so he changed to something more fitting for the Jedi code. Maybe that’s true, but I don’t think George was all that deep. Personally, I don’t think Lucas wanted his franchise soiled sitting next to other ‘Revenge’ flicks of the early 80s. He didn’t want the Jedi code being tarnished sitting next to Revenge Of The Ninja, Revenge Of The Nerds, or other “revenge” themed schlock like the Death Wish movies or The Exterminator flicks.

So by the time May of 1983 rolled around ‘Revenge’ was just a mere dream, and ‘Return’ was the reality. As a 9-year old it didn’t really matter to me. I just wanted to see the movie and get the toys and fawn over Princess Leia in a BDSM slave bikini. The name change meant nothing. Well, apparently to my parents it may have meant something since those patches ended up in sandwich baggie in their safe for nearly 40 years.

It had been a good 35 years since I’d seen those patches. I think for awhile they lived in my underwear drawer, next to my Dukes Of Hazzard digital watch and an unused Rubik’s Cube. I’m guessing as I got older I didn’t really know what to do with the patches so I quite possibly had handed them over to my mom for safe keeping. I really don’t remember. And at one point I thought one of those patches ended up on a generic red baseball cap. Could there have been another patch? Possibly. But the patches my dad presented to me on that Saturday morning were in mint condition. It’s like I just pulled them out of the mailer direct from Star Wars headquarters.

The Revenge of the Jedi movie poster did get some usage. It hung on my wall in my bedroom for a few years. That is, until I retired the toys and picked up the guitar. Music took over as my biggest time waster, replacing action figures from 3D retail store in town for cassettes from Butterfly Records and Big Wheel in town. It felt like a good trade. Though I didn’t play with the toys, they sat safe and sound in my closet in the boxes they came in.

There was still a strong connection with those toys. They were a wormhole back to a very significant and important time in my life. When toys were an outlet for a sometimes lonely kid who’s big brother was just a little too big(and old) to play “Hoth Battles” and “Death Star Attacks” with his kid brother. The toys let me take charge, get the coal fires burning in my brain and come up with some fun stuff to do on the basement stairs on quiet summer days and rainy weekends.

So when it was time to replace the Jedi movie poster with fold-outs of Dawn Of The Dead, Metallica, and Dokken, my mom took the Star Wars wall hanging, rolled it up, and kept it safe and sound for almost 20 years till December of 2001 when she gave it back to me professionally framed. It’s hung downstairs in the basement studio ever since, and is currently among lots of horror posters and 12″ art inserts from album sleeves.

It hangs in a sort of museum of imagination. Things that give me joy and keep me feeling connected to youth and discovery. A main line through my life back to the early days of obsessing over “things”. From Hot Wheels tracks built from Golden Books that felt like the Indy 500, to Star Wars battles on the basement steps that felt like looking out over infinity instead of piles of dirty laundry; to learning guitar chords and collecting Metal Blade, Relativity, and Shrapnel Records cassettes, and imagining we were playing MSG instead of the damn auditorium at the high school in 11th grade. As long as you don’t live in your past and your obsessions, I think having reminders of those times can be a good thing.

They remind you that at one point in your life you loved something that gave you joy. Something outside yourself, your family, and your ego. Objects that inspired ideas to grow, which inspired maybe a little more research and discovery that opened a whole other portal to something else. Going down the rabbit hole with a band, and digging into the artist’s that inspired the artists you love. Which would lead to a whole new rabbit hole. Reading King led to reading Richard Matheson, HP Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe. And so on. And so forth.

Those patches I imagine will probably end back up in my underwear drawer, next to a Fossil watch that no longer works and some wallet-size photos of my kids from when they were in elementary school. When they were small, but big enough to obsess over books, toys, and worlds of their own making. About the age I was when those patches showed up in the mail for me.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

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