My son's fourth birthday was fast approaching, and you might say we were ill-prepared.
You'd say that not because our ducks were scattered, but literally, because we were ill. My wife caught the bug on the Tuesday before his Saturday party, and I followed suit by Friday morning. I knew it was going to be a doozy, as she had not yet recovered by the time I got sick. In fact, she kind of still hasn't, and neither have I. (Hence the lack of new movies seen/new blog posts.)
So when I went out on Friday after work to pick up some last-minute party essentials, already feeling an onset of chills, I wanted to kill multiple birds with one excused absence from parenting. That led me to Target, where I intended to purchase a lightsaber.
Star Wars, you see, is a new curiosity in our house in the younger generation. About a month ago, my nearly four-year-old caught sight of a trio of three Lego magnets that were purchased for daddy at a trip to Legoland just a few months before we moved: Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and most interestingly, Darth Vader. Daddy's explanation of Darth Vader soon led to the discovery of "Storm Trippers," who quickly took on the brunt of my son's obsession. Many youtube videos were soon watched.
The Vader and Kenobi Legos, though, each came equipped with a detachable lightsaber. (As did Chewbacca with his own weapon, but that was soon lost.) When I saw how fascinated he was with the lightsabers, an idea sprung that he should have one for his birthday.
But the officially sanctioned lightsaber available at Target -- cool though it most certainly was -- was a whopping $69. I mean, I assume that's whopping. I've never shopped for a lightsaber before, but I can't imagine a similar toy in the U.S. goes for any more than $35. At twice that price, I just didn't know if I could pull the trigger, especially considering the likelihood that he would break it within two weeks. Being in that mindset of just ticking things off our list, though, I almost caved to the pressure to buy it.
In the end, though, I walked away.
And glad I did. My second stop was The Reject Shop, which is Australia's answer to The 99 Cent Store. This was where I was going to gather a bunch of party needs and little gifts for "pass the parcel" (an Aussie tradition that does not bear explaining right now).
Not only did I find those, but I also found ... a lightsaber.
"Light up sword," to be exact. In fact, it's such a generic light up sword that a picture of it doesn't even come up in Google Images when I search by the manufacturer's name (Neo Glo). But a quick test of its power button proved that, indeed, the opaque white shaft did come shimmering to colorful life, just like a lightsaber should -- complete with the swishing sound of it igniting, followed by that moaning electrical hum of the weapon in its default state of readiness.
And that's counting the three AAA batteries that come with it.
Now, my son may be maturing at a sometimes alarming rate, but he's far from being able to tell or care the difference between a genuine lightsaber and a dimestore knockoff. But daddy -- daddy can tell. And the difference is sixty-three dollars.
The "light up sword" came home with me, needless to say.
Not only that, but it proved to be even more worth the six bucks than I could have originally imagined. I knew the sword lit up and I knew it made sounds, but what I didn't know until he opened it was what it did when the blade strikes another surface. Not only does it make that trademark "sabers clashing" sound, but the shaft actually changes color. Starting off at red, it cycles through at least blue and purple before returning to its original color. (I'd tell you more accurately if it weren't currently in the bedroom where he's asleep.)
The best surprise, though, was how much he loved it. Okay, not a total surprise, since I already knew he loved swords, and a sword that's also a laser is even better. But it's still a lovely surprise, so to speak, just to see that look of joy in your son's face when you really score with a present. It's so easy to strike out, and a number of the presents he'd received over the preceding days had done just that with him. Hitting the home run, then, can feel like a wonderful surprise indeed.
And I might have played with it myself once or twice since Monday. I might have. Hey, I never had a lightsaber when I was his age.
Now I'm even more looking forward to furthering his introduction to Star Wars, which figures to take a big step forward with a planned trip to Disneyland in November, possibly followed by some of the movies. After all, he's now older than I was when I first saw the original.
I'd be lying if I didn't tell you there's a small part of me wondering if he should watch all six films in time to see Episode VII in the theater next December.
For now, though, we've got the light up sword that swishes and hums and changes color. That will be enough.