Note: An expanded version of this story is now available here.
of The Dark Lord of Sith
When I was seven years old I received the best Christmas present ever: a copy of The Star Wars Storybook. On the inside front cover my parents had written “To Matthew – Merry Christmas in 1978. From Mother and Daddy with lots of love.”
I was fairly certain that this was a gift beyond improvement. But a few months later I saw in the paper that Darth Vader — the Darth Vader! — would be coming to a nearby department store. I begged my mom to take me. She agreed, and we visited the mall on a Saturday afternoon so I could get Vader’s John Hancock.
Upon our arrival we found ourselves at the end of a long line of parents and youngsters eagerly waiting their opportunity to meet Darth Vader. Kids would be allowed to approach Vader singly or in small groups; they would approach and exchange a few words, or ask for autographs, or simply stand there awe-struck. It was like visiting Santa Claus, except the guest of honor was more renowned for breaking necks than for dispensing candy canes. And, to the best of my knowledge, no one sits on Darth Vader’s lap.
As I got closer to the front of the line, I could feel my excitement reach fever pitch. Finally it was my turn. The attendant waved me through, and I rushed forward to meet my anti-hero. But once I actually entered Darth Vader’s Personal Space, I was abruptly cowed. He was huge! And he had exactly the sort of dominating presence you’d expect of an Imperial Dark Lord. I was struck dumb, and stood there like a field mouse that had just spotted an owl.
At some point I managed to squeak out my request — or maybe I just held the book and black marker out, I honestly don’t recall. In any case, Darth Vader took the Storybook, quickly wrote something inside, and handed it back. I stammered out a thank you as we were ushered off to the side.
As we walked away I was filled with combination of terror, relief, and exhilaration. After snapping out of my daze I urged my mother to stop walking so I could see the autograph, and opened the storybook to find the words “Darth Vader” scrawled on the inside cover. I immediately began to proactively gloat, thinking about how jealous my friends would be when I showed them Darth Vader’s autograph. But then, just before I closed the cover, I noticed something else. While signing my book, he had also taken the opportunity to scratch out the word “love” in the inscription “From Mother and Daddy with lots of love.”
Stunned that the Lord of Sith could be so mean I immediately burst into tears, and continued to bawl as my mother led me to the escalator. The kids still in line watched me with curiosity, and then glanced at Darth Vader with fear in their eyes.