The Force of Nostalgia

Sarah M. Chenby Sarah M. Chen

New Year’s is always the time when we look back on the previous year and reflect, but I’m going to do things a little differently here. I’m going all the way back to my childhood. Why? Because I went to see the new Star Wars.

It wasn’t something I had to go see right away nor was I even sure I would see it in the theater. I was willing to wait until it came out on DVD. But then some friends were going to see it and I figured, why not? Plus they were seeing it at a theater I used to go to a lot while I was a UCLA student. I figured it’d be fun to check out the theater, hang out in my old stomping grounds, and see a film that reminded me of my childhood.

Now when I was a kid, I loved all the Star Wars films. I didn’t buy the action figures or anything. But I was in love with Luke Skywalker and wanted to be Princess Leia. I saw all three films and loved every single one of them.

Then I saw Phantom Menace several years ago and wasn’t blown away. The critics weren’t either and many Star Wars fans weren’t happy. I didn’t even bother seeing the second and third ones. I wasn’t sure if I lost interest in the films because I was no longer a kid or was it because of the mediocre acting and boring storyline?

So when I went to see The Force Awakens, I was somewhat cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately, I had both a good and bad experience. The bad was that we were seeing it in 3D. I have never seen a film in 3D. But when I saw we were two rows from the front, I grew concerned. I can’t stand watching movies this close when it’s 2D so I wasn’t sure how I was going to do with 3D.

3d glassesI didn’t do very well. I was so distracted by the 3D that I kept taking the glasses off. I eventually had to leave the theater for a bit to give my eyes and my head a break. I didn’t really see the benefits of 3D either. Nothing seemed to be shooting out at me and I didn’t feel immersed in the world. It was more like things were out of focus in some parts of the screen and too close in others.

But I enjoyed the storyline, and aside from the headache, I felt transported back to my youth. I decided I just need to see it again with no interruptions, sit several rows back, and without the wonky 3D images.

Then the other day I had another trip down memory lane and this time, there were no headaches. There’s this fantastic children’s bookstore in Tustin, CA called Once Upon a Storybook. I love buying books for friends’ kids as well as for all my cousins back in Canada so I’m there quite a bit.Once Upon a Storybook

During this recent store visit, I came across a shelf I’d never seen before. It was labeled “Children’s Classics.” As I poked around, memories of reading these books came flooding back and I couldn’t help grinning. There were all the Narnia books, the Velveteen Rabbit, and a lovely copy of LITTLE WOMEN.

Then I came upon my absolute favorite books as a kid. Ones I read over and over so much that the spine of the book turned white from so many creases. They were A LITTLE PRINCESS and THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I knew I must buy these for my cousin Eva even though she was a little too young to enjoy them but I would save them for her.

Frances Hodgson Burnett booksThen I spotted the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series. I had all the LITTLE HOUSE books as a kid and used to pretend I was Laura Ingalls Wilder running through the tall wild grass. I would beg my mom to buy me the cool lace-up boots and sew me a gingham skirt and bonnet. She thought I was nuts.Little House on the Prairie

Now all three books are sitting on my bookshelf and I stare at them proudly and wonder if I’m going to be able to part with them in a couple years when Eva is old enough to appreciate them. I have a feeling I’m going to buy duplicates.

So is it our cherished memories that make us nostalgic for those movies and books we loved in our youth? Or is it the timeless storyline and characters that draw us in again and again? I wondered if I re-read A LITTLE PRINCESS and THE SECRET GARDEN now, would I enjoy them as much? I think so, but just to be sure, I’m going to re-read them as soon as I’m done writing this post.


Sarah M. Chen juggles several jobs including indie bookseller, transcriber, and insurance adjuster. Her crime fiction short stories have been accepted for publication online and in various anthologies, including All Due Respect, Akashic, Plan B, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Betty Fedora, Issue Two, Spelk, and the Sisters in Crime/LA anthology, Ladies Night. Her noir novella, Cleaning Up Finn, is coming out May 2016 with All Due Respect Books.

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