“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?”
— Supreme Leader Snoke
Still rubbing the drowsiness out of his eyes, we quickly maneuver our way through the entry way as the gatekeepers have graciously allowed us to enter the park. The additional thirty minutes is crucial, as an unchangeable goal has been set and must be accomplished. Hurriedly, we make our way to the hallowed grounds, only to be halted by more smiling uniformed agents of delay. The wait is excruciating, as we stand in the looming presence of the Armored Transport. The blurry eyes suddenly morphed into large orbs of wonder, as they began to take in the sights and sounds of the amazing world Caleb was about to reenter. As we stood in line, our demeanors shifted and we were suddenly thrust back in time, seven years to be exact.
We both could feel it, there was magic in the air.
Only two questions remain in his path… could Caleb follow instructions? uh, yes of course! was Caleb willing to fight the dark side? this one was harder to answer, as our mischievous nature had slowly aligned ourselves to the side of the 501st and becoming part of Vader’s finest, however, we knew the answer had to be yes to make it through to the next stage. Caleb’s appointment was set, and we quickly hurried our way to take a flight on Star Tours before Caleb could fulfill his destiny.
We both were little kids, giggling and breathing in the world of Star Wars. As we walked past the platform where the Jedi trials would take place, we stared in awe of the massive AT-AT, all while making our way through the queue. We chuckled as C3PO scolded his longtime astromech friend, R2, knowing that both of them are inseparable members our family. Caleb and I settled down in our seats and tightened the seatbelts, and then it happened. BB-8 sent a message saying that we needed to bring the Rebel to safety, an image flashed on the screen. Unbeknownst to me, Caleb is the Rebel Spy! C3PO had to navigate the many worlds of this galaxy, to protect my son. It’s what family must do!
As we landed safely on Naboo and having survived the chaotic journey, you could see Caleb’s smile stretch from one ear to the other. He was 5 all over again. He and I had no cares in the world, as we both existed together, sharing important pieces of our soul. Our conversations became more imaginative, jocular, and ever so aligned with being carefree and happy.
But now the big moment. This feeling caused me to tear up, as I knew that my baby was no longer that, a baby. He was about to finish out a journey that we started together almost a decade ago, and now this moment signifies that he has actually grown up. There is no longer denying this fact.
Caleb sat patiently in his circle, knowing the routine by heart, accepting that he soon was to march his way to the Jedi Temple to complete his training. Then it hit me, there was a kid standing behind him, a baby, a quarter of Caleb’s size, wearing an expression that I had seen in Caleb years before. He looked both excited and terrified and fully embodied where Caleb started as a 5-year-old. This tiny human had no idea of what he was getting himself into, and what awesomeness was about to be unleashed on him. This child signified the alpha, to Caleb’s omega. Where this is my son’s last effort to train to become a Jedi, it was this new boy’s first as a Padawan.
I don’t want to lose my baby. I already miss my little boy.
Caleb walked confidently on stage, towering over most of the kids, and exuded a sense of confidence that I had become accustomed to over the years. When the Jedi Master walked them through their training, Caleb was ready. Through muscle memory, he knew the routine better than any other one out there. He had been preparing for this moment his whole life.
Then the big moment… the Jedi and his Padawan began the trials; Darth Vader emerged from the smoke. One by one, the future Jedi faced their fears and trained against the Dark Lord Sith. Then Caleb stepped forward, and then, as if in an old western, just stared down the ominous cloaked figure. Unphased. We all could sense the ripple in the force. Vader’s presence and aura are colossal, but this did not inhibit Caleb’s bravado. He knew what to do, and would execute, the almost decade’s worth of training, to perfection.
Caleb then finally struck towards Vader’s head, even with the blow being parried away, Caleb knew Vader was no match for him and his skill. No longer a frightened child, he was confident in his ability. I could see his swagger shine through that crooked smile of his, as he looked at me and gave me a thumb’s up. His reassurance that he did it, he won, and no longer needed to worry.
To most people, this event is just a moment of make-believe, meant for little kids to live a fun moment out. To take a step out of their backyard lightsaber battles, and bring it into “reality” for a brief section of time. To Caleb and I this was so much more. This final moment of his childhood has shown Caleb’s growth into a young adult. The first time he battled this character of gigantic, pure evil, I had to give him a talk of encouragement, reducing his fears of being in front people, standing out, and moving past thoughts of failure. He was open and boisterous to all those that knew him well, but to the outside world, he was quiet and reserved. Very timid. He never wanted to leave my side and needed to remain in his comfort zone. But our yearly tradition of battling Darth Vader and other Sith Lords has brought out a side of Caleb, that took him decades to discover. He has become confident, secure, and unwilling to give in to his fears.
As Caleb finally walks down off the stage towards his Jedi master, he is ready to receive his commemorative button and to get his well-deserved heartfelt congratulations on fulfilling the requirements for training. I know that this is the last time I will see him as a little Padawan, and I just do my best to hold back the tears. But Caleb seems to float on air while making his way towards me, and with the biggest smile, he quickly recaps the adventure that he just completed at the Jedi Temple. Even though Caleb looks like an adult compared to all the other children around him, I now see that my little boy will always remain inside. I can’t seem to make out all of what he was saying, but it didn’t matter because we were on our way to take another ride on Star Tours. This time as a full Jedi.
I learned something special that morning, that I will never lose him. He will just level up in life, and we will get to do so many more fun and amazing things together as he grows up. He and I will always have that love and excitement no matter how old we become. We will become closer every day and become a much stronger team, but he will always be my baby.