The lightsaber: An elegant weapon for a more civilized 4-year-old

Island Packet — Kids these days, they just don’t know how good they have it. They have the YouTubes, they have the orange and purple iPods, they have the Wii, with that little remote control you wave around to make that gelatinous snowman that’s supposed to be a tennis player on the TV do tennis-y things.

They have movies like “Cars” and “Wall-E” instead of “The Dark Crystal” and those Ewok TV movies that had Wilford Brimley in them for some reason. They have G.I. Joes whose thumbs don’t snap off the minute you try to put a gun in their hands, they have “Star Wars” characters that aren’t decorated with lead paint and make you experience brief but colorful hallucinations when you chew on them (um, according to my friend Chuck, who, er, was the one who did). Most importantly, they have freaking sweet lightsabers.

As I have spent years arguing to friends, my parents and the Kenner corporation, the lightsabers that my brother and I were forced to use as children were terrible. They were made of low-quality plastic tubing that had air holes in them, which were supposed to make the lightsaber sound when whooshed through the air, but instead made a humiliatingly underwhelming sort of pfft noise, like a squirrel hooked up to a breathing machine. If you banged them against each other hard enough, at least one would break into about a dozen sweatshop-made pieces on the ground, resulting in at least one blubbery, crying Jedi. They were awful, and ruined a not-insignificant portion of my childhood.

I bring this up because last weekend we attended a birthday party for Jake’s friend Kyle, a young 6-year-old Padawan. Kyle has been known to come by the house sometimes a half-dozen times a day; he rambles around the neighborhood on his bike in constant search of playmates, red juice and Jake’s lightsaber, which Jake got for Christmas last year from friends at the paper, in what, somewhat pathetically, is a rite of passage where I come from, which is a land of incredibly aggressive dorks in which no one can hold his liquor but everyone makes sure his action figures are lined up on the shelf just right. Getting a lightsaber was a BIG DEAL for the Vrabels. There was, like, a little ceremony, and cupcakes. I believe I’ll stop talking about this now.

Anyway, Jake’s lightsaber is a blue one, which I am told indicates “Luke Skywalker,” so we bought Kyle a red one, to indicate “Darth Vader.” (Hilariously, Kyle got two more lightsabers from his own family that day as well. If you’re looking to send your child to a nice Jedi academy south of the Broad, I can totally give you a number.)

And not to sound too jealous about this, but Jake and Kyle’s lightsabers are AWESOME. They ignite in a legitimate-looking fashion, they make the cool hruhuhhhhnnhm sound effects when you swing them around, they make the sparks-on-hot-metal noise when you smack them into something (Jake’s favorite targets, in order, are the couch, the coffee table and the back of my left knee).

And yet all is not lost. A few weeks back, a friend — the same character who bought Jake his lightsaber — brought over something I didn’t even know existed: lightsabers for grown-ups. Evidently, if you frequent the Internet, have some cash tucked in a bag in the closet and all sorts of adolescent issues you’re still working on, you can purchase Real Live Lightsabers, or at least as close as you can get under current physics laws.

So for a few glorious minutes, and by “minutes” I mean “hours,” I and several friends with a great many lingering issues regarding adulthood battled each other in the backyard, practicing for that day, that one glorious day, when maybe we can take on Jake and Kyle.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

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