Here’s how I remember it. As a little fellow, I had one of the original Han Solo Star Wars figures. It was the model made by Kenner. Han had that cool black vest over the white shirt, just like in the first movie. Of course, neither his elbows or knees would bend, and his action figure pals, Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, all had light sabers that literally slid out from inside their arms. No matter. They were all super-cool and, to me, Han Solo was the coolest. Still is.
I would have been 3 years old when the original Star Wars movie (now referred to as “A New Hope”) was released to theatres in 1977. That would make me only 4 by the time those Kenner toys were released and available. Viewed in this fashion, I’m hoping you’ll be able to see it as not inappropriate, then, that I used to regularly take my Star Wars action figures, Han Solo and all, into the bathtub with me.
As for what happened next, well, I don’t recall the specific circumstances. And even if Mom, Dad or my sisters declared that they knew, I think I’d choose to chalk up their recollections as hazy as well. But what I know for sure is that, after one particular watery cleansing session, Han Solo’s head was gone.
I’m pretty sure it came off and went down the drain.
The specific details are lost to time. I have 37(ish) years of life experience between that particular event and the person I am now. And if Han’s head did in fact swirl away with the bath water, can you blame me for blocking that from my immediate memory recall?
I know for sure that I used to have a headless Han Solo figure. Oh, I wished I could have had a new one, of course, but that not being in the cards, I played with him anyway. I loved Han Solo that much. Han Solo without a head was better than any full-bodied character. Certainly I cannot be the only person to feel this way? Or perhaps I was just the only one with a Star Wars character figure that could have doubled as the villain after Ichabod Crane, and so I made the best of it.
The exact amount of time I played with my headless Han Solo is also a detail lost to time. And so is the recollection of the exact year that I accidentally dropped him down the storm sewer on the street in front of our childhood home. I tried to fish him out with an impromptu rod made of string tied to a popsicle stick. Alas, what remained of my headless Han Solo was then gone for good.
I wasn’t able to get another one of those Han Solo figures. But he’s never stopped being my favourite character.
Some two decades after that, the original Star Wars films were re-released to theatres. To accompany the occasion, a new line of action figures were put to market under the brand line “Power of the Force.” The characters all looked like they’d been jacked up on human growth hormone. But I didn’t care. I bought one of all the original main characters, including, of course, Han Solo. This time, I left him in the package to ensure his head held tight. No bathtubs. No storm sewers. He and the others are still locked away in a box somewhere.
In the many years since then, I acquired a few other Han Solo action figures, like the version that has him in Stormtrooper armour. For that one, his helmet is removable, but his head remains intact. At least I think it does. I’ve never taken it out of the package.
This past weekend, I took my two sons with me to see the new Star Wars film (“The Force Awakens”). Of course, Han Solo is a key character in the film, the same one I’ve loved since I was a single-digit bathtub-dwelling ankle-biter back in the day. To see Harrison Ford play that part again was like being reunited with that miniature, so very innocent version of myself. It was a joy. I’ve little doubt there are many other people who can relate.
But the most special part of the weekend was not seeing the film, even though that was fantastic. No, the best part was the day before, when my 12-year-old son presented me with an “early” Christmas present that he went out and purchased, all by himself, and with his own money. He wanted me to have it to get “excited” for the new movie.
Here’s what he gave me:
The next day, he lamented that he didn’t know the figure he’d purchased was actually a bobblehead. We only discovered this because I immediately took Han Solo out of the packaging and put him on display in our home. Han’s head wobbled. My stomach tightened for a moment, but all proved to be well.
At my son’s somewhat ironic observation, I could only give him a hug and chuckle. I told him not to worry, that even if Han’s bobbling head should fall off, I would still love him anyway, and had the resume to prove it.
But what I love most was that he would even grant me such a kind and thoughtful gesture. The moment I opened his gift, his eyes sparkled at knowing he’d given me something that instantly reconnected me with my younger self. The Force is strong in that one. And he gave me the gift of a little Christmas magic.
Harrison Ford looked a lot older in the new film, of course, but he’s still the same person that portrayed my favourite character all those decades ago. And though I may now have parental responsibilities, a career and a home to care for, I am still the same guy who loved and appreciated being able to imagine his own adventures with an action figure representing the character Ford played. Even without a head.
Han Solo is still in my house. And thanks to my son and the timing of the film, I believe I’ve just experienced what Christmas is supposed to feel like for the first time a long, long time.
And May the Force Be With You.