The seven year old, T2, is obsessed with Star Wars. As I write this he is sitting on the floor, a bunch of Star Wars books spread out in front of him, making lists of all of the things inside of them that he wants. The list currently reads: Classic Speeder, IG-101, Star Destroyer, War Shield, and Zenoti Arms HB-9.
Please understand, he doesn’t want the toy version of these things. He wants the actual things. I don’t think a Star Destroyer will fit in our one car garage, especially since it is already pretty full of baby formula (for C’s job) and sporting equipment but I really love the sentiment. His room is covered in Star Wars stuff. He is going as General Grievous for Halloween. He is a nut for Star Wars.
I love it. I was a nut for Star Wars. Actually, I am currently wearing a t-shirt with an advertisement for the Corellian Engineering Corporation’s YT-1300 Freighter, the starship class of the Millennium Falcon, so I guess I still am a nut for Star Wars. I’ve seen the movies (the original three) more times than I can count. Empire is my favorite movie ever. When I was five or so I took a pair of scissors and cut a part into my hair so I would look more like Luke Skywalker. For years I would, at random intervals but at least two or three times a week, put the Star Wars soundtrack on my family’s record player, tie my blanket around my neck, and solemnly march the length of our kitchen. My long suffering mother would be waiting at the far end, a cardboard medal on a string in her hand, ready to put it around my neck for services rendered to the Rebel Alliance. So yeah, I love Star Wars and love that he loves Star Wars. This led to a funny conversation and a brief but intense crisis of faith.
We were sitting at breakfast. He was eating oatmeal and looking at a book I gave him that has diagrams of a bunch of the ships and vehicles from the movies. I am having coffee.
“I like the AT-AT,” he said. The AT-AT is a land vehicle that looks like a gigantic mechanical camel. The Empire used them to assault the rebel base on Hoth at the beginning of Empire. When T2 talks about them, he pronounces each letter individually, like “a tee a tee.”
“It’s pronounced AT-AT,” I say, without really looking over at him. I say it like it is the word “at” twice, making it rhyme with “cat-cat.”
He is quiet for a minute.
“Are you sure?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say. Of course I’m sure. I’m a 37 year old man. Star Wars has been the major cultural influence on my life. It’s like my religion. I know how to say AT-AT.
“How do they say it in the movies?” T2 asks.
“Well,” I say, “they don’t. They refer to them as Imperial Walkers. But still, it’s pronounced AT-AT.”
He is quite for another minute. I’m really not paying attention to him but I am subconsciously aware of him flipping the pages in the book. Then he begins to dismantle my world view.
“How do you say this?” he asks, pointing to another vehicle. It’s the two legged version of the AT-AT, designed for scouting. It’s faster and holds only a few troops. It was featured heavily during the Battle of the Moon of Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi, where a bunch of them went up against the Ewoks.
It’s called the AT-ST.
I don’t know how to say AT-ST.
What I do know is that saying AT-ST like T2 would say AT-ST, by which I mean “a tee s tee” makes a fuckload more sense than my…my what? “At est?” That sounds ridiculous.
“Errrr,” I stammer. “I don’t know. I guess…I guess you say it ‘a tee s tee”
“So,” says T2, “you say this one like I say AT-AT, but you say AT-AT different.”
“Right,” I say lamely.
T2 has piercingly blue eyes. He’s seven, but women love T2. Grown women, teenaged girls, baby girls…they literally coo over him. All he has to do is blink his eyes at them and they will do mostly whatever he wants. And he knows it. It’s annoying. I’m pretty sure I’m his favorite person in the world, which is great. We have all sorts of awesome adventures. Right now those blue eyes are looking right at me and the expression is an amused, older than his years “wow are you full of shit” look.
“Eat your oatmeal,” I tell him. He flipped through his book.
“Patrick,” he says, tugging at my sleeve. He’s pointing at a picture of the universe’s most famous Astromech droid. “You say his name R2-D2. You say all the letters and numbers you don’t say it like it is a couple of words.”
He’s right. I mean, he’s completely right. I’m sitting at our island in the kitchen wondering if, for my entire adult life, I’ve been misprouncing AT-AT. If you aren’t into Star Wars you have no idea what a big deal this is. It was potentially a reverse Paul on the Road to Damascus moment. It was a tenant of my life that AT-AT was said the way I had been saying it and now, at 9:37 on a Sunday morning, I had been more or less convinced by a seven year old that the last thirty or so years of my life had been a complete sham.
“Yes,” I said, feeling very fragile, “you are right about that.”
“But, AT-AT,” he said, saying it like I did.
“I don’t…I don’t know.”
“Hmm,” he said. Nothing else. Just “hmmm.”
“Okay,” I said. “Get my iPad.”
He jumped down, ran into the family room and grabbed my iPad. I sat there, my mind racing, wondering what else that I was certain about was completely and totally wrong. Maybe The Great Gatsby was terrible. Maybe the Old Absinth House wasn’t the best bar on the planet. Perhaps the Godfather was overrated. Eli, eli, lama sabachtani.
T2 brought me my iPad. I Googled “How do you say AT-AT.” I was surprised and a little weirded out to see that Time Magazine had done an article on exactly that subject.
“HA!” I said, way too enthusiastically. “Ha! I’m right, you say it AT-AT, like ‘at’ twice! Time Magazine called up Lucasfilm and asked them! HA!”
“What is Lucasfilm?” T2 asked.
“It’s the people who made the movies,” I said. I suddenly felt a bit silly. I was sitting with my arms raised above my head in victory.
“Well,” T2 said, looking at me with one eyebrow raised. “Okay then.”
He hopped down and took his bowl over to the sink.
“Can I have a glass of milk?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, “yeah, you can have a glass of milk.”