We were parked quietly at Walmart waiting on Andrea this afternoon when Clara ambushed me with “The Question”. You know, “The Big One”.
“Dad,” she said softly from the backseat, surrounded by her sleeping sister and brother. “What is Star Wars?”
“Star Wars?” I turned around in my seat and vainly attempted to hold back a smirk. “What are you talking about?”
“You know,” she said. “The thing everyone talks about all the time. It’s a movie or something, right? Can you tell me about it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s not really something I should describe to you. I think maybe you should watch the movies some day yourself. That’s the best way to understand.” But then I considered her age for a moment and did some calculations in my head, “And maybe we should wait a little while though. They are kind of complicated, and I don’t know if you would understand them really.”
“Oh,” she said sadly, turning to look out the window. “But like, what is it all about anyway? Star…. wars?”
Well maybe that was harmless enough. “Okay, well… The story is about a big war in space. And there are good guys and bad guys and good guy heroes and bad guys heroes and they have to all fight each other… in space.”
She thought for a moment. “Well, that’s kind of weird.”
“Is it, weird?”
“Well, yeah. I mean, how could they fight in space? How would that even work?”
“See,” I thought to myself. “She’s too young to even understand my simple explanation. She’s too young to watch the movies.”
“I mean,” she continued. “If they are in space, how do they fight each other? Because, you see, if you are in space, and something else is in space and you push on it, you will both just move away from each other,” she motioned with her hands. “That’s it. Just float away. Unless the other thing is a lot heavier, then when you push on it you will move away and it will stay still. Or the other way around if you are heavier than it is. I think that’s how it works anyway,” she looked back at me, her hands still gesturing to illustrate the junior astrophysics lesson, “So is it just like people pushing each other around in space? And how do they get back after they drift away from each other?”
I was in shock and wasn’t sure how to respond. “No no… Umm. I have no idea how you know so much about space, but this is more like lasers and stuff. Not really pushing. Well, some pushing I guess. But, not a lot of pushing though. Lots of lasers. Yeah… yeah… mostly lasers.”
She furrowed her eyebrows incredulously, “Lasers? Really?”
I sighed, “You know what. Maybe you are old enough to watch the movies. I’m sorry to have underestimated you.”
She smiled and gave me a weird sort of thumbs up that she flicked at with her other hand. It was an, odd, nonsensical gesture that probably made a lot more sense on her home planet where children are born with an innate understand of zero gravity object manipulation and the mind boggling impossibility of an actual war in space.