Yes, the name Darth Neighbor is a cheap rip-off of Star Wars evil-doer Darth Vader, but when I was swinging plastic light sabers in the back yard against my 6-year old son and the neighbor kid, I was usually forced to represent the Dark Side of the force. No problem, we all know Lord Vader had the highest Midichlorian count in the Star Wars universe, so it stands to assume the Dark Side would have ruled my neighborhood as well.
Always cast as the villain, I created a dark Star Wars persona of my own, that of Darth Neighbor, the ultimate power not only in my back yard, but possibly in all of the Providence Ridge housing development.
My own interest in Star Wars ended with Return of the Jedi and the destruction of the second Death Star, however the release of The Phantom Menace inspired a new generation of fans in the franchise (not me though), and inspired the galactic battles that raged in my yard after I got home from work. And of course, only after those little Jedi nuts had finished any homework assignments for the day.
The battles usually took less time than it took the Millenium Falcon to complete the Kessel Run, were always un-choreographed, usually just me chasing a couple of pint-sized wannabe Jedi Knights around the yard, through swing sets, around bushes and trees, between cars, whatever obstacle they could run around or hide behind. But unlike Star Wars, in the universe called my back yard, the Dark Side always prevailed.
Just as Old Ben Kenobi had buried the memories of his days as Obi-Wan, I also forgot about my days as the ass-kicking Darth Neighbor. Until this year, when my daughter reminded me of those days when she sent me my personalized magic band for my trip down to see her at Disney World.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Katie is like a Star Wars historian, but she’s also a pretty good athlete. And she knew the one way to guarantee my attention was to pull out the hockey net and it wouldn’t be long before I showed up. To her credit, she also padded up and laced on her roller blades for those father/daughter games in our driveway; so how could I ignore that much effort?
When my son and the neighbor kid played, the games deteriorated into watching two Tasmanian Devils hitting the ball everywhere but at the net. It was their own out-of-control brand of “dump and chase” hockey, and like two Unmoored ships in a hurricane, they crashed into each other often and knew no boundaries of any kind, and it went on until one of them slashed the other hard enough in the shins or on the hand with their stick. This usually sent the aggrieved party home or back in the house for first aid or to have a sandwich and a glass of milk or some damn thing, leaving just my daughter “Skates” and me to practice our slap shots and our triple deeks.
And when that box with the magic bands arrived, she also reminded me of the times when father/daughter fun was spent just shooting pucks at a net in my driveway…just the two of us.