Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Memory Inventory: Chewbacca

When I was a freshman at Bishop Ireton High School, I discovered I had a talent that few people could claim: I could vocalize like a wookie.   On the bus one day riding to school, we were discussing Star Wars and I let loose a vibrating bellow that was a dead-on Chewbacca from the movies.  For the next three years I produced these sounds on demand for the upperclassmen and then, whenever my friends asked as I neared graduation.  I had many nicknames at the time, and “Chewbacca” became one of them.  

I cultivated and honed my ability through high school and took it with me to college.  I never missed an opportunity to release my inner wookie.   Did it make me more popular or win me more friends?  Probably not.  But it did make me stand out from the pack just a little bit more.  We all have our little things.  Bellowing like a wookie was one of mine.  

I played Chewbacca in a ridiculous variety show my choir used as a fundraiser.  My costume consisted of a brown suede jacket, a belt tossed sideways across my shoulder, and the huge mop of hair I was sporting at the time (another one of my “things”).  Well, as a result, that year for our choir’s Secret Santa Christmas thing, my Santa got me a Chewbacca Pez dispenser and a Chewbacca action figure (from The Empire Strikes Back; he was all covered in snow from the ice planet “Hoth”).  To this day they have remained in a box full of little memories that I have just never gotten rid of.  

I guess I just don’t want to forget certain things, but this little box of stuff has followed me from DC to New Haven to Middletown, CT and back to DC again.  It is time to come clean.  Chewbacca was part of my adolescence that made me feel special, like swimming and singing and drawing.  I could make a lot of weird noises, and Chewbacca was my favorite.  No one else could do it like me.  I’ve even tried teaching people (“just vocalize ‘ahhh’ as you vibrate your soft palate”) but no one gets it like I do.  As an adult, I don’t go all wookie nearly as often as I used to, but I still can.  It’s one of my things.  I’ll never really give it up.  Even if I toss those silly toys in the trash right now, those memories, now committed to the permanent record of digital type, will stay here with me forever.

I have a lot of extra stuff like Chewbacca that I have never bothered to get rid of.  I have sketch books full of old drawings (some of which I’ve posted on this blog), ancient toys and photographs of none but sentimental value.  I have a microphone stand I’ve never used and books I’ll never read again.  Part of the reason we keep these things is because looking at them causes old neural pathways to fire again and strengthen; they are not the memories, but the things actually reignite our memories and strengthen them.  Of course, another way to keep our memories is to write them out, scan them in, or tell someone else.  That’s what I’ll do here from time to time.  I hope those of you who visit don’t mind if I indulge myself once in a while.

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