A long time ago in a galaxy far…okay, you’ve heard that one already. But, my story is just as epic (in my mind anyway), especially since it involves my mother, and none other than Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.
I grew up in a tiny town in Wisconsin called Waterloo. When Star Wars came out in 1977, Waterloo’s population was about two-thousand people. The population now: three-thousand and some change. You get my drift: small, farming community in the land of milk, cheese, friendly people, and a take no shit, tell it like it is, gets the job done woman, my mother, Mary Ann Archie.
In 1977, Star Wars played for months at our one-screen theater in Waterloo called The Mode. My Mom would take us every weekend. As a kid, The Mode was more than a theater to me, it was a transport device that carried me all over the world by way of the movies. With Star Wars, it took me into another galaxy.
I can’t count how many times I saw Star Wars in 1977 because I don’t have enough fingers. But, I do remember, with each Star Wars film through 1983, I was a young teenager and smitten beyond belief with Mark Hamill. So much so that I inscribed with a permanent marker on the metal light pole in front of our house…Laurie Loves Mark Hamill. Naturally, I drew a heart around it, arrow included. I thought for sure if I made my love known to the Waterloo townsfolk and to the galaxy, maybe the Force would be with me and bring Mark Hamill to my little town of Waterloo and rescue me to more exciting places.
After graduating high school, I left Waterloo in hyperdrive. I was a budding musician and actress looking for new adventures. My aspirations took me to Minneapolis, Austin, New York City, and eventually landing in Los Angeles. All along the way, my mom would cheer me on from her stoop in Waterloo, encouraging me to reach for the stars. Until one day the stars came to her.
Lightspeed ahead to 2001-2002. Mom is still living her content life in Waterloo, and I’m now residing in Los Angeles, a struggling musician, and actress. The light pole and my admittance of love for Mark Hamill lost in my memory banks. Until Mom calls and announces the unbelievable. Mark Hamill is in Waterloo. He is filming a movie called Reeseville. Just a fact: Reeseville is another little town in Wisconsin. Just up the road from Waterloo. Population: Even smaller than Waterloo.
I recall the manic phone call as such:
“Laurie, Mark Hamill is in Waterloo. I can’t believe this! Mark Hamill! He’s here to film a movie. In little Waterloo! I wonder if he’ll eat at the diner? Do you want me to get his autograph? I’ll tell him about the light pole!”
I’m now a thirty-four-year-old woman reduced to an embarrassed teenager. I plead, “Oh, Mom! No, that’s crazy! I forgot about the light pole! No, no. Please, that’s not necessary.”
“But, Laurie. He’s Mark Hamill. And you’re someone too! You’re a musician and actress. I’ll bring him your headshot.”
“Oh, God, Mom, no. That’s just too much.”
“Nothing is too much for me, Laurie. I’ll get that autograph. You just wait,” she says and hangs up. Oh, crap.
Now, I’m horrified as I think she’ll just embarrass herself. I’m truly no-one, and for her to parade over to him with my headshot and declare my importance? And my adolescent love for him? Dreadful.
Reassuring myself, I think, I’ve been around the business enough to know there will be some form of security, a barricade, some type of force between her and Mark Hamill. Even in Waterloo. She won’t get near him. More importantly, I don’t want her feelings hurt. But then again, she is a force to reckon with. She is no daisy. Well, I think, May the Force be with you, Mom.
Days pass, and I don’t hear anything from Mom about Mark Hamill or the galaxy for that matter. I assume she didn’t meet him and had chosen to not confess her failure. Until I check the mail. There I find an 8 ½ x 11 manila envelope addressed in my mother’s handwriting to Laurie Marks. Also, there are multiple DO NOT BEND notices on it. Notable point…Laurie Marks is the stage name I used at the time, and it’s the name on the headshot Mom presumably put into the correct hand(s) to get an autograph from Mark Hamill. Hence, the contents of the manila envelope.
His autograph, on an 8 ½ x 11 piece of white paper, not only has his signature but his profession of love for me (okay, remember the fantasy part and the light pole here, people): Mark Hamill LOVES LAURIE MARKS! Yes, with an exclamation mark. He includes the heart around our names and the arrow. Jeez, he even went a bit further and included scalloped edging. I didn’t even do that on the pole! Damn, this guy is good. Well, he IS Luke Skywalker.
Impressed by his detailed autograph, I think…either he is that generous and with a good sense of humor to draw the heart and/or my mom is as persuasive and persistent as I know she is and he indulged her. Or, how about both.
She would never tell me the details on how she obtained the autograph, and I never pushed, honoring her cunning skills to follow through on something in which she sets her mind. She would only say, “I waited a long, long time but it was worth it, to get it for you.”
So, thank you, Mark Hamill. Oh, pause, can I call you Luke? Okay, sorry. Continuing…Thank you, because this is my first Mother’s Day without her. She passed in June 2016. Finding your autograph only reminds me how cool you are and how special she was – the actual force in our family.
And if by chance you did meet her in person that day in Waterloo, then you met a great broad. But, if she got your autograph through security, staff, and/or bribes (an offering of booze, cigarettes or a good joke), that is okay too. It doesn’t matter. The message of the light pole got to you, and your response made her day. You brought her to a more exciting place. And in return, my reward – a happy and star-struck Mom and the knowledge she would do anything for her family.
Oh, lastly and not lost on me at all, my long-time fantasy also fulfilled: a heart-shaped message, from Luke Skywalker, complete with an arrow. I guess the galaxy was listening.