Anthony Breznican
February 07, 2012 AT 08:15 PM EST

In just three days, audiences can head to theaters to see the re-release of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 3-D. Regardless of how you feel about the much-maligned prequel, there’s no denying the Star Wars franchise made more than an impression on millions of moviegoers who experienced the magic of the first three films in theaters or on their TV screens. This week, EW‘s writers will be celebrating their complicated relationship with George Lucas’ beloved, yet contested, franchise with a series we call “How Star Wars changed my life.” And for those of you headed to the theaters this Friday… may the force be with you.

I’m just going to say up front: Yoda started it.

© & TM Lucasfilm, Ltd

It was the summer of 1980, early evening, and my dad and I were walking to Trzeciak’s Market, one of those small-town corner stores that only seem to sell three things: candy, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. At that age, traveling four blocks on foot was an epic journey, even in our quiet, tree-lined western Pennsylvania town of New Kensington. There was no danger, unless you considered squirrels dangerous. I considered myself something of a badass. I still had that little kid swagger (the kind bigger kids knock out of you as soon as you start school).

Three doors down from our house, someone was watching us. A little dark-haired boy was kneeling in the grassy slope of his front yard. As we got closer, I could see he had propped himself up with a stick and had a brown blanket draped over his head, which he clutched under his chin to make a hood.

MMMmmm! Greetings!” the boy declared in a kind of swallowed, falsetto voice. “Me Yoda, Jedi Master!”

I remember stopping as he shuffled on his knees toward us, leaning on his makeshift cane. I looked up at my dad, then over to this unusual kid, who was almost exactly my age, and lived on my block, but somehow thought he was speaking to us from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

“Shut up,” I sneered.

After a moment, I pulled on my dad’s hand and we kept walking.

NEXT PAGE: How I knew that wasn’t the REAL Yoda….

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