The summer of 1989 was a strange one for me.
I had spent a little less than half the summer hanging around my childhood home in New York City and taking a course at Columbia on the city’s history. For the rest of the summer, I was working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Meson Physics Facility (LAMPF), meaning that I spent about two months living in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
This was a major culture shock for me. Having grown up in New York City and spending my college years in the Boston area, I was very much an east coaster and a city kid. Los Alamos, a town of 20,000 or so people in the Pacific Southwest, challenged me in many ways.
One of those ways was homesickness. I missed my family (that summer was my parents’ 25th anniversary) but I also missed my hometown. I didn’t have a car, so there wasn’t much for me to do in Los Alamos but go to work and go home. Fortunately, there was a good library within walking distance, as well as a bookstore and a movie theatre.
That summer was the summer of “When Harry Met Sally...” and I was incredibly lucky that the local theatre, which had only two movies playing at any time, had gotten this film. I saw it for the first time there, and I went to see it repeatedly because it alleviated my homesickness. Obviously, I got to see New York City over and over, including some wonderful scenes set in bookstores, restaurants, and museums I knew.
But there was also Carrie Fisher. I loved her character Marie; in an odd way, I *knew* her even though she was a little older than I am. I understood who she was and what she was going through, and I was delighted to make her acquaintance that summer. Fisher’s New Yorker was the kind of New Yorker I wanted to spend time with, and thanks to her portrayal, I got to do so, even though I was so, so far from home.
(I think somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this was the same actress who had played Princess Leia, but that was irrelevant.)
I’m not a fan of Fisher’s in the same way many other people are; I didn’t read her books or track down all her roles. But I have always been grateful to her for having been there for me in the summer of 1989. And today, I’m grateful that my daughters have gotten to see her portray a powerful princess who became a powerful general.
May she be remembered for good.