I am JJ: Lightsabers and Back-to-School

This back-to-school photo is upside down to show my support for the foodallergyfund's #thisisnuts campaign!

This back-to-school photo is upside down to show my support for the foodallergyfund's #thisisnuts campaign!

Blog Post #184 — My dad and I had a lightsaber fight Saturday night. I won 3 to 1. It was a hard-fought duel. Lots of running. Some amazing blocks. And laughter that must have had the neighbors looking out their windows and saying, "What's wrong with that family?"

Indeed it must have looked odd. A 49-year-old man chasing his 20-year-old son around the yard with a bright yellow Wiffle Ball bat in the middle of the night. My dad fought a good fight. But in the end I had a bit more stamina. 

It was our annual night-before-school lightsaber fight. This was the 16th duel. 

Every year since Kindergarten, my dad and I would grab the yellow Wiffle Ball bats and meet in the yard on the night before school. It was our tradition, and it's something that stands as a hallmark of my childhood. 

My dad said he first started the tradition to help alleviate some of the pre-school jitters that I had the night before Kindergarten. 

"You were really worried about school, specifically because of the food allergy," my dad recalled recently when I asked him about how it started. "You were sitting in the kitchen in tears, and that's when I looked at you and said, 'It's time to duel!'"

As the years passed, our lightsaber duels became part of our back-to-school routine. As every new school year would approach, we would review our personal, academic and allergy goals for the year and talk about how we plan to accomplish them.

Then we would duel.

As I enter my senior year in college, my back-to-school routine is a bit anticlimactic. In fact, yesterday, I literally packed a few duffel bags and a bunch of shirts on hangers in the car. My mom stayed home. My dad didn't even come into the college apartment when he dropped me off.

Since I am moving back to the same apartment with the same roommates, I don't have to do anything different with my allergy plans. I don't have to let my professors know what I can and can't eat. I already know what I will be eating each day and where.

I still reviewed my personal and academic goals, of course, and I outlined some routines that would help me reach them. 

But the annual lightsaber duel the night before I left — oh, the duel! — was as intense as it was the day my dad and his 5 year-old-boy grabbed Wiffle Ball bats and trekked to the yard for what would become a battle of a lifetime.


JJ Vulopas is a rising senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at www.thelandofcan.com and follow him @thelandofcan on Twitter and Instagram.