GRASS VALLEY, CALIFORNIA — Billy Finnegan has been trying desperately for over 30 years to get Travis, his older brother, to let go of an incident from their childhood that resonates to this day.
“I was a six year old kid back then,” Billy tells us. “How the fuck was I supposed to know that something I did at that age would haunt my brother and me for the rest of our days? If I had known then what I know now, of course I’d have done it differently.”
At issue? A trade of Star Wars action figures back in 1984. Billy says that one day in first grade he and a friend he doesn’t even keep in contact with anymore decided to swap an Admiral Ackbar figure for Wicket the Ewok figure. The only problem? Billy didn’t technically own the Ackbar he was trading away, Travis did. When Billy returned home from school and proudly showed his brother what he’d acquired, Travis’s face dropped, and he began yelling.
“What? WHAT DID YOU DO, BILLY? You traded my Ackbar,” Travis asked with incredulity and some nine year old tears forming in his eyes. “I just got Ackbar! And you traded him for some cheapy-ass Ewok? If I wanted a short Wookiee, I’d have just cut my Chewbacca in half, Billy!”
Almost immediately Billy says he felt terrible, gnawing remorse in the pit of his stomach. He tried in vain to comfort Travis, and tell him he’d make it better, but Billy says the die was cast.
“I’ll go and tell Scott I want the Ackbar back,” Billy said he told his brother. “But Travis was so pissed at me by then he said it didn’t matter. He said it was even worse that I’d try to do backsies on a trade and that I’d bring shame to the whole family if I did.”
For the past 34 years, every so often Billy tries his hardest to broach the subject of the Ackbar trade, and to bring himself closer to his brother.
“I’ll take him out to a game, buy him some beers, and try to talk about the Ackbar,” Billy says, “but he just tells me he doesn’t want to talk about it. Ackbar’s his favorite character in the whole franchise, which is definitely pretty unique. So it was really devastating to him to lose that figure. I get that. I just wish I could fix it all for him.”
Billy even tried something drastic.
“I tracked down an original, still on the card Ackbar figure, paid $300 for it, and gave it to Travis for his birthday about five years ago,” Billy said. “That was a bad idea. It just dredged up the memory of the Ackbar I traded, and Travis didn’t speak to me for another six months after that.”
Though he’s been rebuffed at every turn, Billy says he fully intends to keep trying to reach closure with Travis, no matter what it takes.
“Look, in 2002 I arranged a meeting between Travis and the guy who played Ackbar in the movies, and Travis still didn’t budge,” Billy said. “But I won’t give up. That’s one of the themes of Star Wars! Never give up, always have hope. Well, I hope one day my brother can forgive me for trading away his action figure when we were kids.”
Travis would not agree to be interviewed for this story.