Sunday, January 10, 2016

We're Off to See The Wizard…

It's hard to imagine the ludicrousness of writing about "how great the Wizard of Oz is," and yet, here I go.

I always assumed it would be the first movie she saw. That turned out to be Cool Hand Luke, but you can't control everything, am I right?

Having just returned from Vietnam, having missed Christmas, having missed New Year's, having missed my girls on these special occasions, I've been having the most wonderful time, these 48 hours since coming back to Kansas, er, Kentucky, I mean. And all day long for some reason, I kept thinking "Maybe it's time. Maybe tonight." I kept this opinion to myself, as I've learned to do with a four-year-old because once THAT idea gets out of the bag (or the wicker basket, let's just keep belaboring this), it AIN'T going back in. After a day of napping, wrestling, snacking, frolicking, reading, errand-running, and playgrounding, we come back home and Libby Lee, who's upstairs with Lucy, calls down: "Daddy? Can we watch A MOVIE tonight?"

It cost well over $2 million to make, and
earned just over $3 mil. It was a flop.
This is not a question often heard in our house — though that question is certainly soon to be heard more.

Lucy and I have been very tight-fisted where screens, TV and movies are concerned with Libby Lee. I just feel like those things are forever once they've been made, so why rush into them? That having been said, I've been waiting for this since Libby Lee was the tiniest bundle of joy — waiting for us to be "off to see the Wizard."

So, yes.. Yes, we can watch a movie tonight. Tonight we can watch … The Wizard of Oz. I went the extra measure. I joke that we always just kind of pretend that the TV is broken, but that's easy because it's got a cool cover over it, and it's just sort of never on, except maybe after Libby Lee has gone to bed. But for tonight? I re-attached the stereo speakers, and Libby Lee stuck close by me, as I sorted wires and plugged plugs.

The fact is, while doing some testing, we stumbled into a good 20 minutes of Pee Wee's Big Adventure and I watched as she sat — again the best word here is rapt — on the arm of the couch, with her fists under her chin, like some kind of poster for kids watching movies. And it was great, too, of course. Once everything was ready to go, including a couple of false starts (such is the world of, ahem, acquiring movies in the 21st century), Lucy and I both asked Libby Lee: "Do you want to keep watching Pee Wee's Big Adventure? It's OK if you do. We can watch The Wizard of Oz next time." Uh-uh. She said, with complete confidence "No, I want watch The Wizard of Oz."

And so we were off to see the Wizard.

I didn't expect that I would be pushing down tears as the intro credits rolled and straight-up wiping them away and trying not to heave too audibly as Dorothy Gale wings into Somewhere Over the Rainbow, in glorious sepia tone.

My god. Who knows how many times I've seen The Wizard of Oz? Is it the most universal movie in the Western world? I like to think so. Still, I haven't seen it in years. That sepia. As a kid I used to long for the the black-and-white part to be over because it seemed boring. I wonder if that's true. Not according to the look on my four-year-old's face as she sat between her parents, absolutely rapt and mesmerized, with a slight thrill of a smile, a kind of excitement at finally seeing it. It was like a Holy Grail (that will come later, of course).

Watching it now, with Libby Lee, the sepia seems so sublime, so surreal, as surreal as the technicolor Land of Oz that lurks behind that door just a few minutes later. I am no less mesmerized than her.

Libby Lee and I had read it over Thanksgiving. It was her first "big book." In fact, I'd never read L. Frank Baum's peculiar masterpiece. Again, stating the glaringly obvious, it was amazing. If you have never read The Wizard of Oz, do yourself the favor. And if you have the opportunity to read The Wizard of Oz aloud to a young child? That is an opportunity not to be missed. I'm grateful that I was given the opportunity, and will treasure it always.

Last night was so special, the three of us on the couch, both Lucy and I beaming occasionally at that small face sitting between us, transfixed, taking turns squeezing her, or holding her hand, occasionally singing along, noticing and sometimes exclaiming over details we'd never noticed, or had forgotten. Trying to shut up as much as possible, actually. All while a little girl sat stock still, eyes wide, wide open, mildly slack-jawed, with the tiniest trace of a mesmerized grin for 101 minutes.

I never want to forget it, and that's one of the reasons I'm writing now. Watching it (and 30 minutes of Pee Wee) helped take some of my anxiety away about my daughter and TV and movies. For a little while longer, we can control 100% of what she sees in our house; and there are some wonderful, wonderful things to see. I think I can see how "movie night" can work for us and can be a real family thing. I hope that's true.

And no matter what, I hope Libby Lee always remembers the first time she was off to see the Wizard.

The WONDERFUL Wizard of Oz. 

You should read about the history of the movie, which was the 4th film version, in case you didn't know, and considered a cinematic flop, at the time.

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