OPINION: Baby Mal saves 'Oz' for SWMNBMM
When it comes to driving, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Made-Mad and I have learned to divide the chores equally over the three decades since she tricked me into marrying her by saying she was rich. She's still laughing at that joke.
Anyway, when it comes to driving, we have decided that I will drive and she will do all of the other stuff. She packs everything, makes sure the car is filled with gas and, for the most part, makes sure all of the kids are in the car when we leave ... for the most part. There was that one time that our youngest son got left at the track while everyone was working out. We found him a few years later and he didn't seem too worse for the wear.
But, as I was saying, SWMNBMM is responsible for almost everything. I admit the reason she is in charge of the pre-driving procedures is that I generally suck at that part. I hate to pack things, and, like most men - I'm far too busy to worry about checking anything but the oil and gas levels. When was the last time you saw a guy say, "We can't leave until everyone has used the restroom and the extra sandwiches are made?" No, we are made to drive ... and play air guitar when the oldies come on the radio.
I really do a mean Eddie Van Halen impression ... and, even though the long hair I had when I was younger has thinned to the Barely Hair stage, I can still air it out with the Scorpions at the drop of a hat.
I tell you all of this because SWMNBMM is the hero of our latest trip. I did all of the driving as we took our granddaughter on a 9-hour drive to visit Dorothy House and the "Land of Oz" in Liberal, Kan.
Having lived in Kansas when we were younger, SWMNBMM and I have a soft spot in our heart for The Wizard of Oz. When our children were young, we made them watch the movie and then took them to Dorothy's place, which is a small replica of the house that fell on the Wicked Witch in L. Frank Baum's book. It comes complete with a yellow brick pathway, cutout characters and a nifty museum/gift store. It is something we have been waiting for years to take Mallorie to see.
Now that she is 11, I decided the time to Oz-ify her was at hand. During the holiday break we sat her down and had her watch the 1939 movie. Understand that Mallorie has a mild case of autism so things are a little more vivid and literal for her. Even though Judy Garland has been dead for years and the "Oz" movie is more than 75 years old, they were all very real to her ... so real that she was super excited to get to meet Dorothy when we got to Kansas.
I mean reeaaallly excited ... like that is all she wanted to talk about for the entire nine hours there - and back.
Fortunately, SWMNBMM (who goes by the name of "Mimi" to the grandkids) was prepared. When we needed a break from explaining how a movie she had just watched the day before was actually older than her grandmother, or how Dorothy wasn't alive when she had just seen her - she would dig down deep into her purse - which has to be the size of a commercial suitcase - and pull out colors and a coloring book or a mouthful of candy. When she decided she was hungry, Mimi dug into the magic bag and produced fruit and sandwiches. When she wanted to sleep, who am I kidding, she never wanted to sleep.
When we arrived in Liberal, Mallorie was thrilled to get to walk on the Yellow Brick Road and have her picture taken with the house, although she had to tell an elderly couple that "Dorothy is dead but this was her house." But, her greatest thrill was going into the museum/gift shop and saw a young girl dressed as Dorothy talking with several small children. When she saw the young girl, Mallorie's face lit up and she raced across the room and gave the stunned young girl a hug, asked where Toto was, and if she could pet the small dog.
The young girl, who was surrounded by children, kindly smiled at her, took a few photos and then told her she would go see if Toto was through taking a nap. While she left the room, the girl took a stuffed toy from a perch in the museum and placed it into a basket, which she placed on her wrist. Presently, she returned and approached Mallorie (who was being escorted excitedly through the museum by her Mimi) and told her that she could pet the dog but to be easy so as not to wake him.
I'm here to tell you, you couldn't have made Mallorie - or SWMNBMM - smile any larger.
Of course, I had to buy a small stuffed dog toy and a pair of ruby slippers. All of which we put into Mimi's suitcase later.
Later, on our way home, Mimi had to make a "pit stop" at a gas station. While she was inside, Mallorie casually leaned out of the car and smiled at me.
"Apa, I'm so glad Mimi had fun at Dorothy's House," she said. "Don't tell Mimi, but I know that wasn't the real Dorothy or Toto, but I liked watching her smile so I played along."
I smiled and rustled my fingers through her hair.
Moments later, she was back to talking about Dorothy, Toto and the Good Witch. And we were rolling down the road.
As pleased as I was that Mallorie was looking out for her Mimi's happiness I was a bit saddened for myself. Mallorie knew the truth ... which means I didn't have to buy that dog or those slippers.
And since SWMNBMM wasn't really rich, that's a big deal for me.