When I was in junior high, we visited my grandmother about twice a year. Always, we took a trip to "town" and went shopping. Mostly, it was to buy groceries for our stay. However, one year I discovered books two for a dollar in a discount store. These were the Oz books written by L. Frank Baum. I can still hear Grandma telling Mom to get them for me or else she would buy them herself. Mom got me a few.
That is when my obsession began. I wanted to cry the next summer when all of Oz had disappeared from the shelves. I never have found such a deal again, but I still have those paperbacks filled with stories. They never fail to delight me.
I can remember playing in Grandma's front yard, bossing my little sister around. I was the great Ozma of Oz, I told her. She could be anyone she wanted, but never Ozma. Ozma was the beautiful fairy ruler, and only I deserved that crown. After all, my sister didn't even like to read. I read them to my belly while I was pregnant, checking out new copies from the local library. I have forced my boys to listen to the audio versions of each story, via Libravox.org.
I find it sad that people only know the Wizard of Oz. It wasn't even the best of the stories, just the first. Dorothy doesn’t always show up in Oz. There are other characters more imaginative than she. There is the princess in the land of Ev, the one who wears many different heads to suit her mood. There is even a patchwork girl, sewn together like a rag doll, and there is a beautiful fairy who lives in the clouds- the rainbow's daughter. I can never forget the deadly sands of the desert surrounding Oz or the land where it snowed popcorn. What wonderful weather that would be!
Even now, the books sit near me. The covers make me smile. One is being loaned out to a high school girl who didn't know Oz existed outside the movie. I invited her to visit there, where the Emerald City glistens in sunlight and Jack Pumpkinhead tends to pumpkin graves.
When the going gets tough, as it often does, I can’t help but think, "I'm going back to Oz.” Anyone with me?