A beloved family member undergoes a brain scan procedure today. I and my husband imagine new home base possibilities just down the road from our current digs. And an intriguing conversation on a message board addressing the life and career of Judy Garland (primarily) unpacks the enduring charm of the 1939 MGM fairy tale and adventure story The Wizard of Oz. And its all about home.
Family past and present. I grew up in a core family and an extended family in the 1960s suburban world of many kids and unlocked doors and adventures in club houses and forts in the backyard and fireflies in bottles and coming in when the street lights came on. My biological family during this childhood years included a brother 11 months older and a sister 15 months younger, and a beloved youngest born when I was 7 years old. Our neighbors had similarly constituted families, usually larger, all familiar, all extensions of our own. And one particular family was closest it seems, possibly due to the strong friendship between the matriarchs: mom and Nancy were very close buddies. My mother Cecily passed away long before her time when she was 47 and I was 18 and in college; Nancy has been with us through her own marital shifts and moves and the births of grand children, and through our own marriages and births and illnesses and deaths. Over the past few years Nancy has been dealing with some extraordinary physical challenges, and today’s diagnostic procedure is the most recent reminder that the people in our lives are our home, our place of respite. Wherever we find them.
Location. Today’s reflections on place are simple. Urban rules and theatre rules and the possibility that I may soon be in a place that maximizes both dimensions, well, rules.
Home and The Wizard of Oz. 70 years and millions of words on paper and millions of fans world-wide and it is possible that there will always be more to say and feel about the 1939 MGM classic The Wizard of Oz. I am a Garland fan and yet not a fanatic about this particular movie. Oz is for me as it is for many: quality filmmaking and innovative story telling and a good yarn with layers of meaning. Oz is a movie familiar through annual viewings pre video and more frequent viewings now on cable and video -> DVD -> whatever will be the latest incarnation. There is a separate world of Oz fan that collects and admires the details and detritus around this particular film — I respect but am not one of them. I do respect the score and the role of the core ballad “Over the Rainbow” in the life of the film and in the life and performing career of Garland. And today in a discussion board dealing with Garland’s career broadly (with the expected “off topic” threads that such boards engender when they survive, as this one has, for almost five years), a question was posed about the legacy of this particular film and the role of “home”. Home is place and home is love.
Ray Bolger reflected upon these sentiments during a guest appearance on Garland’s 1963-64 television series. These comments are printed most recently in the publication illustrated here, The Wizard of Oz: An Illustrated Companion to the Timeless Movie Classic (2009) by John Fricke and Jonathan Shirshekan. For Bolger (quoted on page 149) the Oz books had a “great [but] very simple philosophy — that everybody had a heart, that everybody had a brain, that everybody had courage. These were the gifts that were given to people on this earth, and if you used them properly, you reached the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And that pot of gold was a home. And home isn’t just a house or an abode … it’s people. People who love you — and that you love. That’s a home.”
In the 1975 adaptation of the story as the musical stage show The Wiz (please let’s all agree to forget the movie version), Dorothy sings of home in the final number, the eleven o’clock number as we used to say, precisely these sentiments. I still get thrills recalling my teen-aged self watching a teen-aged Stephanie Mills sing the stuffing out of “Home”. It starts:
“When I think of home /I think of a place where there’s love overflowing / I wish I was home / I wish I was back there with the things I been knowing”.
It concludes with:
“Living here, in this brand new world /Might be a fantasy / But it taught me to love / So it’s real, real to me / And I’ve learned / That we must look inside our hearts / To find a world full of love / Like yours / Like mine / Like home.”
Yes. I love you Cecily. I love you Nancy. A world full of love, indeed.