Sunday, October 24, 2010

An Oz dream

My grandmother, Grandma Katy, passed away the other day. No, please don't feel sad for me or my family. This has been a long time coming, she's been in deteriorating health for years now, and we've all known, even her, that this was coming. We're all happy that she lived such a long (she was 92) and happy life, and if there is a Heaven, she's certainly there already. Unlike my grandfather, who died a couple of years ago and was in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression and fought in France during World War II and then went on to a career at Boeing where he worked on the moon landings, among other things, history probably won't remember Grandma Katy much. She just did her best raising three daughters, and then being the prototypical grandmother of seven, plus whatever other kids entered her orbit. She was warm and cuddly and happy and made fudge and Jell-O squares and cookies and root beer floats and other treats, and came up with craft projects and made individualized photo albums for people, and crazy patchwork potholders out of whatever scraps of cloth she could find, often with cartoon characters on them. I remember lots of trips to the zoo and museums and the Seattle Center and other local sites with her as a kid, usually holding her pinky as we crossed the street. If you've ever read any of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald, you know what kind of grandmother she was, because she was very much like Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (minus the magic potions, of course, although even then there may have been a little bit of resemblance).

And being the indulgent grandmother that she was, when her eldest (and, for many years, only) grandson developed a yen for Oz, she helped out. She lived close to the University Book Store in Seattle, which is still, as far as I know, only second to the Harvard Coop as the largest college bookstore in the country, so there were frequent field trips there with her. She bought me a copy of Queen Zixi of Ix, my first exposure to rest of the writings of L. Frank Baum, on one trip there. I was collecting the Rand McNally paperback editions at the time because I could afford them (they were either $1.50 or $1.95, depending on the book), but there were only twelve of them, and I was afraid I'd never get the last two, as the Reilly and Lee hardbacks of the time were $8. Wouldn't you know, she bought me Rinkitink in Oz as a just-because gift one time when I was there, and The Lost Princess of Oz later that year for Christmas. When Gasoline Alley Antiques opened on the opposite corner, she became a frequent visitor, and she found many treasures there that are still cherished parts of my collection, such as first editions of The Road to Oz and The Magical Mimics in Oz (the latter was in the then-rarely known orange binding, only one copy having been reported in the first edition of Bibliographia Oziana, so I dutifully reported on this when asked, earning me a thanks in the second edition), the Mego Wizard of Oz dolls in boxes, and maybe one of the rarest of Oz collectibles, The Laughing Dragon of Oz. Later, when I got older, much of my collection was stored in their basement when, after my sister and I started college, my parents sold our childhood home and moved into a condo. I lived in that basement for a few years myself when I did my student teaching, and for the first few years of my teaching career, before getting married and moving out. Several of our Oogaboo Rendezvous were held there, and one Oz friend flew up from California for a Rendezvous one time and stayed in the attic bedroom. And it was while I was living there that Karyl and I wrote Queen Ann in Oz. Karyl and I even had a major weekend-long reading out loud/copy editing session together in that basement.

So, to finally get to the title of this post, I had an Oz dream tonight, and Grandma Katy played a major part in it, which should come as no surprise considering how she figures in many of my Oz connections. You must understand, I rarely seem to dream. I usually fall asleep, and the next thing I know I'm awake, not aware of any dreaming. If I do dream, I remember that it happened, but I can rarely remember anything about what it was about, and when I do it fades pretty quickly. And I don't remember ever having a dream about Oz, at least not like this. But this one was so vivid and interesting that I decided I had to get up at 1:00 in the morning and write about it. Even now, the details are getting fuzzy, but I think I can give you a pretty good idea. I was being led around Grandma's estate by some sort of executor. (See, right there, I think even while I was dreaming it, I knew it was a dream, as my grandparents' house was a modest city dwelling, with no outbuildings. My parents bought the house from them many years ago, and their effects have already been dealt with and gone to good homes, including mine.) He took me to one building, which was a little workshop, and showed me some of Grandma's dolls. You must understand, Grandma was a doll collector. She had several dozen, and while some were valuable and collectible, she had them just because she liked them. She would repair them and make them clothes when they needed them, and they had their own room for display. So the dolls in this dream workshop were no surprise, but the big surprise was how many of them were Oz dolls. I only recall clearly a doll of Glinda, but it was so much made in her style that there could be no doubt as to who made it. Then the executor took me to another building, which was a large warehouse, and that's where the big surprise was. It turns out that Dream Grandma made many life-size dolls, again in her own style, and the warehouse was dominated by a big Oz scene in the center. Again, there was Glinda (surprising, since Grandma was more like the Good Witch of the North — the book version, not Billie Burke in The Movie), and I think Grandma may have been trying to recreate Glinda's siege of the Emerald City from The Marvelous Land of Oz, as I also have a vague recollection of a General Jinjur doll. There was something even suspended from the ceiling, possibly a dragon (before anyone asks, I know it wasn't a Gump — hey, it was a dream, and the whole thing already wasn't making a lot of sense in the first place). Not long after that, I woke up (after only a couple hours of sleep, darned insomnia strikes again...), lay in bed for a bit trying to hold onto this dream for a bit, and started composing this blog post in my head. Almost immediately, I realized that there is no way, even in her prime, that Grandma would have made those giant dolls, as it just wasn't her way. Not long after I decided to pop online, no matter what time it was, and write this up. So I guess this is my own weird way of acknowledging my grandmother's passing and preserving her influence on at least the Ozzy part of my life.


Sam A M said...

Thanks for sharing this on the Oz Club Forum, even as just a mention.

Great dream, by the way!

Jannie said...

Hi Eric,
Belated condolences to you and your family on your Grandmother's passing. I remember your grandmother fondly from all the times I dropped by to visit when I was living in Seattle and the Rendezvouses we had.
Warmest regards,