Growing up in Nebraska, I was more than a little familiar with the monotonous terrain and lifestyle of our neighboring state, Kansas. And, the promise of Oz. In fact all of us carried Oz around with us. It was something called imagination. Oz, you see, is a state of mind.
I’m not sure how Frank Baum came up with Kansas as the habitat of Dorothy, Toto and Auntie Em’. Maybe Kansas was just more melodic or easier to say that Nebraska or South Dakota or Oklahoma. Trust me, I grew up in a place that was just like Dorothy’s home. There were farms and farmers, jolly Uncles and Grandfathers and Grandmothers and Mothers who provided apple pies and discipline. And, of course, there was an ample supply of Wicked Witches disguised as school principals.
I first viewed The Wizard of Oz on a cranky black and white television. I recall the local TV repair guy spending an inordinate amount of time at our house, but that’s another story. It wouldn’t be until decades later that I found out that the movie started in black and white and changed to color when Dorothy and Toto entered Oz. Nobody had a color television, so we didn’t know how deprived we were. When we heard the Yellow Brick Road was golden or Superman’s cape was blue or Howdy Doody had red hair, it wasn’t a problem. All we had to do was imagine it. After all, we were kids. Our imagination was intact and our own.
As I grow older and see my impending dotage looming over the horizon I begin to get a grasp of how good we had it growing up in “Kansas”. Sure there were terrible things that happened. Sure, many American’s weren’t give equal opportunities. But we weren’t continually bombarded with wide-screen hi-def color television, video games, cell phones, texting and the Internet. A couple pals, some sticks, rocks and maybe a ball sufficed on many days. Yes, it was in some respects a very black and white and gray world, but we had something called imagination. All we had to do was turn on that little switch in our brain. Happiness, it seems, is a little more accessible, when you don’t know what you don’t have. I try to spend as much time in Oz as possible
I recall by a quote from the Tin Man: “I shall take the heart... for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.”