I never knew how important one movie could be in the life of a family -- until 2009 reared it's ugly head.
To endure four deaths in eight months is something I continue to struggle with everyday. I assure you, that's no exaggeration. I often times find myself holding back tears on the metro bus to work or on my lunch break walks to and from the Subway sandwich shop.
I can't remember a time when The Wizard of Oz wasn't a part of my life. In fact, I had no clue how big of a deal it really was until I was at my grandparents house in Michigan City, In. -- just hours after my Bubbe's funeral.
My three cousins and my younger sister huddled around the same television set we've huddled under for over 20 years now. This was a rare occasion seeing as three of us lived in outside of the Chicago area -- not to mention we hadn't done this since well before my youngest cousin (age 12) was born.
We watched our birthday parties on repeat, heckling each other over our poor taste in music and the matching outfits our mother's made us wear. But -- as the oldest of five granddaughters -- I assumed my role as team captain and chose to commandeer the television set.
At first I felt bad, but then I realized: This is the only way I'll be able to cope. Lucky for me, I was born first ... so the majority of home movies were, well ... of me.
That night, I watched my second birthday. I had never seen the video before. It was a pleasure to see my failed attempts at opening the gift wrap on my plethora of presents.
And then ... of course ... the kicker. My dad was sitting Indian-style on the white carpet floor, excited and with gift in hand. He called my name and waved me over, looked straight at the camera and said, "Rachel! Rachel! In 20 years, you're going to know I wrapped this gift for you! Do you know what it is?" I shook my head while smiling. I was excited! It was my birthday after all!
"Open it!," he shouted. I couldn't. My hands were too small and the box was too big. So he did it for me.
Low and behold, "It's The Wizard of Oz!" My dad was so happy. And in that moment, while watching television, I proceeded to cry the happiest cry I've ever cried in my entire life. I was 22.
Exactly 20 years later, I finally saw that video. It was as if my dad knew how important it was ahead of time.
You see, they sang "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" as they lowered my dad into the ground. It's just ... one of those things.
So today -- on the 70th anniversary of the silver screen debut of an American classic (and on the 10 month anniversary of my father's death) -- I am going to see the Wizard of Oz.
It's like the Wizard told the Tin Man, "A heart is not judged by how much you loved, but by how much you are loved by others."
I love this movie. I love my dad. And I can't wait to take this evening for myself and remember those two things together.