Karson spent last Saturday night with me, bringing a few clothes tucked into her “Going to Grandma” minature suitcase. After hurrying through a quick meal from McDonalds — Karson’s gift to keep me out of the kitchen– we settled into our everyday rhythm of doing what any visit to Nana’s would be incomplete without.
First, we played house in Karson’s basement stairwell kitchen. The sign on the wall — “Karson’s Landing” — says it all. With help from Kara, alias Aunt “KK”, I painted Karson’s Landing a nice ‘Tuscan Tan’ with heavy accents of black and white. But from Karson’s vantage point, the kitchen is mostly a world of black and white as the black trimmed white bead board is taller than her.
I created this space especially for Karson three years ago after running onto a rare find– a 1940s vintage children’s kitchen appliance set– at an antique shop in Sulpur. My sister donated the cute minature drop leaf table and chair — just Karson-sized–and I outfitted her kitchen with a set of toy pots and pans and groceries. As with many a gal, a little cooking goes a long way, so we soon closed the kitchen to move onto greener pastures.
But the pastures weren’t green at all. Instead they were black and white, from a favorite movie that tells the story of a young girl named Dorothy caught up in a twister with her little dog Toto too. Up until a year ago, I had black Scottie dogs, so I think in Karson’s vivid imagination, I play the part of Aunt Em while she of course is Dorothy. Karson even has her own pair of ‘ruby red slippers’ — purchased by this Nana Em — that she pulled out of her minature suitcase in anticipation of the big moment when Dorothy receives her slippers from the good witch.
Karson’s favorite part of the movie is the black and white portion set in Kansas. Once Dorothy puts on her ruby slippers — and once Karson slips on hers– Karson and Dorothy part ways. While Dorothy wanders down the yellow brick road, Karson’s eyes wander to other lands to be explored. This time it was to another land of black and white, as her eyes fell on an old photo of Dad and Aunt Carol, taken in 1942, when they were just twelve and seven respectively. Frozen in time and forever young, the two solemn children stand near a big tree and a stark two story house with two other young children.
Karson picked up the photo and exclaimed, “These children live in the same color of world that Dorothy lives in.” “Oh, that’s very true,” said this wizened not-so-old Nana. “This photograph was taken a short while after “The Wizard of Oz” first played on the silver screen.”
Karson never asked me to explain what a silver screen was, but she wanted to know all about the children who happened to live in a black and white world like Dorothy’s. I picked up the old photo and pointed out the oldest boy. “That’s my daddy when he was twelve.” Then I told Karson that the girl standing next to him was his sister and that the younger children in front of them were cousins. I carefully removed the photo from its silver frame, remembering that just three years ago, I had written the names and the year the snapshot was taken, after posing my own version of Karson’s questions to Daddy. I wish Karson could have known Daddy when he was younger, even just three years ago younger, because like her, Daddy’s just a dreamer, who enjoyed a good escape to the black and white world of old movies.
My son Kyle wrote a piece about Daddy’s love of vintage movies in his first creative writing assignment, while in high school. A copy of the short piece — titled “His Old Movie” — now rests on Daddy’s headboard. As with most writers, Kyle is not especially enamored with his own writing and it took encouragement from others for Kyle to share his tribute with Daddy. But while Kyle is not so taken with the words, I think Daddy took right to them, since the paper has that crumpled look of being read many times.
Even now, Kyle’s last paragraph of “His Old Movie” ties up the loose ends of my own writing in a way that only Kyle can do, and in a way I hope Karson will someday echo.
“Home is good; but, there is something about my grandparent’s house that can’t be found anywhere else. I always look forward to coming here for Christmas, to the family, to the sirloin steaks, and perhaps to another night in the world of black and white.”