Daily Archives: January 5, 2012

There’s No Place Like Home

In 1965 I was a young girl and television was something of a luxury.  Color television was something only the rich kids had.

I wasn’t a rich kid.

However, somehow  my mother managed to borrow a color television so I could get my first glimpse of the magical world of Oz.

As “The Wizard of Oz” played out in warm sepia and exploded into Technicolor I was transfixed.

I could not take my eyes off those ruby slippers, and I had to have a pair.

My life was changed.  

Forever.

I wanted the shoes, I wanted to wear my hair in braids, I wanted a gingham jumper, bobby socks, the white, starched blouse.  I wanted it all, right down to the little wire-haired terrier whom I would name “Toto”, of course.  I even learned the words to the song and the little skip-step that Dorothy and her friends did.

A few days after seeing the movie I went with my mother to the local mall.  We walked into the JC Penney store and directly into the shoe department.

There, on top of a replica Emerald City, sat the coveted ruby slippers.

There was a down-light on them, and they shimmered in all their deep-red glory.

My heart skipped a beat as I let out an audible gasp.

“Mommy, please?” I implored as I pointed at the shoes.

My mother looked at the price tag.  They were $25.00, and for a single mom that was an impossibility. 

Why, that was more than we paid for a week’s worth of groceries!

“No, honey, we can’t afford it.” She replied.

I was crushed.  I cried and was inconsolable.   Mom tried to make it better by taking me to the toy section and buying me the Oz book, but it was no use.  My heart yearned for the ruby slippers and no amount of appeasing was going to have any effect on me.

On the drive home my little brain raced furiously with plans to get my ruby slippers.  I was too young to work, and my father was no help financially.  I couldn’t think of any way to get the money to buy my beloved shoes.

And then, it hit me.

Santa!

I’d ask Santa for the shoes! Of course, he couldn’t refuse if I was a good girl!

The time leading up to Christmas that year must have been rather confusing for my mother.

Normally a rambunctious and slightly precocious child, I was the model of perfection.  I cleaned, I did dishes, I even cooked dinner as I stood on a kitchen chair wearing Mom’s apron. 

With very few slips, I was the perfect little girl.

Mom didn’t know why, but I knew. 

To score ruby slippers from Santa, I had to be perfect.

When it came time to write my letter to Santa I detailed my perfection and told him I only wanted one gift that year.

Ruby slippers.

I told Santa if I got those shoes I’d be the perfect daughter forever and never, ever ask for another thing.

On Christmas morning I awoke before dawn and rushed down the stairs.  There was a new doll, some books and a couple of other toys.

No ruby slippers.

I searched under the tree, around the tree, everywhere.

No slippers.

I couldn’t believe it.  Where had I gone wrong?

I was crying when Mom came down the stairs.

“What’s wrong?”

“All I wanted was the ruby slippers and I didn’t get them!”

Mom was silent, but the pained look on her face told me she knew how heartbroken I was and she ached for me.

For many years after that I asked for the ruby slippers, always adding the caveat that I understood if Santa couldn’t deliver.

I never got those shoes.

And, I never told that story to anyone until earlier this year.

My husband and I were watching “The Santa Clause” with Tim Allen.  In the movie his ex-wife and her new husband discuss the one gift they really wanted for Christmas and never got.  I told my husband about the ruby slippers after the movie was over.  He didn’t say much, other than to comment how only a girl would make such a big deal out of a pair of shoes.  I countered with something that was probably not really nice, but to be honest his teasing really hit a nerve.

On Christmas Eve this year Santa came to our house to visit.  He sat each of the grandkids on his lap and pulled a gift out of his bag for them.  Pictures and video were taken amidst much chaos and shouting about things they’d asked for being delivered by “The Man” himself.

Just before he left, he reached into his bag and called my name. He said he had a gift for me.

I set the camera down and went over to retrieve it.   He insisted I open the gift as I sat on his lap.  I looked into his bright blue eyes for a clue, but all I saw was the familiar twinkle.

I slowly unwrapped the package and let out a squeal of shock and delight.

It was my beloved ruby slippers!  Deep red, shimmering, and just my size!  

I couldn’t believe my eyes and as the tears began to flow I put them on.    I wore those shoes the rest of the day and the next.

And, now, they will be placed inside a display case for all to admire.

Of all the gifts I’ve ever gotten, none surprised and delighted me more than a simple pair of shoes.

And of all the thousand little kindnesses I’ve ever encountered, none meant more than this – that a man could see into the soul of the little girl who wanted to believe that magic still exists and there’s no place like home.

 

 The most wonderful gift I’ve ever received.