The Wicked Witch, in Technicolor

When The Wizard of Oz was on television and we were kids, it was an event. My brother and sister and I would huddle on the floor in front of the TV and as the Wicked Witch appeared, we’d all shriek and hide under a big Alaskan blanket. I was always bothered by that awful woman taking Toto away from Dorothy and speeding off on her ridiculous bicycle. The winged monkeys were so darn creepy that sometimes I’d just leave the room. But there was something spellbinding about this movie. What a fantastical idea—that a tornado could lift your house off the ground and you could end up in a magical place where scarecrows and lions could talk, where there were tiny men wearing striped socks, and where poppies could put you to sleep. And yet Dorothy always clicked her ruby heels and ended up safe at home. As she was waking up back in Kansas, there we were, still together on the living room rug, with Dad in his leather chair reading Popular Mechanic and mom in her sundress on the couch behind us. The Wizard of Oz was one of my mother’s favorite movies. As a kid, she collected 21 of the first-edition hardcover Frank Baum Oz books—everything from The Land of Oz to Rinki-Tink in Oz and The Hungry Tiger of Oz. So on Halloween, my mother sometimes dressed up as the Wicked Witch of the West, with green pancake makeup, warts on her nose, and a black cape and hat. She easily scared the kids in the neighborhood. Her transformation made the movie that much more exciting—because we secretly knew our mother could become the Wicked Witch of the West when she wanted to. Only on Halloween, of course. Most of the time she was more like Glenda the Good.

P.S. I’m the fuzzy brown thing in this picture. No idea what I am supposed to be, but I’m thinking I look kinda creepy, like a winged monkey.