Isis meets the Tin Man

By Dan Dunkle | Dec 04, 2013
Photo by: Daniel Dunkle Wesley and Samantha at the scene of Dorothy's house landing on the Wicked Witch of the East (Farnsworth Art Museum Rockland).

Many years ago when we were young and Christine was pregnant with our first child, we went house-hunting.

At the time, we were not interested in anything new, she said. We wanted a house with "character." That word may suggest any number of things to you. Nice French doors, for example, might be thought to have character. Ornate metal fittings on the seldom-used front door, or the beveled glass in the door's window are examples of character.

Someone might say to a person, "You have so much character in your face."

If your face has a character like my house, that means you are old.

One of the things that happens when you live in a house with character is you end up employing creativity in your home-improvement projects.

I vaguely remember an evening quite some time ago in which Christine's dad, Rick, and I spent some time struggling to get the dryer vent hooked up.

This is made out of tin pipe fittings that swivel and supposedly fit together easily. They remind me of the Tin Man's arms. Part of what made it difficult to install was the tightness of the space between the dryer and the wall.

I'm pretty sure the project ended with Rick saying something like, "Whatever you do, don't touch it now that it's in."

Let's hit the fast-forward button. At this speed, we can watch the whole family wall-papering the living room, and see my daughter Samantha, tearing it down moments later. We can see us sheetrocking the upstairs. Then Samantha drawing all over the new wall.

On we speed until we get to a recent morning, when Samantha, our youngest child, decided it would be a good idea to stand on the dryer vent. She's 8 now with purple-framed glasses. Her hair has gone from red at birth to blond to an ashy brown. She's managed to wear holes in the knees of all her black leggings.

To her, the dryer vent no-doubt looked solid and sturdy, but it crumpled like a soda can when she climbed onto it. It was the kind of thing only a kid would do. No adult was going to go over into the dusty, spidery corner and stand on the vent.

With some parental grumbling, I put the thing back together with duct tape and went to work. I then waited the required three weekends it takes to get around to doing anything and headed out to the home supply store.

It's kind of fun to look through all the items at these stores. I could build a little Tin Man if I wanted out of the parts in the bin.

When I got to the cash register, I felt the lady running it needed to know why I was there. So I told her the whole story.

She put it in perspective with a story of her own. Turns out, when she was a kid she liked this TV show "The Secrets of Isis." This was a Saturday morning live-action show in the cartoon lineup produced by Filmation (I miss the days of Saturday morning cartoons). The main character was a high school science teacher, who happened to have a magical amulet from ancient Egypt that gave her super powers. She was kind of like Wonder Woman. My wife actually had an Isis doll growing up.

So my future store clerk, as a child, wanted to be like Isis. She got up on the top of her couch and recited the poem giving her the power of flight.

"Do you remember the poem?" I asked as we were standing there at the register.

She did! "Oh Zephyr Winds, which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly!" This has been rattling around in her head since 1975.

Though she had the words right, you really need the amulet. When she lifted off the couch to fly, she fell to floor and broke her arm.

After that, her mom wouldn't let her watch the show anymore. (If you're reading this, you should know the episodes are available on Amazon for live streaming. Christine and I watched the pilot. It was pretty bad, but so was "Miami Vice" and I've got that on DVD. You can't judge when it comes to nostalgia).

I came home and after a few more weekends of contemplation, I got down on the floor and installed the replacement part with a few of my bad words and various mutterings. The frustration was mostly due to the parts refusing to fit right. Houses with character always seem to have non-standard measurements.

Instead of being mad at Samantha about it, she actually doled out punishment to me, informing me, per our prior agreement, that since I used inappropriate language, I would see a deduction in my dessert.

She did promise not to stand on the dryer vent again. She will just have to find something else to break.

Just push play

If I may divert to another topic briefly, I think this Oz exhibit at the Farnsworth has been fantastic. Christine, the kids and I got a chance to visit it two times, once before seeing "The Wizard of Oz" on the big screen at the Strand and once after seeing the Grinch puppet show this past weekend. We also enjoyed visiting Dorothy's house, which is all askew, having traveled through the twister to reach the museum grounds.

As a spinoff, I got a chance to hear "Wicked" author Gregory Maguire speak at the Camden Opera House. He was very interesting. I've read "Wicked" and "Son of a Witch" this year and have started "A Lion Among Men."

Inspired by all of this Oz action, I picked up a copy of the original "Wizard of Oz" novel by L. Frank Baum and have been reading a chapter or two per night to Samantha.

You can tell she has watched a lot of DVDs because the other night she jumped up and said, "Can you pause that? I have to go to the bathroom," and ran upstairs.

And that's where I'll pause until next time.

Daniel Dunkle lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, and two children. He can be reached at ddunkle@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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