When I heard that "The Wizard of Oz" would be shown at the Tivoli Theatre recently, with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera providing live music, I purchased tickets for my granddaughter Tilleigh and me.
I started introducing my favorite films to Tilleigh, 5, before her third birthday. "The Wizard of Oz" is a shared favorite. She has watched the film dozens of times in the last few years and has memorized lines and songs. She has a collection of "Wizard of Oz" dolls and a blue gingham "Dorothy" dress similar to the one worn by Judy Garland in the movie.
We arrived at the Tivoli at 7 p.m., an hour before showtime. We went early so that we could meet Margaret Pellegrini, 88, who played a Munchkin in the movie.
We had perfect seats for the show, just eight rows from the stage. The only downside was the 8 o'clock curtain. Tilleigh's bedtime is 8 p.m. on weeknights, and she's typically asleep by 9:30 p.m. on weekends. I wasn't sure how long she would last on this Saturday night.
Tilleigh perked up when she heard familiar tunes as the musicians warmed up for the concert.
"Mom, I hear the tornado music," she said. "I'm glad it's not a real tornado," she added, referring to another memorable event we had just experienced.
Just the day before the show, Tilleigh, her younger sister Evie, 23 months, and I had huddled for nearly 25 minutes in my dark, dank, dirt-floored basement in an effort to be safe during a tornado that was predicted to hit our area.
The girls were terrified, and, frankly, so was I. I wanted to protect my babies. I held them as we ran outside through the rain to get to the basement door on the opposite side of the house.
We crouched in the corner of the basement, and I held onto the children with all my might. The girls were crying and looking to me for comfort, so I did what comes natural - I started singing. I am a horrible singer, but my granddaughters don't yet realize it. For whatever reason, I started singing Evie's favorite song, "Heigh-Ho," from "Snow White."
Turns out, it's a great song to sing when you're nervous because there's only a few words in the lyrics. It worked. The girls stopped crying (they were probably in shock that I started belting out a song while we were sitting on a dirt floor in a dark basement).
Thankfully, the tornado didn't touch down in our neighborhood. When we went back into the house, Tilleigh compared the experience to the tornado scene in "The Wizard of Oz."
"I'm glad we got in the basement," Tilleigh said. "I wouldn't want a tornado to take us to Oz. I want to stay home."
"You know Oz is not a real place, right, Tilleigh?" I asked.
"Yes, Mom. I know, but I'm still glad we're home," she said.
Fast-forward 30 hours. Tilleigh and I are sitting in a theater watching a tornado on a big screen. She got in my lap.
Halfway through the movie, just before Dorothy and her three friends make their way to the Emerald City, Tilleigh was about to nod off when she said, "Mom, let's go home."
I couldn't help but smile.
"Home," I thought. "There really is no place like it."
And so home we went.