Last night, because Mommy just cannot leave well enough alone to imagine that the crayons and paper placemats at California Pizza Kitchen will suffice tomorrow to amuse our eighteen little lunch guests, I took the girls to Tom Thumb Hobby and Crafts in Evanston. Mia and Eleanor were entranced, of course, by the doll houses, the miniature furniture, and the poster warning patrons not to climb on the train table.
When my arm capacity and pre-dinner blood sugar tolerance were filled, I got in line with five boxes of foam Christmas trees and plastic buckets of tiny foam ornaments and candy canes. Mia was over by the button racks and Nora sat on the floor looking at a Dover sticker book.
"Mommy?" Nora asked from the floor, "When the monkeys were flying, was it scary?"
I looked down at her and her sticker book. The Wizard of Oz. I'm instantly there again, in front of the giant open window, as the woman in black screams to her minions taking to the skies.
"Do you mean when the flying monkeys took Dorothy to the Wicked Witch?"
"Oh, yeah. That was the scariest part of the whole movie."
A boy, half a head shorter than me, maybe middle school, was waiting in line next to me with a handful of floppy wooden slats.
"My uncle was actually the Cowardly Lion in that movie," he says.
I turn around to look closer at him and knock the slats out of his hands with an excess of enthusiasm.
"Your uncle is...(found it!) Bert Lehr?" I ask the top of his head as he bends down to pick up his fallen craft supplies.
"Lahr," he corrects me as he stands and I get a good look at his face. The gorgeously generous nose - I see the resemblance, or imagine I do. And such glowing skin! An open, unabashed smile. Oh beautiful youth! It's like a split second of a time machine, flinging me back to glimpse the child that a beloved character actor once was.
"Wonderful!" I say, and, without thinking, just to keep him talking, "Do you remember your uncle?"
"No, he died before I was born." Of course.
The clerk hands me the receipt. I scribble my signature as I say, "You should be very proud. It's such a great movie."
"Thank you, I am," he says.
"Girls, did you hear what the boy said?"
"Yes," says Mia, not happy that I'm herding her out the door. Nora has already gone out the first set of doors and she returns with a furious, "I was outside in the cold!"
Matt Damon is shooting Contagion in our neighborhood and Randy and I giggled last week at the inevitable lesson the starstruck villagers who signed up to be extras will be learning about the deadly boredom of most of the filming process. I must be more understanding. A little bit of Hollywood on Dempster Street and I'm absolutely thrilled.