I love the part in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy wakes up from her adventures over the rainbow, back in her own black and white world, and sees the farm hands who figured so prominently in Oz as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion.
“You were there,” she says to them, “and you, and you.” She knows it isn’t possible that they were there with her on that yellow brick road, and begins to doubt that she was ever there herself. But there’s that moment of beautiful disconnect, that suspension of disbelief, that captivates Dorothy and all of those watching her — we were all there, somehow, in that place we can’t ever go back to.
I thought about Dorothy over the Thanksgiving holiday when I found myself in the least expected place: a brewery in Charlotte, where a beloved student from years ago was hosting a fundraiser for a local philanthropic group. I hadn’t intended to go to the event and, having decided at the last minute to go ahead, I had no idea what I would find. I hate to go to strange places by myself, especially at night, but I felt compelled, as if by wind, or water.
I got out of the car and walked briskly through the threshold, turned right and not left for reasons unknown, and found myself in something I can only describe as magic. A timeless place, a happy place. Filled wall to wall with the very people I taught years ago, looking both as young as they were when I last saw them, and as old as they really now are. It was confusing, and wonderful.
“I never thought you’d be here!” they said; “I never thought you’d come!” I couldn’t take my eyes off their faces, noting the ways their features had settled, their bodies solidified. Just moments ago, it seemed, they were huddled around my classroom, engaged on good days and exhausted on bad. Now, they were huddled around tables, talking about their lives in excited voices. “Is it weird to be here, like this, with us?” one of them asked me.
I didn’t hesitate. No, not at all. Yes, time is irrevocable, and life itself is implausible. And yet. Somehow, there we were, here we are.