“Next stop…Springfield, Missouri,” hailed the conductor. Minutes later, the train ground to a halt. Mother and I disembarked and found Granddad waiting for us at the platform adjacent to the train station.
“Welcome!” Granddad said, his face beaming.
He grabbed our suitcases and whisked us away in his bronze-colored finned Chrysler, the perfect automobile for a wizened, aging wizard.
“You want to see some magic?” he asked when we turned into his driveway.
I nodded, scrambled from the car, and followed him to his stoop.
“Wait here.” Granddad returned a few seconds later brandishing his salt shaker. “Watch this!”
“Ala-kazam! Creepy crawlies be gone!”
He waved the salt shaker over the puddle of slugs that congregated along his stoop. I yelped with delight watching the slugs melt in much the same way Dorothy did when the Wicked Witch of the West melted after being doused with water.
Like most wizards, Granddad was a comfortable recluse who owed allegiance to no one. He didn’t own a television or radio, believing they killed imagination and bred mediocrity. Without them, and only his Scientific American to entertain me, I was bored. I dogged his every step, frequently following him to his garage where he conjured up a host of wizardly feats: raincloud in a jar, static electricity butterflies, elephant toothpaste, and sidewalk constellations. When nighttime arrived, we watched the warm glow of lightning bugs electrifying the summer night. We removed our shoes and walked barefoot across his backyard capturing the flickering lights in a Mason jar.
After the jar grew full, Granddad tucked me in, placing the jar beside me. Long after everyone else was asleep, I laid awake staring at the golden lights flaring in the darkness. The grandfather clock in the living room chimed midnight. From the shadows, I saw Granddad’s silhouette and heard his feet rustling across his wooden floors toward his screened-in back porch where he slipped behind a white curtain. Although I was instructed not to bother him, I eased out of bed and peeked behind the white curtain awestruck as he flipped a few switches and turned a few dials. He spoke into a microphone, his voice booming, and I likened him to Merlin or the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz who performed magical feats behind a huge white curtain.
I eased onto the barstool next to him listening to his conversations with ham radio operators in other continents. Together we traversed the globe, doing what wizards do—temporarily escaping reality and living beyond the here and now.
“Promise me you won’t become a muggle,” he said before putting me back to bed.
“A muggle? What’s that?”
“An unimaginative, mediocre person.”
“I won’t, Granddad. I promise.”
How fortunate I was that summer to be in Granddad’s presence. He certainly wasn’t a muggle, He was like Merlin—an alchemist of sorts, full of imagination, scientific wizardry, metaphysical thoughts, and eccentric ways. He was a great and powerful influence showing me a reality beyond my wildest dreams.