Follow the “yellow brick road” and you will end up at Diane Tate’s “Wizard of Oz” Christmas tree.
There you will find Dorothy, Oz the Great and Powerful, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Wicked Witch of the West, Glinda, Almira Gulch, the Munchkin Mayor and, of course, the Ruby Red Slippers.
For Tate, the tree is more than a celebration of Christmas, it’s her symbol of a true miracle — successful brain surgery at the Mayo Clinic in 2000.
From the time she was a teenager, Tate had seizures, sometimes several a day. After decades of trying different medications, nothing seemed to help.
The seizures always came at the most inopportune times, like in the middle of class, at sporting events, at her oboe lessons.
“It was awful,” she said. “It was embarrassing. I would count the days that I went without seizures.”
Finally, on the recommendation of Dr. David Hanson, Tate and her husband, Johnny, traveled to Rochester, Minnesota, for seven grueling days of testing.
On Jan. 11, 2000, a medical team came into Tate’s room with the news that they had found that a brain lesion was causing the seizures.
Two months later, she returned to Mayo for a craniotomy and removal of the lesion. Instantly, the seizures were gone.
“After 27 years of seizure activity, I was healed,” she said. “I hadn’t driven in years. I very happily stood in line with the teenagers to get my driver’s license.”
As a get-well gift, friends Sue Davis and Michelle Whittington gave Tate her first “Wizard of Oz” Christmas ornament featuring the Scarecrow, who only wanted a brain. “They said that neither of us had brains,” Tate said with a laugh.
That was the beginning.
“I loved the movie as a kid,” she said. “I started looking for the ornaments everywhere.”
Friends also added to the collection.
From a Hallmark series came several ornaments complete with voices from the movie.
“Every year Hallmark adds another ornament to the collection,” Tate said. “It’s a talking tree.” She places the Oz ornaments in prominent places on the tree with some of the “not so important” ornaments toward the center.
It takes almost three days to decorate, which she does the week before Thanksgiving so Johnny Tate, who works in retail, can enjoy the tree before the busy Christmas season.
Diane Tate, an active community volunteer, is a lifelong lover of music and has been involved with the Baton Rouge Symphony for years. Her major interest now is the Irene and C.B. Pennington Foundation Great Performers in Concert Series in which she has a major leadership role.
“Music saved my life during my teenage years with the seizures. It was my escape,” she said. “That’s why I do so much for the symphony.”
Even though it has been 15 years since her surgery, she counts her blessings every day, especially at Christmas.
“The tree is such fun,” she said. “It reminds me that I have been healed and blessed with life. It’s a way I can share the joy.”