Growing up in St. Louis in the 60’s was–ummm–different, to say the least. Beyond baseball, old TV favorites and comic books, there wasn’t a whole lot of entertainment to be had! Being a voracious reader helped me a lot, but entertainment choices were severely limited according to today’s standards. One of my Mom’s favorite things were Shirley Temple films. There they were; being aired on a semi-regular basis by the independent TV stations in all their black-and-white splendor!
“Look at how that little girl can sing and dance!”, Mom would bellow. “Why can’t you do something like that instead of clowning in school all the time!?” Somewhere during the course of the movie I would get my comeuppance. Shirley or the ‘little Colonel’ or the ‘little darling’ or the little whatever-she-was-in-this-one would surely (!) be held forth as a shining example of everything I WASN”T doing. OK, OK–she could sing and dance but that was during the 30’s! I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity. Besides, I was trying to be cool, funky, groovy, hip and far-freakin’out. And what was up with them curls, huh? Good luck gettin’ on the good ship Lollipop with a ‘Fro!
I began to find ways to duck out of the screenings–volunteering for store runs; household chores; smoke jumping; ANYthing that would keep me from having to hear about the wonder, talent, beauty and generally great spirit (all true, of course) that Shirley Temple exuded.
Well–as always happens–the passage of time changes things, sometimes from the inside out. When faced with the news of her passing, I of course remembered that she was my Mom’s favorite (right up there with ‘Wrestling At The Chase’). But then I also realized the reason my mother was able to be such a fan.
When Hollywood stopped calling, Shirley didn’t meltdown or implode. Something in her let her know that she could indeed have a life beyond the celluloid. She found her calling in serving others. By being an ambassador, she represented her country with excellence. By making herself available to be something else, she outlived the moppet and showed us all how to mature with purpose and poise. And when the entertainment industry DID seek her out on occasion, she appeared with professionalism, not petulance. She was complete and comfortable, not callous or conniving.
All in all, not a bad role model! Looks like Mom was right (again!) after all…