As you probably know by now, Shirley Temple Black passed away, and with her, a spirit of optimism and joy that this country sorely needs today. This is one of those times that a tribute is in order, not only because a beloved legend is gone, but so is much of what she represented.
Shirley Temple gave the nation hope during the Great Depression (so that's where all that "hope and change" stuff started). She made fans, both adults and children, feel like smiling again, because everything would be okay, even during an era so bleak that Americans were literally committing suicide. She brought fleeting Moments of Happy just as millions felt hopeless.
When I was three years old, my mom wanted to surprise me, so she thumb-tacked her "Animal Crackers in My Soup" sheet music to my little bulletin board. I promptly took out a purple crayon and scribbled all over the adorable, dimpled face on the cover, because I was so envious of that rotten, cheerful, little kid and all her talent. My mother was furious with me, asking why I would do such a thing! I was confused and way too young to articulate my motives, so I simply apologized. I never forgot how upset I made her. I'm sure Shirley wouldn't have been too thrilled, either. Did I mention I managed to vandalize a collector's item?
Throughout my childhood, Shirley Temple was a role model to me, my friends, and of course, to multiple generations throughout the decades. She was smart, she was funny, she made Little Orphan Annie look like a pessimist, she could tap dance up a storm with the amazing Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and she could hold her own against Lionel Barrymore.
By the time I was an actress in my twenties, she even helped contribute to my a-lot-to-be-desired-impressionist skills in a routine I did in a local Hollywood play. The original stand-up wasn't strong enough, so the author let me run with my own "saccharine off" between Temple and Hayley Mills (known for her "Glad Game" in Disney's "Pollyanna"). "Shirley" won. Even she couldn't take all that happy clappy Glad Game jabber and told "Hayley" to shut up. Literally.
That was then. Now we could sure use a big dose of Shirley and Hayley's sunny attitudes, even if sugary musicals aren't your thing. What little Curly Top provided was a way out, a respite from all the doom and gloom. Today we not only have a struggling economy to contend with, we have crescendoing belligerence, bullying, obstruction, and bellicosity blaring at us from our Tee Vee, Radio, and Internet Machines 24/7. No matter how hard we try, we can't avoid the noise.
Over time, even our favorite escape hatches-- movies-- have become louder, harsher, and more violent. There are no more Shirley Temples out there to sing and dance us back into our lost innocence, elusive personal triumph, and buoyancy of spirit, mindsets that are all too quickly becoming idiosyncrasies relegated to distant memories.
So it's up to us, every person for him/herself, isn't that what Republicans keep telling us? As Shirley might have said, that's a lot of hooey. And as Hillary wrote, it takes a village. Times are tough, so it's time to take a page or two from the Book of Temple:
Remember the Golden Rule.
And keep smiling: