Over the past couple of months, I have experienced major changes in my life. I began my final semester of my undergraduate degree while balancing the emotion of my grandmother going through surgery to remove cancer in her breast. On top of those situations, friends have come and gone and my parents painted my childhood room a different colour. Although these instances are seemingly insignificant to some, they add up in the mind of a person who values sentimentality and nostalgia more than most things in life. They’ve caused for a great deal of reflection on my personal life and incited evaluation of my strengths and weaknesses. I came to the conclusion that I would like to be four years old again—if only. Yesterday, I had the unfortunate task of adding another life-changing moment to the docket; I awoke to text from a friend that made my sentimental heart sink: “Also…. Shirley Temple died.” And with that, my childhood surely ended.
My first memory of Shirley Temple occurred at my Me-maw’s house as we watched Heidi (1937), snacked on cookie dough, and guzzled Dr Pepper. I was mesmerized by the studio manufactured landscapes, saddened by the orphaned girl, yet pleased she could make the most of her situation. I remember asking my mother about Shirley Temple when I went home in the evening. She introduced me to Curly Top and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, (the latter remains on my list of favourite films) and told me that Miss Temple was about the same age as my grandparents—which baffled me. For Christmas, I received a karaoke machine with a cassette tape that had “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” and “Animal Crackers” on each side. Let me tell you, I swallowed those animals one-by-one until the tape could run no more. Throughout my childhood, the fascination continued: any time Shirley Temple appeared on the television screen, I was on my knees, amazed by her talent, childlike wonder, and charm. Her songs touched my heart and, by golly, if they don’t stay in my head for days at a time.
As I grew up, Shirley came with me, only she remained the perpetual youngster and I became an adult. I unabashedly played her songs in the car and shared videos of her on Facebook with the hopes that her dimpled smile and 56 curls would bring cheer to friends or usher in a new fan. Shirley Temple Black was many things: a child star, an actress, wife, mother, grandmother, and diplomat. I will always hold her purpose in this world near and dear to my heart. She brought smiles to audiences of the Great Depression and maintained the “moral decency” studios wanted so desperately to portray. Later, she served her country as an ambassador and staunch member of her political party. The betterment of her country and the lives of all Americans seemed to be on her agenda until the day she died. And although I never had the privilege of meeting her, I still think of her as a childhood friend. She is eternally preserved on celluloid to guide me back to my four year old self — a girl entranced by the life ahead of her, yet innocent enough to believe the Good Ship Lollipop could be a reality with a little imagination.
Farewell, Miss Temple Black. I’ll see you on the silver screen.