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R.I.P., Shirley Temple

Feb. 21, 2014



There are so many things I would have done, but … you know … clouds got in the way.      I would have finished my PhD.  I would have traveled more when I was young.  I would have become fluent in a foreign language.  I would not have expended so much psychic energy staying thin.  But most of all … I would have learned to tap dance.    Some people dream of flying.  I dream of tap dancing.  And I will never tap dance. Never. Look at my feet.  Then look at my father’s feet.  That's where these babies are headed.


I was reminded about tap dancing when I learned of Shirley Temple's death.  I have always had an almost mystical connection to Shirley Temple, if by 'mystical' you mean 'largely conjectural on my part'.


To wit.


There are photographs of me as a toddler that resemble a brunette Shirley Temple.

Shirley Temple was born on April 16 while I was born on April 26 – only ten days apart. Moreover, the words “April” and “six” figured in both our birth dates, she was the one; I was the two.  As per the logic of seven-year old me, this was portentous. Indeed, every year since then – and there have been fifty four of the suckers -- the countdown to my birthday kicks off on April 16 -- known in my head as Shirley Temple Day.


Film mogul Louis B. Meyer exposed himself to Shirley Temple when she was twelve and two random flashers exposed themselves to me in college.  Clearly Shirley and I played in somewhat different leagues, as is corroborated by the fact that, after child stardom, Shirley Temple lapsed into relative obscurity, as did I after publishing my first novel at age 17.  By relative obscurity, I mean that Shirley Temple became U.S. Ambassador to the UN and I became the Director of Communications at a REALTOR® association.


Which begs the question: If Shirley Temple’s dead, can I be far behind?


Lately, my husband and I have been ending many a sentence with, “and then you die.” For example, “Finally you master the art of eating right and exercising . . . and then you die.”  “At long last, you’ve gained control of your finances so that you can finally, after years of struggle, relax . . . and then you die.”   Or, in my case, “After decades of avoiding any project that involves double-pointed needles, you manage to knit an actual sock . . . and then you die.”  If youth is wasted on the young, wisdom is equally wasted on the old.


A Bucket List is to the old what the Make a Wish Foundation is to terminally ill children, only DIY and self-financed.  The terminally ill child goes to Disney World; the geezer sees the pyramids at Giza from the back of a camel.   


And then they die. 


I don’t have a Bucket List of all the things I want to do before I die.  I am a pragmatist.  I have a Bucket List of all the things I won’t get to do before I die.  And one of them is learning to tap dance. Which makes me sad ... but then I die.



RIP, Shirley Temple.  If there's a Stairway to Heaven, Soul Sister, I hope you're doing the stair routine up it, hand in hand with the inimitable Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.  You really were adorable.

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