Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Musings

Scott Parker's post over at Do Some Damage yesterday worked like a time machine and sent me back to my childhood for a while.

My mother was a strict believer in a 7:00 bedtime. Summer or Winter, tired or not, bed at seven. In the summertime it's pretty much like going to bed in broad daylight, winter's not quite so bad. There were no TV's or computers in our bedrooms back then so I did a lot of reading, with a flashlight under the blanket in the wintertime.

When there was nothing to read, my imagination took center stage. Unlike Scott's son, I didn't write any of those stories down, but I still remember them. With the lights out and curled up under my blankets I became Shirley Temple. Ah, c'mon, don't laugh.

In her movies, Shirley lived a fairytale life. She was always orphaned, but found love with the rich couple down the street. Happiness was just a song and a dance away for her. She lived with strangers, barracks full of soldiers or firemen, pretty much anyone who happened to pick her up off the street. And at night, I slipped into her shoes. I found loving parents, you know, the kind who didn't send you to bed at seven or yell if you spilled your milk. I would sing and dance and then my "real" parents would find me and whisk me away to their mansion where I lived on bonbons and ice cream.

Now, Shirley's movies were all feel-good movies, filmed during the depression for people who needed a lift out of the darkness the nation had plunged into. Great fantasy, but as far removed from reality as you could get, even back then. And let's face it, our noir writers today would have a field day rewriting those old movie scrips.

Today, I can see how utterly ridiculous the premise for those movies were, but back in the fifties when I first watched them, they represented life as we all wanted to live it, as we wanted to believe it could be. The sad thing is, somewhere along the years, life kicked into some kind of "Happy Days" on speed. People are afraid to leave their houses. Children are told about "stranger danger" at age three, orphans are stuck into a child welfare system that barely puts a roof over their heads, and the singers and dancers on MTV all look like hookers getting ready for a gang bang. And I wonder what kind of fantasy life fills the imagination of kids today.

I miss Shirley's way of life. Anyone got a spare ticket for the "good ship Lollipop" in their back pocket?


pattinase (abbott) said...

When I was seven, I first developed a sleeping problem and a school psychologist suggested that I make up stories to send myself off to sleep. Shirley Temple movies and shorts from Our Gang played a large part in many of them.

sandra seamans said...

Ah...the lure of Alfalfa! It's funny how we watched and dreamed of happy endings and wound up writing such dark stories. :)

Scott D. Parker said...

I guess you could call me Doc Brown...

I did the same thing when I was a kid. I wrote myself into Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and all sorts of things. I was the Fourth Investigator, The Hardy Boys' cousin, etc.

I think the fantasies of modern kids are kind of the same as Temple who, as you point out, always landed with the rich family. Isn't that the American Dream, have as much money so that you can do whatever you want, even if it's to buy fancy cars and jewels? No one dreams of becoming ordinary. It just isn't in the Fantasy Gene.

sandra seamans said...

You're probably right, Doc, except now kids want things and in Shirley's day they wanted food on the table, a roof over their head, and someone to love them. Different times, different dreams.