….flock together. They also cry, sigh, snap photos and sing. And remember. And love.
(DISCLAIMER: Of the 5.5 readers of this blog, five of you visit for school-related reasons. This post is not for you. But you are most welcome to read it. If you judge, just don’t tell me!!)
That’s why this exhibit is called LOVE, Shirley Temple. Yes, Shirley is signing off, saying goodbye to her precious collection of costumes and personal artifacts, but WE are saying LOVE Shirley Temple. Because clearly, we do.
I always tell my second graders that there are different kinds of love. We happen to be completing a letter-writing unit, and I explained that simply because you sign your letter with “Love,” it doesn’t mean romantic love. There’s always a few groans and giggles. #secondgradehumor
But that applies to this exhibit as well. The range of reactions while walking through the museum hall was astonishing – something I was completely unprepared for. I knew there would be a few fellow uber-fans, and I hoped I’d connect with them a bit. I have. The most moving example was the woman I saw on Thursday morning. By then, I was calmer, having had my expected hysterical reaction the evening before at the guided tour. I happened to be standing by the first costume of the exhibit – the Toy Trumpet uniform from “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.”
This woman walked in, saw the costume, and burst into tears. I heard her say, “I can’t believe I’m standing here!” I offered a few words of understanding, but she had to remove herself for a few moments “to collect” herself. Such was the overwhelming emotion. I was happy to see that once she recovered somewhat (because none of us will ever recover completely), she was able to enjoy the exhibit with a docent guiding her. A kindred spirit. And one of many.
But it was not only uber-fans taking it all in. Every age range was represented – even a preschool class on a field trip! All ranges of Shirley interest were represented too – from the people who recalled watching her films in the Great Depression to those who knew only of her as a long-ago child star. People gathered around the TV that was screening clips of the films, completely taken in. Some sang along, some tried to recall the time and place they first saw the movie, others just soaked in the experience. And it was an EXPERIENCE.
What meant the most to me? Surely (pun intended but instantly regretted) it must have been seeing the Good Ship Lollipop dress from “Bright Eyes,” and talking with and watching the film with the granddaughter of the song’s writer?
Or seeing the dress that everyone associates with Shirley – the coin dot dress from “Stand Up and Cheer?”
Or being THIS CLOSE to one of the Heidi costumes – and the doll dressed for Shirley herself with scraps of the original costume?
All unspeakably thrilling. And tear-producing. But not the pinnacle of the event for me. That would have to be meeting and speaking with Stuart Holbrook, the auction house representative and the keeper of the Shirley legacy.
Here’s an obnoxious confession: For a split second, I considered skipping the guided tour. One reason was that I’d be so overcome I’d embarrass myself in the middle of a small and intimate group. But that rarely stops me. The other reason was that I assumed the tour would consist of someone pointing to the costumes and providing little in the way of new information. (You may slap me now.)
I’ve been wrong before, but this may have been my wrong-est. From the moment I entered, long before the tour began, I realized Stuart Holbrook knew his stuff. And so much more importantly, loved this stuff. And understood the importance of this collection to everyone on the fandom spectrum. Informative, positive and unfailingly patient, he was remarkable. In fact, everyone involved blew me away with their level of commitment – the representatives of the auction house as well as those who work at the Morris Museum itself. I love you all.
Do you know what Stuart said to me? What I’ll treasure even more than the memory of the costumes and dolls? When I returned on Saturday, he greeted me with a hug and said he was off to call Shirley’s son, Charlie. He was planning on telling him about ME. I guess I represent a certain level of fandom. And I’m proud to wear that badge. And cry those tears.
The schoolroom dress from “Captain January.” A minor costume, perhaps, but one of my favorites. I have an original 1930s doll in this dress, and Shirley did wear it in a CLASSROOM scene. There’s my school connection for the rest of the readers.