It seems fitting that on this Earth Day 2016, I write about taking responsibility for the future.  Reduce, reuse and recycle are the three Rs of taking care of our planet, but I’m adding another one….remember.  It may not help keep the Earth clean and green, but it will add immeasurably to the happiness of the people who dwell here.  Because, of course, I want people to remember Shirley Temple.  With the unveiling of a USPS postage stamp this month, her name is out there – she was even “trending.”  So I’ve decided to take on the responsibility…in my very, very, very small way….to help the next generation come to know this American icon.


Prior to attending Shirley-palooza (a five day event of everything curled and dimpled), I had my students design an envelope to be stamped and cancelled on the first day of issue. The volunteer doing the very precise work was way impressed with the children’s efforts, even taking a photo to post on his website! Proud teacher moment, for sure. The staff at the event gave me a campaign button that came from Shirley’s own collection – one for each child, and I gathered a few other things along the way.


One of the first things I did upon arriving at home (jet lag be d****d) was to put together a little swag bag for each student, with an explanation of what was inside and what it all meant. It was important that I convey to them and their families that this was not just a goody bag, but a little collection of historic artifacts.

After four days of absence (and I’m rarely out!), we were happy to be reunited, and I didn’t keep them in suspense too long before doing my own unveiling. One thing that I can do pretty well is spin a yarn, and spin I did.  Their eyes were as round as saucers as I went through the event, making the biggest deal possible about each item, and explaining just what each meant.  They were knocked for a loop when I told them that the tiny red, white and blue SHIRLEY button was a vintage item, direct from a movie star’s home, and that people pay good money for them on eBay!  They were as respectful as I hoped, and no one lost a thing that day (a remarkable feat in and of itself!). It just so happened that two parents were there to witness the show, and they were impressed….as it should be.

I’ve spent a LOT of time this year weaving Shirley into my classroom lessons, because I take my responsibility seriously.  I even wrote a children’s story that features Shirley and her dog Ching-Ching.  In my dreams, I see it as the first of a series of Shirley stories, so that the children who aren’t lucky enough (!!!!) to be in my classroom can delight in the adventures of this child who was both a movie star and a regular little girl.  A child who grew up to become an adult who contributed to the world in significant ways.  A person worth remembering.