My great-grandmother’s love for the darling of Hollywood: Shirley Temple

A beautiful reflection by my daughter, Carmen Elida Mason.


This morning, Shirley Temple passed away.

I really don’t have a great interest in Shirley Temple. In fact, I don’t really like her. But, she is important to my history.

When I was in grade school, my abuelita, Carmen Elida, gave me a miniature Shirley Temple doll.

It was a strange occurrence, really. My Mexican abuelita, born on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, whose ability to speak English consisted of a vocabulary full of curse words, was fascinated by the darling of hollywood.

I’ll never really know WHY she enjoyed little miss Shirley so much. I just know that she did. What I do know, is that Shirley temple provided comfort. During the Great Depression, she allowed for an escape; she brought out the laugher and joy in people. Growing up in the 30’s, my abuelita looked forward to watching her movies and her precocious way of being. Perhaps it’s all related.

It has been a little over 3 years since my abuelita passed away from cancer. It has also been a little over 3 years since I last thought about that Shirley Temple doll.

To be honest, finding out that Shirley Temple passed away this morning was a hit to my heart.

Sometimes, we spend so much time trying to hold on to the physicality of what once was, that we forget that all things move on.

My abuelita came from a different era. The people she admired, the ones she saw as the most influential, are people who, as time goes on, will become less and less relevant to the world around me. That also means understanding that they, too, will die.

It’s difficult for me to deal with that reality. People can tell you that your loved ones will “live on in your heart” and “in your memories” but, let’s be honest, no one really ever stops being sad about the loss of someone close to them. And sometimes to deal with that pain, you just reach and reach for anything you can in order stop yourself from drowning in that sorrow.

My abuelita gave me that Shirley Temple doll because she wanted to share an experience with me. I think she wanted me to grow fond of Shirley Temple in the same way that she had.

I’ve never watched a Shirley Temple movie, or seen any of her dance sequences. And yet, I’ve come to appreciate little miss Shirley for the emotional connection my abuelita had with her. And perhaps that’s what’s most important for me. Not holding on to these physical representations, but instead the joy that my abuelita experienced because of them.

Knowing her, that’s probably exactly what she would have wanted.


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