What’s keeping your spirits up these days?
“You gotta S-M-I-L-E!”
When I was a kid, I loved Shirley Temple movies. I pretended I could tap dance and learned the words to “Animal Crackers in My Soup.”
I’m sure I had never heard of the Great Depression when I was six, but her first audiences were in the thick of it when Shirley Temple came singing into their lives:
“If something may upset you
Don’t ever let it get you down
Don’t wear a frown
If fortune should forsake you
Don’t ever let it make you sigh
Keep shooting high
Be a crooner, not a groaner, never kick
Here’s a spelling lesson that will do the trick:
You gotta S-M-I-L-E to be H-A double P-Y
Keep it in mind when you’re blue
It’s easy to spell
And just as easy to do
You gotta S-M-I-L-E
It’s gonna help considerably
Just keep your chin up
And give it a try
And you’ll find silver lined clouds in the sky
You gotta S-M-I-L-E
To be H-A double P-Y”
Hers was the tradition of vaudeville players a generation earlier who lifted people’s spirits with humor when they were in the thick of World War I and USO players who would continue the work from World War II on. (See more here: Entertainment Brings a New Spirit, A New Resolve)
No one needs to tell people on the front lines that things are serious. But a moment’s rest, a shot of humor, and an infusion of encouragement can work wonders.
“The Happiest Place on Earth”
Have you been to Disneyland? My first time was in high school, a concert choir trip. The place was all I hoped it would be: fun, imaginative, happy!
I returned often during my years at USC when grad students got discounted tickets. Disneyland always delivered on its promise to be “the Happiest Place on Earth.”
A recent article in The Atlantic explored reasons why Disneyland is so many people’s “happy place.”
“A sense of security and happiness,” tops the list. Vigilant but unseen maintenance keeps rides safe, surroundings impeccably clean, and flowers always at their peak of colorful bloom. Better than a movie, here you are actually in a scene of magic and enchantment.
Disney rides take us “across space and time, to faraway countries and nostalgia-drenched eras.” My favorites were Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Even the kiddies’ Peter Pan let me feel for a moment that I was truly flying over the rooftops of London.
Disneyland is both adventurous and familiar. We know the characters and their stories. When we visit, our earliest Disney experiences come together with the present, cementing bonds of connection to our past and between generations. We hand Pooh and Piglet down to our children, certain they will love them, too.
We need our happy places, real or imagined, where we can restore and recharge.
My happy place: Blue Hill
Blue Hill is a happy place. It feels at once adventurous and familiar, ready for new experiences and linked to a history I have come to know.
This is 2020
But travel to Blue Hill isn’t possible this year, and even for those who live there, 2020 will be different: The Blue Hill Fair is cancelled.
“Every type of leisurely haven this year has been tainted by the pandemic: the pleasures of cheering on a sports team, of sharing a laugh with a friend at a bar, of catching the latest superhero film at a multiplex, of perusing the racks of a fast-fashion store.”The Atlantic
Thank you, Emilie Loring!
Luckily, I have all these books!
The reason I went to Blue Hill in the first place was because Emilie Loring summered there, and the reason Blue Hill connected so swiftly was that I recognized it from her stories.
That’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to be in Maine; we can transport ourselves — “biblio-port” –through Emilie Loring’s novels!
Like Disneyland, the careful crafting of Emilie Loring’s books has been done for us. We simply open the cover, and off we go to our next destination. Maybe it’s Maine, but it could be Wyoming, Cape Cod, Alaska, Washington, D.C., Boston…
When we arrive, we’ll find familiar surroundings and longtime friends. If we go through the swinging gate to “The Manse,” we know that Geoffrey Hilliard’s fluttering aunts will be so glad for the company. If we choose the Cape, Scott Mallory will take us to the city in his roadster (sans the pouting Hilda), and after a splendid dinner, we can close our eyes on the drive back from Boston and just… relax.
I don’t know about you, but I could use a nice day out on my private island, puttering about my very own lighthouse. Or maybe we’ll bake a batch of scones before heading over to the neighbors’ soirée. I do hope the eggs have been delivered. (wink wink)
We can hide inside a suit of armor to escape a would-be murderer, face down cutthroat gang members in a bar, or foil a plot to steal government secrets, confident that we are safe and the ending will be a good one.
Remember that Emilie Loring lived through some of the same challenges that we face now, in duplicate: two pandemics–tuberculosis and influenza–two depressions–the 1870s and the Great Depression–and two World Wars, to boot.
“She knows the world yet the knowledge hasn’t tarnished her spirit or her belief in the best. One can’t call her innocent, because there is no longer the ignorance of life we used to call innocence.” “Perhaps not, but there’s a lot, a whole lot of decency, which takes its place.”
“Well, we’ve pulled through this mix-up, as I firmly believe we will pull through them all. Put your fingers in your ears, boys and girls, I am about to quote. Rousseau said: ‘There never was a time when civilization was in need of spiritual awakening that it did not arrive.’ We’re in need of it right now, and it will come, just watch it.”Across the Years
Emilie Loring was at this long before Shirley Temple came on the scene. Her approach was intentional.
“I hereby frankly declare that I write to entertain.”Emilie Loring
It is my hope, more than ever now when the deep and bitter tragedy of this anguished world lies heavy on every heart, that when my name appears on a gay book jacket, my followers will promptly park their problems outside the cover and fare forth with me into the realm of imagination, where there is always romance, always adventure in a story, salted not too heavily I trust, with my philosophy of life. If, when those same readers reach THE END, they forget to pick up some of their problems, Victory perches on my banner.Emilie Loring
Go ahead. Disappear into an Emilie Loring novel. Let your cares fall away for awhile.
When you emerge, maybe you’ll feel ready to, in her words, “march blithely toward the day’s work pepped up and refreshed, refreshed.” (Do that. March blithely. I promise it will make you smile.)
I’m ready for an adventure. How about you?