What I Learned When Mama and Daddy Crushed My Childhood Dreams
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
50 years ago this summer I met my childhood idol — Hayley Mills.
We were both aboard the final voyage of that great ocean liner, “Queen Elizabeth.” It was a heady moment, I assure you. And, of course I have a “selfie” to commemorate it.
For those of you too young to remember, Hayley Mills was the Disney darling who starred in many films such as Pollyanna and The Parent Trap.
Not only was I a fan and admired her, I actually wanted to be her.
To the extent that for at least a year I styled my hair the same as she did in Pollyanna and even wore drop waisted dresses with black stockings. Oh yeah.
One day, at age ten, I sat down and wrote Hayley Mills a letter. I had decided if I couldn’t be her, I could possibly be the next best thing – a child movie star. But I needed her advice…
I began (as any good fan letter does) with a full-on gush – “You are my favorite movie star!” and continued on to the meat of the matter… “How do you become a movie star? I want to be one while I am a child.”
Then, of course, I listed a few credentials to impress her: “When our school has plays or recitals I always join in. I’m not scared to go on stage at all. I’ve been the leading part on most of my plays. I’m not bragging, I just want some tips on acting. I can sing, act, and dance. I’ve been taking music for 2 years.”
Wow. Two whole years of music lessons! Now that I had her attention and formed a kindred spirit bond, we could get to a few more details… “You’ve sent lots of my friends postcards and pictures. But I want and need a long letter from you.”
There you go. Surely Hayley would begin to open doors to my new career as a child movie star! What with all that talent and experience why I might even give her some competition for the next Disney movie…
Nonetheless, my insecurity resurrected as I prepared my closing and I was not too proud to beg. “Please, I want to be a young movie star so bad. Please write me a long letter. Your best of friends, Cindy Secrest, 10 years old.”
I know you are waiting on the edge of your seat to discover what kind of reply I received from Hayley Mills. The answer is – nothing.
But since I have in my hand a faded and wrinkled piece of paper that looks strangely like the original I asked my parents to mail, I can only surmise that, due to not knowing her address, they absent mindedly tucked it into a file somewhere only to be retrieved a few decades later.
I don’t blame Mama and Daddy for singlehandedly putting the kibosh on all my child acting dreams. I’m not bitter.
When I met Hayley Mills on the “Queen Elizabeth” I was a young teenager coming home from the London sights of Carnaby Street and Abbey Road, Twiggy and the Beatles. I was way too cool to ask her for acting tips… (early selfie to the left here)
Half a century offers valuable perspective.
You see, God had other plans for that bold, outspoken, singing, dancing, acting character who was never afraid to go on stage.
I kept pursuing dreams. I tried on a few hats – some were a terrible fit and others stayed on for awhile. And the whole time I was dancing through life I wrote things down. On lined paper. In journals. Using a large print typewriter Daddy gave me. Using a flair pen. In letters and cards. And eventually on that marvelous invention – a personal computer! I also found myself on stage occasionally and discovered that when Holy Spirit power poured through me I was in a personal “sweet spot” – sharing stories and words of encouragement.
What sage advice would I give that 10 year old Cindy Secrest?
- Keep writing letters to anyone you wish – always begin with praise and don’t hesitate to ask questions. What’s the worst that can happen? If they say no, move on.
- Realize that some letters you write are best never mailed.
- Always ask yourself the motivating factor for why you want to be or do something that has any amount of fame involved. You might need to recalculate…
- If you aren’t afraid to be on stage or speak into a microphone, that doesn’t necessarily make you brave — it’s probably just the way God wired you.
- Be willing to adjust your goals and dreams as experience, mistakes, victories and critique help show you who you truly are.
- When you look back over a lifetime, thank God for the unique way He created you and seek with all your heart to honor Him in all your pursuits. If that happens to include music, stories, and the occasional stage, then honey, give it all you got!
under the mercy, Cindy
©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Would you enjoy reading “Dwelling Places” this summer? It was just awarded Christian Retailing Best Award for Devotional – voted by the bookselling/publishing industry professionals.
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