In response to The Daily Post prompt: Teen Age Idol
When I first read this prompt, it sparked a memory from my childhood. When I was about eight years old, my mother asked me to identify an ideal—a person who epitomized characteristics that I would like to have when I grew up.
I chose Elaine, a teenager whose family had recently moved into the house across the street. That house used to belong to my best friend Bonnie Ann’s family, but during the week my baby brother was born, while I stayed with my Aunt Monika and Uncle Hughie and my cousins Monica and Billy, Bonnie Ann’s family moved away.
As excited as I was about having a baby brother, I missed Bonnie fiercely. We’d been constant companions for as long as I could remember. She’d been telling me for months that she was moving away very soon, but since it hadn’t happened, I didn’t believe it. Now she was gone, and I didn’t even get to say “Goodbye.”
One day, I guess to get me out of her hair, my mother suggested I cross the street and introduce myself to our new neighbors. She promised me a girl lived in Bonnie’s old house.
When a tall young lady answered the door, I said, “I’m Andrea. I live across the street, and I want to meet your girl.”
“Well, I’m the girl,” she said, throwing the door wide open for me to enter.
Bonnie’s house looked completely different. The first thing I noticed was the loud tick-tocking of a grandmother clock in the kitchen. I also noticed a piano. “I have a piano at my house,” I said. “I’m going to take piano lessons next year.”
“I take piano lessons,” said the girl, whose name was Elaine, the most beautiful name I’d ever heard. She sat down at the keyboard and played a few songs for me. I admired her long hair, which hung down her back in a braided ponytail. She wore butterfly-wing eyeglasses.
I visited Elaine often during the next few months. She always tolerated me for a half hour or more, then politely begged off so she could do her homework. Eventually, I spent more time with friends my own age, but Elaine and I always waved to each other or spent a few minutes talking when we saw each other around the neighborhood.
So when Mom asked me to think of an ideal, I immediately blurted out, “Elaine.”
“Why?” my mother asked.
“Because she’s nice, and she’s pretty, and she plays the piano, and she’s smart.” That pretty much summed up everything I aspired to.
“Okay,” she replied, seemingly satisfied.
And every now and then (usually when I was procrastinating from practicing piano) my mother would chide, “What do you think Elaine is doing right now?” The notes of Elaine’s piano floated through the open window, nudging me toward my piano bench.
When I entered high school, my friend Patty pointed out an upper class girl and said, “She’s my ideal.” She then enumerated all the reasons why she wanted to be just like her. Patty was the only one of my friends who ever spoke about having an ideal.
When I read The Daily Post’s prompt for January 11, 2016, it occurred to me that my mother (and maybe Patty’s) must have been trying to counteract the influence of cultural idols in my life. The teen-age idol is someone who is “worshipped” because of celebrity. My mother wanted me to admire people because of their character.
Although I did succumb to popular mania (see that story here), I learned to appreciate excellence over popularity. Thanks, Mom.