Tomorrow—it’s always a day away.
Little Orphan Annie
At the time we lived on Yokota AB at the far edge of Japan’s Kanto Plain. The afternoon sun always seemed to fill our living room with a soft golden glow that made 3 year-old Amy’s tangle of blonde hair sparkle and dance in the light. Decades later, I can still picture her sitting in that light—with Little Orphan Annie toys strewn from one end of the room to the other! I never quite understood Amy’s fondness for Little Orphan Annie. Annie was pretty much just a 1930’s-era cartoon character at the time. The real entertainment buzz was being generated by the mid-70’s rediscovery of the more glamorous Wonder Woman. This was also a time before the film version of the Broadway musical, Annie, turned the character into a franchise and had the country singing the catchy hit, Tomorrow. None-the-less, she was a die-hard fan and several years later, she headed off to her first day of school wearing a Little Orphan Annie signature red dress.
I’m thinking about Little Orphan Annie because my little girl has just had a little boy and the impulse for nostalgia is overwhelming. It’s hard to reconcile images of Amy heading off to First Grade in an Annie dress with that of the mature young woman who has just given birth to Jackson Charles. But looking at that tiny fellow through the window of the hospital nursery made me think beyond yesterdays. It made me think of hope, optimism and Annie’s promise that, “you can bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun!”
Right now Jackson’s life is nothing but sunshine (wet diapers and hunger pains at four-hour intervals aside). His life is a book of blank pages waiting to be filled in—first by his parents and very soon, by himself. Today his story is one of infinite promise and exciting opportunity. His experience of the world is of a place where needs are happily satisfied in short order and where being comfortably cradled is the status quo. We look at him and can picture life-chapters filled with sunrises, joy and an endless stream of triumphs. We can even take heart in the realization that he hasn’t heard a harsh word, been disappointed or suffered even a minor setback. Those experiences will surely come, but hopefully in short supply and always buffered by a loving family. But right now such things are far in the future and unknown to his nascent consciousness. And while they are an inevitable part of any life story, they aren’t a part of his life story. We’ll keep it that way for a while.
Writing a page in our own book or in someone else’s is something we do all the time but without much thought. Staring down at a baby makes it hard not to be optimistic, but with age, comes a kind of indifference born of familiarity. World-weary folks call it “going with the flow.” This powerless, rudderless approach to life breeds both cynicism and callousness. Do this for long and you’ll end up with a life-story that reads like a Stephen King novel. No one would wish this on a baby and we shouldn’t let it happen to anyone else either.
Every interaction with a fellow human contains a small moment of truth. For better or worse we’re writing in their book and in ours. We can opt to be helpful or hurtful—positive or negative. Fortunately, we all have something in common with baby Jackson. Even though our book may not have as many blank pages, tomorrow brings another one and it’s only a day away. In the spirit of a new life, let’s write only wonderful things! —Ebert