Today is Polly Ann Young’s birthday, and for those new to this Earth, she is Loretta Young’s oldest sister. I like to say that Polly Ann invented being a gorgeous Daughter Of Gladys.
Anyway, this little voice in my head keeps saying, “Write about Polly Ann, it’s her day!” I tell the voice that I don’t have much to go on, but voice is persistent and says that I have enough. Alright, voice. Here goes nothin’.
The following is an excerpt from The Things I Had To Learn, Loretta’s sorta-biography/sorta-advice column, as told to Helen Ferguson. Dear God, don’t let me be haunted by Helen Ferguson for doing this…
Dearest Pol and Bet:
A thank-you note from Gretch The Wretch? That it is- and as much of a surprise to me as it is to you! I swore I’d never thank you for that gruesome present!
So here I am- thanking you. Very Gratefully. And in writing yet!
Have you ever guessed how far-reachingly effective your little plan to “gift” me down a notch or two really was? How much I learned from it?
I was fourteen and I know now that I was very fortunate indeed. The breaks were coming my way. I took them, every one of them, as my due- and behaved accordingly.
I might very well have won the undisputed title of Miss Obnoxious- if you, dear sisters, hadn’t given me that unforgettable present.
I’d come home late. You and Mamma had waited dinner for me. I didn’t walk into the dining room, I made an entrance of it and throughout dinner, regaled you all with my opinions and petty complaints, one after another. I proclaimed that I intended to have a great many studio practices remedied- no one was going to push me around- yakkity, yakkity, yak!
Engrossed with my own concerns, plans, gripes, and convictions, I didn’t notice no one else said anything. Not that you had a chance to get a word in edgewise. Not that I’d have listened, anyway.
The intensity of your attention to my every word should have warned me.
But I was deaf and blind to all but me, myself, and I.
Dinner finished, I asked to be excused with exquisite graciousness. It was a benevolent little concession to good manners which must have been pretty ludicrous, after my self-absorbed monopoly of the dinner conversation.
I went up the stairs, calling out the time I’d have breakfast as though a dozen servitors were awaiting my instructions!
I came to the door of my room.
Your gift was on it.
You knew my most cherished dream was of the day when there would be a star on my door.
You had put one there.
I nearly died!
It was the mangiest, ugliest, miserablest-looking example of a star anybody ever saw. You’d crumpled up a lot of old newspapers and gicked them together with glue, and you’d hung the whole awful mess on my door.
You’d never done anything mean to me all my whole life before. And this, I told myself, was the meanest thing anybody ever did to anybody!
I wanted to pretend I didn’t see it, but I couldn’t get away with that. You’d made it so big I had to see it.
I wanted to protest. How could I?
I had left the table a loud-mouthed, full-blown queen. Now, I was silent. I opened the door and tip-toed into my room. I felt as bedraggled as that star looked, and it didn’t help when my conscience assured me that star was exactly the kind of star I’d earned.
I swore I’d die before I’d let you know. I swore I’d never let you know!
I faced up to that star.
I had earned it up.
I determined I would earn it down, if it took me forever.
One night, weeks later, when I came home the star was gone from my door.
You’ve a right to know I got a lump in my throat.
I was sure my star-less door meant you were satisfied that I had learned the star’s lesson.
I’ve told a lot of other people about the first star I ever had on my door and why it was there. It helped my conscience to tell it on myself.
Now, dearest Pol and Bet, I tell you. None of us will ever be sure I’ve thanked you enough. All that your star saved me from is impossible for us to know.
But I’ve got a pretty good guess. Haven’t you?
I’m sure grateful, kids! I do swear it.
The few things I’ve heard or read about Polly Ann Young Hermann range from her having been beautiful and amazing to… yeah, no that’s it. Again, as with Sally, everyone loves Polly Ann. She was a second mother to everyone- well, a first mother, depending on who is talking- and she was a kind soul. Obviously, from Loretta’s letter, even way back when Polly Ann was just a teenager, she was already helping to guide “Gretch the Wretch” away from being a spoiled, petulant child. Later on, she would be a guiding light for her own children and her nieces and nephews. I mean, this woman was the gold standard for awesome.
So, happy birthday, Polly Ann! I’m sorry that I don’t have more to say because you certainly deserve more than a couple of sentences. Thanks for being the protector. ❤