Friday, September 23, 2011

... first be a person who needs people.

This morning I couldn't get Lydia Hodson off my mind. Lydia was an idol of mine when I was a kid. It seemed that she was the star of ALL the plays at Lexington Children's Theatre. This was back in the 60's when the plays at LCT were all performed by local youngsters. When I got my first role, which was simply a walk across the stage following Jeannie Ross and a poodle, Lydia was the star of that show, too. It was a melodrama called Rags to Riches. I can't remember the name of Lydia's character but Jack Pattie played the hero, Ragged Dick. Esquire. What I remember of Lydia from that show was that she was not only beautiful and talented and important, but she was nice to me and I was nuthin'.

My last memory of actual interaction with Lydia was when she was no longer performing in shows, but was president of the LCT Veteran's Society. It was our last meeting, as the Living Arts and Science Center had taken over the running of LCT and the Veteran's Society funds had been absorbed and the group disbanded. I must have been 11 or 12, but I stood up in the meeting and raged about the unfairness of that. At that moment, I believed that Lydia loved me as much as I loved her, for she beamed at me and nodded and said "Oh, you're gonna be a rebel." Such a feeling must soldiers of old have had when knighted by their illustrious queen. I have remembered and savored that moment my whole life, and any time I have been righteously outraged, I have had Lydia's sanction in the back of my mind when I gave voice to it.

After that Lydia became Kentucky's, and then America's Junior Miss. She was in magazines and she was assoiciated with products like Kodak and Breck shampoo. If you had seen her hair, you would understand the shampoo thing. After that she cohosted a TV show called PM Magazine and while that was going on she married a composer named Phil Copeland. I mused then, and still do, whether he could be related to Aaron Copeland. They're both composers, right?

Sometime she got sick. Lydia beat Hodgkins Lymphoma for awhile, but died at the age of 37 in 1991. When I first encountered her I could not wrap my eight year old lips around "Hodson" and had called her "Lydia Hodgkins". Just one of those memories that makes you feel a little weird.

Because I could not get her off my mind, I cruised the internet a bit this morning, looking for articles. Just to see her and hold her in my mind awhile longer. This is a woman I never spoke to after I was a preteen and was only once in the same building with after that when I heard her sing in Gratz Park. Lydia made such an impression on me as a child that she has haunted me ever since. In the very best way. She has been a standard of poise, class, kindness and courage that I have longed to live up to. And maybe somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that yesterday was her birthday, but I don't think so. The web just told me.

Death has been on my mind a lot. It's become the trendy thing to do amongst a lot of people I've loved. I have attacked the subject with all the adjectives but fail to conquer. But one thing I believe I know (just because... I believe. I know.) is that there is something else after that. And I believe there are little windows to the something else that might be looked through from either side, under the right circumstances. And I like to think that Lydia being relentlessly in my thoughts the day after her birthday might be her tapping on the window. I must have been just another one of the little kids to her in life, but maybe it's how important she has been to me that makes the difference.

Her talent song for Junior Miss was People. People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.

Happy Birthday, Lydia. You charmed and inspired wherever you went. I needed you and still need your memory and example. Guess I'm the luckiest.


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