Okay, I’m not going to walk down the city streets singing, “Tomorrow” or anything remotely as maudlin as that, and I doubt I will befriend a stray dog and bring it home, but I am understanding the character Little Orphan Annie more these days since my father passed away. Now, with both my parents gone, I must face the indisputable fact that I am an orphan.
Of course, we usually associate “orphan” with a child. Like the little red-haired girl from the comic strip, these are kids who become wards of the state and live in group homes. Hopefully, none of them have to deal with someone like Miss Hannigan, but the fact is that we usually associate being an orphan as something negative and mostly connected with childhood.
There are the famous orphans to be considered like Dave Thomas, who started the Wendy’s restaurant chain. Others include John Lennon, Babe Ruth, Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe, and Nelson Mandela. Writers Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats, James Michener, and Leo Tolstoy were all orphans, as were former presidents of the United States Andrew Jackson and Herbert Hoover. Moses, one of the most important figures in the Bible, was an orphan, and in literature there is David Copperfield, Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre, and Tarzan to name a few.
Perhaps one of the most notable orphans in recent memory is Harry Potter, the boy wizard who became a popular culture phenomenon in books and films. It goes without saying that anyone who reads J.K. Rowling’s books or sees the films knows that the driving force behind Harry’s actions is reconciling what happened to his deceased parents in order to get on with his life. In the story Harry makes quite an impression (and eventually shakes the world), as did everyone mentioned above in one way or another. Perhaps they all went on to some kind of notoriety not in spite of being orphans but because of it.
I suppose the more important part of the story may be those who took in the orphans and raised them as their own. Dave Thomas became a national spokesperson for adoption because of the wonderful experience he had, but someone like Harry Potter could explain all the horrors of living with the wrong surrogate parents. The truth is that even kids living with their biological parents can have horrific situations, and most of us learned long ago that biology has nothing to do with being a good parent.