And Then Again

Tamara Pettit

…….The wind blew and the rains came down Sunday. It was a day fit not for man nor beast or even trusty puppy, Max. It was a “paper doll day” as we called such days in Shannon vernacular. What better day when she was a little girl then to bring out all the paper dolls spread them out on the living room floor and enter a fantasy world where the paper dolls talked nice and wore the clothes you had cut out for them..
…..Making the day even more ominous was the continuing news that COVID 19 continues to spread. Just as the holidays approach and the need to connect grows the guidance to keep away from crowds is more difficult. Governor Jim Justice echoed the thoughts of many of us when after tightening up the mask orders he said “I just don’t know what else I can do.”
….Neither do we, Governor.
…..That’s why I decided we needed a little Christmas Sunday. Wait, the keepers of time lines, my Mom and my Sister, would both tell me you can’t do this were they still with me. No matter. Their voices are still in my head. I was always in a hurry so their cautionary words accompanied most holidays and life experiences. “You don’t rush Christmas.” “It’s not summer until after Memorial Day so put those white shoes away.” “Don’t put up fall decorations until after Labor Day.” My sister even had a rule about when you could wear maternity clothes. You had to be five months pregnant. How could she dictate that to me you ask? Money was a little scarce back then so I just wore her maternity clothes really used after she had five kids. She just refused to hand them over until she deemed the time appropriate.
…..I’ll admit I am out of control. Thanksgiving is two weeks away. But Thanksgiving has become a non-holiday thanks to corona and those of us who will quarantine at home this year. So, if we’re staying home let’s make it festive. Actually, I was anxious to put my new little Santa friend out. He’s four feet tall and I spied him in a consignment shop called Savvy Diva in Pittsburgh last week. They had purchased him at an estate sale and he was one of five. I can only imagine the home large enough to accommodate five Santas.
…..His robe and fur are luxurious and he’s in my foyer now to greet all who visit. Wait…..unless things change the only person he’ll be greeting may be Shannon.
…….I contacted the Ohio EPA about the plumes of black smoke coming out of the stacks at the Sammis Plant and forwarded the photos Georges Hines provided. I received a prompt response. The plant operates seven coil fired boilers. The stack in question is the one used for all seven boilers. They need additional information on the time the photo was taken to determine which boilers were operating. The regulation establish allowable emission rates for various pollutants and require periodic testing. According to the EPA, stack testing over the past two years indicates compliance and the most recent report showed no excess emissions above permitted limits.
….Oh, how we all need stories like the opening of Green Valley Country Store and Specialty Goods. It’s a feel-good story and it warmed my heart to write it. I’m especially excited about the return of the homemade ice cream. My kids were so fortunate to enjoy that ice cream every Sunday that Sonny Weltner and his dad, Albert, would make at Green Valley. Eleanor Herron Weltner was my Aunt, and my Dad would pick my kids up every Sunday and they would go for a drive out to Green Valley where Dad could visit with his sister and the kids could enjoy the ice cream.
….We featured the School Honor Rolls last week. It’s a difficult time for education. Teachers are worn out. Parents are frustrated. Certainly, the kids are challenged. I think we all have to remember that whether our kids are learning, in school or at home, how we make them feel about themselves is as important as what they learn. What better time to share a column I wrote in 2014 about an innocuous star and the impact it had on several generations.
It was a simple, five- point star that made all the difference. The first one was drawn with a fountain pen…not perfect…but drawn deliberately on each of my hands.
Getting that star each night was magic to me. After my nightly bath I would tiptoe down to my Dad’s office. He would pull out the side panel of his desk and I would offer up both hands so that he could draw a star on them. Because, I was his star.
As the years passed, the knowledge of how special I was to him became imbedded in my identity. My Dad’s belief in me prompted me to finally get my college degree at age 42 and to put my self-worth out there for all to judge when I ran for political office. His unwavering belief sustained me through divorce, job loss, near death car accident and breast cancer. It was there when I won elections and it was a life raft when I lost. Stars, you see, don’t give up when the going gets tough.
And when his grandchildren could understand what it meant, they too held out their hands for a star. It was a little more difficult for my son, Doug. A severe speech problem was a big obstacle for him. At age five when he went to kindergarten no one could understand a word he said. His grandfather took the extra step for him. He would remove Doug’s shoes and socks and inch by inch draw a star on his instep. It was not an easy task for this five-year-old was ticklish. It involved giggles, jerky feet, and his grandfather dodging a wayward kick now and then. But my Dad persevered because Doug needed to know that although no-one could see it, it was in his blood to be a star.
The legacy of that star survived my Dad. In an essay written by Doug while a Senior at Bethany College upon his grandfather’s death, my son would write about how the act of drawing that star on his foot day after day, year after year, would have a long-term impact on his life.
“The most special thing the man ever did was my secret,” Doug wrote. “He was determined to make me feel special and he did.”
Three years later upon his graduation from law school, I gave my son a watch. It had a star roughly etched on the back. I wanted him to forever have a star on his hand. As I have watched two children and six grandchildren each find their special niche in life, I more than ever recognize the power of a star. Call it what you will and express it how you must, the infusion of self-esteem into a young mind is the most valuable inheritance your child can receive.