The never-ending quest to avoid certain members of
by Julie Cryser
My husband has never met anyone from my extended
family. My parents and brother and sister he knows, but thats it.
That either tells you a little bit about my husband or a lot about
my extended family. From my perspective, it tells me two things. My husband
is afraid of my extended family and my extended family is a little scary.
I asked him if he wanted to go visit some of my
mothers people on my week off this week. He just rolled his eyes, as if
to say, Id rather eat glass. I, however, think hes missing quite an
My mother has three sisters and two brothers, all
of whom live in Huntington. The last time I remember them all getting together
was at a family reunion during the summer of 1991. Its the first time
I realized theres a reason to avoid family reunions.
Too many in-family squabbles and too few teeth.
My one aunt hasnt had teeth since probably the Kennedy era. She and my
uncle pride themselves on their ability to chew peanuts and other hard
foods without their falsies. I never believed them until I had to have
all the teeth in my cats mouth pulled. After a few weeks of healing, he
went back to eating dry food.
Of all my mothers people, my aunt Peg is the one
who really sets the tone for any family gathering. Shes usually fighting
with at least one member of the family over some little something. And
if she isnt fighting, shes leading up a group of sisters in a discussion
of six different things at one time.
When my mothers sisters get together, its like
hanging out in a hen house, with at least two of the hens talking about
something completely different. Whats amazing, though, is that every person
knows exactly whats been said in each conversation. And if they dont,
they make it up.
A gathering of my mothers people is always loud.
When you have several different conversations going at the same time, everyone
has to compete to be heard.
Now, my dads side of the family is completely different.
There are 12 of them, and they rarely get together unless there is a death
in the family. We believe it is best that way. They are half German, half
Scottish-Irish, a volatile mix at times.
The last time I remember seeing most of them was at my grandmothers
funeral. It was a lot like a Woody Allen movie.
My one aunt, (well refer to her as Aunt A) who had the power of attorney
over my grandmother, had been my grandmothers legal watchdog for the past
10 years. My grandmother had long since become mostly a vegetable, but
her heart was still strong and she wouldnt give up, like the good German
stock that she was.
When my other aunt (well call her Aunt B) came
to our house for a wake, she commented that if she had to live like my
grandmother had lived, she would want someone to smother her with a pillow
early on. Taking great offense to that statement, Aunt A said she would
be the first one there with the pillow.
Ive told all these stories, and so many more, to
my husband. And perhaps thats why he finds so many excuses to keep from
meeting my extended family.
Sometime, however, someone will die or there will
be another family reunion.
Then, hell have to go.
city officials need
a vision for downtown
Right now, the old McCoy mansion sits empty along
West Main Street in Clarksburg like many other empty buildings downtown.
But one entrepreneur sees something more in this shell of a building than
Lisa Kovach sees promise. She sees a place
for people to grab a sandwich or a cup of coffee. But her vision is even
bigger. She sees her plans as giving downtown Clarksburg some identity.
Kovach has leased the first floor and basement of the McCoy mansion
and plans to open The Shoppes of McCoy mansion, which will include small
shops where residents will be able to eat, drink, relax and buy gifts.
She plans to open a boutique, a gift shop and a New York-style deli restaurant
in the 535 W. Main St. building.
If were going to maintain this downtown
as a healthy place for business, we have to do a little more; we have to
give a little more, she said. We need to get a little hip around here.
Kovach, we believe, is doing something that
other downtown business people and city leaders should be doing. Shes
trying to give downtown Clarksburg an identity. And thats something it
will need to survive.
We applaud Clarksburg city officials for hiring
a firm to come up with a plan to revamp the downtown, including more green
space, new lighting and walking trails. But the plan still fails to answer
one big question: What will the downtown offer to draw people to it?
Other cities where downtowns have been revamped
have done so successfully by deciding what the theme of the downtowns would
be. Charleston, for instance, has drawn coffee shops and unique restaurants
to its downtown, while also revamping an old train station into an elegant
farmers market. Fayetteville, near the New River Gorge, draws on its tourists
and has opened antique shops, bike shops and earthy restaurants.
We urge Clarksburg city officials and business
people to follow Kovachs lead. Business leaders and city officials need
to get together to come up with a vision for not only what the city will
look like, but what it will feel like.
Will it be an entertainment hub? We have the
Rose Garden Theater. Will it be a place where you can take a history tour?
Will it be a place where professionals can go hang out during breaks in
the day and after work, with small shops and revamped facades?
Like Kovach said, with Fairmont State Colleges
new campus in the center of downtown and with the number of young and old
professionals alike downtown, this city needs to be a little more hip.
We hope Kovachs enthusiasm sparks more discussion
about what downtown Clarksburg should be. Because without everyone pitching
in, nobody will be successful and the downtown will continue its decline,
despite walking trails, green space and bricks.
This editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial
board, which consists of William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser,
James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.
Harrison school board
should review policy
on class attendance
We have to give South Harrison High School teacher
Mary Jo Short an A for speaking her mind: She told the Harrison County
Board of Education that too many students are missing too many classes.
And she told the school board it should review the countys attendance
Short backed up her complaint with a legitimate
point: When too many students miss too much, even students who attend
class can suffer. The reason: Teachers burdened with re-teaching too many
lessons run the risk of shortchanging students who make it to class and
are ready to move ahead.
Short made other legitimate points, as well:
All the missed classes are hard on teachers, too. It can be disruptive
to have to bring them (absent students) up to speed while keeping the other
students on schedule. And it you have three or four students who miss different
days each week, it becomes a real challenge.
Missed classes are even more troublesome under block scheduling,
in which students attend four 90-minute classes a day rather than seven
shorter classes. The result: Missing one day under block scheduling is
like missing two days under the seven-period schedule.
Extracurricular activities share some of the blame for missed classes.
Students are excused from class to take part in everything from band and
choir performances to sports events to academic competitions.
Short showed real courage in taking on extracurricular
activities. Block scheduling has plenty of opponents, but extracurricular
activities, especially sports, are considered sacred in most schools. Its
true, as South Harrison Principal Jerry McKeen put it, that a lot
of learning takes place outside the classroom through extracurricular
activities. But it is also true that most learning takes place in the classroom.
In defense of extracurricular activities, it must
be noted that high school students who are most active in them are usually
the best students. Even if missing classes isnt a problem for the best
students, however, it can be a problem for teachers and other students,
as Short pointed out.
Of course, students who miss habitually for no good
reason students who are headed for a significantly poorer future because
theyll have no high school diploma or job training are of more concern
than students who miss because of extracurriculars.
With all that said, Mary Jo Short deserves credit
for speaking up about a problem she sees as a hindrance to learning in
high school. The school board should heed her advice and look into whether
attendance policy is hurting the quality of education in Harrison County.
Telegram Editorial Board member