Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 29, 2008

A starring role

Last Friday evening, youngest daughter Katie began in earnest the planning phase of making a three-dimensional model of the human respiratory system for her high school health class. She had already decided to craft the various body parts out of felt - pink for the lungs, red for the heart and arteries, orange for the trachea and bronchi. She asked Dad Art to bring several pieces of each color home from the store.

She commented how she has always liked the feel of felt. When she was little, she made dolls out of felt and popsicle sticks. And one Christmas, she and I made a whole set of nativity figures from the fuzzy material.

Her observation caused Art to recall a different felt project he was involved in. Katie had just turned 4 that November and, shortly after her birthday, she announced that she wanted Santa to bring her a star for Christmas.

"That shouldn't be too difficult," I thought. "I can go to almost any craft shop and find something suitable."

My mother-in-law and I went to several stores and I was pretty pleased when I found a fat star made out of gold wire.

But as Christmas drew closer, Katie's star request became more precise. She didn't want just any star, but a "soft" star.

Uh-oh. Santa Claus still had work to do.

Not wanting Santa to disappoint our 4-year-old, Art, the ever-so-particular engineer, set to work. He used his computer-aided design software to make a pattern for a five-sided star that would yield the largest seamless one possible from felt pieces he purchased a few days before Christmas. Then he laid the pattern on the pieces, cut them and sewed the two sides together, stuffing them before the last stitches were made. The star measured nine inches from tip to tip.

"Whew, Santa pulled through once again," I thought.

Not so fast there, jovial fat man! Now Katie began talking about pink and purple stars.

Pink and purple? Whoever heard of a pink or purple star?

This time we pressed Art's oldest daughter Karen into service. She had worked for years as a seamstress, sewing cheerleading and dance team uniforms, children's clothes and emergency-worker coveralls for various Kansas City-area organizations, so we knew she could "whip up" a star in short order. We told her either a pink or purple one would be just the ticket.

On Christmas morning, Katie was thrilled with her star - the yellow star. Then, when we went to Karen's place to unwrap presents, she acquired not just a purple star, but a pink one as well! They were slightly smaller, but the sewing was far better.

Katie was happy as a clam. She played with those stars for years, often using them as pillows for her dolls in the little white crib my Grandpa Moström made.

But as she got older, I eventually cleared her room of things she no longer played with. The stars were among them.

Katie has always been one to thoroughly enjoy stories about when she was young. For years, she would ask Art to tell her again about the time as a pre-toddler she had rolled down the steps to the landing and was so startled that, without crying a single tear, she scampered back to the top before he could get to her. Or the time she opened a package of chocolate frosting and hid behind the recliner until Art became conscious that our ball-of-fire child was being unusually quiet.

And so it was Saturday night. Katie grinned through each part of the saga of the stars.

Then she asked where they were!

Oops! I honestly couldn't recall if I had saved the stars. Perhaps I had sent them to the great beyond in one of those cleaning frenzies I sometimes get into. So I hesitantly suggested that they might be in one of the boxes with some of her toys under the basement steps or in the plastic storage box that held her baby blankets.

Katie wanted more detail.

I was neither in the mood to go searching for them nor to discover they were gone for all time.

But Katie kept pressing.

"Kate, isn't it obvious your Mom has no interest in pursuing this?" Art said. "If you want them, it's probably up to you."

She wanted them!

The words were hardly out of his mouth when she bounded down the stairs, this time walking rather than rolling. A few minutes later she returned with a big grin - and with the felt stars clutched to her chest.

"They seemed bigger back then," she said.

Later, she recounted how she remembers playing with the stars while some of the other things I've saved from her childhood she doesn't remember at all.

So once again, the stars have a place of honor in her bedroom and once again it shows that a person just never knows what gift will make a real impression . . . which one will star.

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