Learn from Dee Wallace to make connection count

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After months of masks and social distancing, the return to adventure and human connection has been a blessing. High on my list this summer, I met star Dee Wallace at Steel City Con near Pittsburgh.

Known as the “Scream Queen,” Dee Wallace has hundreds of acting credits under her belt, many of them in horror movies. But my favorite role was as Elliott’s mother in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster “AND the alien”.

“ET” caused a sensation when it was released, with lines of people waiting outside theaters. As a new student, the movie made me laugh, brought tears to my eyes and touched my heart. And with her comedic timing and natural warmth, Elliott’s mother left a lasting impression.

So, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet Dee in person. But two months before the convention, the state of the pandemic remained uncertain. When organizers finally announced in mid-May that those vaccinated would not need to wear masks for the event, the news felt liberating.

My excitement only increased when I finally introduced myself to Dee. Often times, being around the celebrity makes you embarrassed and formal. But the way Dee connects made me feel like saying hello to a childhood friend.

After asking if I was vaccinated, she gave me a big hug – one of the first post-vaccination hugs I had shared with someone other than family members. If this is the new normal, I thought, it’s not bad at all.

I told Dee that after seeing “ET” in 1982, my sister told me that if she ever had a son, she would call him Elliott. And she did. During his early childhood, I often made my “ET” impression to make my nephew laugh.

“El-li-ott,” I called, in ET’s husky voice.

“Un-key-Steve,” he recalled, collapsing into a chuckle.

Dee was tickled by the memory. She later said that although the cast knew the film would be a huge hit, over the years she was amazed to hear how many lives it had touched.

It wasn’t the last time I heard Dee. A few weeks after the convention, I received a birthday video from her on Cameo. With her dynamism and positive energy, she is aptly named after one of her books: “Bright Light”.

As the pandemic evolves, we may need to press pause again to ditch the masks and share hugs. But, as Dee says in her books and her radio show, joy and determination can get us through a lot.

And, as “ET” taught me, sometimes all we need is a reminder of what’s most important: the love we share with family and friends.

Steve Barnhoorn, of Honeoye, is a frequent Messenger Post contributor.


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