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A Family Business

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

Having lasted 112-years and four-generations of Lipton’s, Tremont Paint met the definition of a family business.

Only being sold when we ran out of Lipton’s!

With my daughter Buck Wheat and my niece Nicole never expressing any interest in spending a career as a paint-slinger, my nephew Andrew became Tremont Paint’s last best hope for another generation of selling paint in the Bronx.

Andrew and I don’t agree on how his first and only summer with Tremont Paint ended. Though we agree that when he quit or got fired, it marked the end of the line.

Despite Andrew's impressive skills with the mixing sticks, the paint business was not for him.

Since selling Tremont Paint in October of 2019, I spend most of my days working alone in THE Studio. While I enjoy the quiet and the privacy, I'd being lying if I told you anything other than that I miss the "family" part of working in a family business.

THE Family Tree

At the time my cousin Jason was born with Down’s syndrome in 1976, American society had a different view of people with disabilities than the more enlightened one we now enjoy.

Born fourteen years before the American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990 ensured equal access and rights for the disabled, Jason‘s doctor advised his parents, my aunt Emily and uncle Chuck, that considering Jason’s condition there were some cruel but real choices a family could make.

In that era suggesting children born with Down’s syndrome can be placed in an institution, leaving parents to tell their families and friends that the child died at birth, was considered sound medical advice.

In a world which had not yet found its humanity on the issue, Jason would have been called retarded. A word I used myself until circumstance taught me a better understanding.

Jason's mother, my aunt Emily Perl Kingsley, was already a writer for the acclaimed Sesame Street at the time of Jason's birth. With plans to change people’s thinking Emily grabbed her son and her pen, and used words to change the world.

It was Emily who pioneered the idea of putting people with disabilities on television and explaining their disabilities to the children and parents which made up Sesame Street's sizable audience.

Big Bird, Oscar THE Grouch and Cookie Monster taught the children of Sesame Street about the challenges that Jason and people with other disabilities dealt with. And they did it using words and music written by Emily.

As a writer, I have an outsized appreciation for those who can use their words to bring change. With 23 Emmy awards for writing (and another 20 nominations which did not lead to an Emmy), Emily has the bling to prove that her pen can break down walls.

Going Somewhere?

Welcome to Holland” is the story of parent learning that the “normal” child they were expecting to have been delivered at birth, was not born “normal.” Written by Emily in 1987, the essay offers support for families struggling with the stark realities of giving birth to a child with disabilities. Rerouted in their Italian destination and left to vacation in Holland, parents of children with disabilities are reminded of the windmills.

And the tulips!

To date, “Welcome to Holland” has been published in over 100 languages and has been read by tens of millions of people.

THE Podcasts

I was unsure about publishing a podcast I recorded recently with Emily. “Em” to the family. While she was married into the paint business, the episode is a detour from the normal path of my paint dealer specific content.

Even after I made the recording I wondered about how interesting the topic might be to a virtual room full of paint geeks.

My editor Brien tipping the scale when he texted me his views:

You can enjoy my episode with my 23-time Emmy Award-winning Aunt Emily in all the usual places. If you're into watching, you can see it here on my YouTube channel or on my own site here. If you're still old-school you can listen in all the usual places: Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts or here on my own site.


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