I’m just going to have to ask your forbearance. This is my granddaughter, Phoebe, who at the age of 16 has just been appointed to an advisory board of trustees for a nonprofit organization, Jackson Community Foundation. No, that’s not a typo. She’s only 16, and it’s no small nonprofit.
I’m proud as punch, as you’ve already figured out, I’m sure.
I’m the grandma and that’s my job.
However, Phoebe truly is remarkable. I know every grandma thinks that, so this is exactly why I’m asking forbearance.
You see, this almost wasn’t a happy story. In fact, it almost never happened at all.
We Nearly Lost Her
I’m holding Phoebe, my first grandchild, in the photo below, immediately after she was born, just before I realized she was turning blue. Actually, her hands already look blue in this photo. The nurse was unconcerned and told me this was “normal,” but I knew otherwise and let’s just say I became very assertive very quickly. By the time I waylaid a nurse, any nurse, Phoebe’s lips were blue.
There was no time to lose. When that second nurse realized what was happening, Phoebe was quickly whisked away into neo-natal intensive care where she spent the next week or so. She was not absorbing oxygen and nearly died.
We were terrified.
This was a tough time for our family, in many ways. For her parents and me too. I had already lost one newborn baby, and this was eerily similar – way too close for comfort. Years before, I held my own baby as she passed away.
Thankfully, Phoebe improved and clearly survived, but that wouldn’t have been the case without modern medical care. A few decades ago, she would only have been one of those anonymous blank spaces in the census – a child only suggested by their absence and not known by their presence. Except, for us, as for those families, she would never have been anonymous. She would always have been a hole in our hearts.
A week or so later, she came home from the hospital.
Here’s Phoebe being held by her aunt the day she came home from the hospital – with her “welcome to the world” quilt from Grandma.
I made each of my grandchildren a quilt when they were born. That’s just the first of many quilts I’ve made them. I’m so glad they love grandma’s quilts – and now they like to quilt with grandma too.
I started quilting when I was young with scraps from making my own clothes when I was about the age Phoebe is now.
Here are photos of Phoebe and me at about the same age. I fought to straighten my hair. Phoebe embraces her lovely curls.
My first professional photo wouldn’t be taken until I was 26 and out of college.
Phoebe is light years ahead of me and just sparkles with energy and enthusiasm!
Phoebe with my daughter at about the same age.
When Phoebe was three months old, my daughter made Phoebe a tiny dress to match the wedding décor, and Phoebe was in her grandmother’s wedding.
Of course, Phoebe has no memory of that day, but I surely do!
Fortunately, we took photos, because this wedding photo would be the only full family photo we would ever have.
These pictures make me cry today, for the loss, but also for the love. My mother and brother are both gone now.
This spring, Phoebe standing in the bedroom with my mother’s furniture, trying my wedding gown on.
Someday, it will be hers to wear if she chooses.
Phoebe and Mawmaw
In our family, until this generation, grandmothers were called Mawmaw. Sadly, Phoebe also has no memory of my mother, Mawmaw.
This is one of only a couple photos of Phoebe with my mother. This was Phoebe’s first Christmas and the only one with her great-grandmother.
Here’s Phoebe’s photo beside my mom’s high school graduation picture.
As Phoebe began to grow up, we started making family memories, like this one at Disney World.
And yes, as any good grandparent would do, Phoebe went to the Bippity-Bop Boutique and magically became transformed into a Princess. That boutique is a goldmine designed to mine the bank accounts of grandparents which it does VERY successfully, I might add.
Our family events seem to be punctuated by quilts.
I finished this quilt for Phoebe at Disney so she could have her very own special princess quilt to go with the one-of-a-kind special princess dress I made for her to wear at Disney. I was concerned that she would be upset that she didn’t have a more traditional princess dress like the other young princesses, but she wasn’t, and loved her unique “grandma princess dress.”
What a great adventure.
Even if it was beastly hot.
Phoebe got to wear both lipstick and nail polish for the first time! She was so excited, and then facepainting too.
There are just no words for some things, but grandpa makes scary things not so much!
I’m not sure who these other family members are. I must have missed something in my genealogy.
Planning for college or not, she’s still my Princess – even though she’s old enough to drive the chariot now. How did that happen anyway?
For the next couple of years after Disney, we had princess everything!
At least that made gift shopping easy.
Now that’s some hat. Even the English would be jealous!
But something was in the offing that was even better than being a princess.
Becoming a Big Sister
Phoebe became a big sister!
We nearly lost this baby too, for an entirely different reason. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this child was in constant pain for months.
Phoebe loves her sister, even though her sister didn’t always love to be carried around like a baby doll!
A year and a risky, life-saving surgery later, Phoebe was there for her sister’s first steps, with Dad and Grandpa. What an exciting red-letter day.
After that, Grandma made Disney dresses and goodies for both girls.
It was difficult to take photos of Phoebe’s sister, because once she started walking, and running, she never slowed down!
The girls are inseparable. Here, they are doing “bedtime yoga” to quiet down before bedtime, under grandma’s quilts. I love it that their parents share these wonderful photos with me!
Phoebe began to engage in sports from a young age. She ran her first (partial) race with her dad when she was 3.
He’s pinning her runner identification on. A rite of passage in this family. Phoebe was so excited.
You can see her in the brightly colored clothing right up front, in the center. Unfortunately, she got run over by another runner, fell and bumped her head on the concrete, but got back up, crying, but carried on. Her Dad picked her up, which made her unhappy.
Dad carried her part of the way, first in his arms, then on his shoulders as he ran. She was on top of the world there.
Sometimes, it’s not about winning but being present in the moment.
Phoebe has always loved all kinds of sports. Gymnastics, horseback riding, volleyball, soccer, basketball, karate,swimming and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.
I love the look of intensity on her face. She’s a dedicated athlete.
Phoebe has always been a team player and enjoys working with young people, volunteering her time at various camps and events including coaching soccer.
Grandma teaching Phoebe the essentials of life. How to select jewelry. Next, we moved on to chocolate and dessert😊
Hey, a grandma’s gotta do what a grandma’s gotta do!
And you’ve got to show grandma your missing tooth.
Not only that, but she lost that first tooth after tripping over another dancer at a recital. Afterwards, she proudly rushed off the stage displaying her prize tooth gripped tightly in her hand! She didn’t miss a beat dancing! No one would ever have known what happened – but she also didn’t lose the tooth. Great recovery!
Who can resist those eyes? Not me, that’s for sure.
Not sure exactly how, but somehow she wound up in Kansas. You don’t suppose she clicked do you?
We’ve now graduated to fabric shopping for quilts with grandma! Yes!
Phoebe, Nora and Quilts
My mother only quilted at Missionary Circle, but this quilt made by her grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore, represented the State of Indiana in the 1933 Chicago World’s fair.
Nora is Phoebe’s 3 times great-grandmother.
Here’s Phoebe beside Nora at age 22 in 1888 when she was married.
Maintaining the family tradition, Phoebe likes to quilt with Grandma now.
Sometimes the hardest part of quilting is making decisions. Here, Phoebe’s planning blocks for a college quilt.
Farms are Fun
Phoebe has lots of interests, farm animals among them. Somehow, I think that runs in her blood.
My daughter with our orphan goat, Peewee, when my kids were growing up. Peewee wore diapers in the house and wore a yellow sweater to town for walks on a leash.
Phoebe doesn’t know it, but on the farm at home, my dad used to plant pumpkins every year just so the grandkids could grow and select their own pumpkin for carving. She would have loved that, and him. I’m sure he’s watching over her now.
Grandma doesn’t exactly have a farm, but I do have a labyrinth.
Our ancestors carried water and also maple sap in buckets like these.
I think she’s moved on to chain saws now.
Perhaps Phoebe has her grandmother’s “boot” gene.
Phoebe is no one-trick pony, um, I mean, unicorn, though. Not one bit.
Phoebe loves music. All kinds of music.
Phoebe and the family drum corps.
From a very young age, she was attracted to any musical instrument.
You know, how you hold your tongue really DOES matter!
Phoebe plays a number of instruments, but loves to play the piano. For hours on end.
Alone or with someone. Sometimes her sister sings along.
Phoebe was playing with the Jackson Symphony Orchestra and winning state-wide championships before she was 12. The first year she won, she was actually competing in the youngest category that began at 13 – and they didn’t know exactly what to do because she was actually “too young” to win. The prize was money and a scholarship.
Sometimes her dad had to come directly from work to be at her recitals and events. I love this picture of them together!
This was probably actually Phoebe’s first “professional” picture.
I have miles and miles of footage of Phoebe playing soul-searing, breathtaking music. Songs were even composed for her to play at university competitions.
Phoebe accepting a state-wide award with her teacher.
You’ll excuse me if I call Phoebe a child prodigy, because she is – and I am, after all, the grandmother. I will, however, spare you the videos, although you’d probably enjoy them😊
Phoebe did not get her musical talent from me.
Phoebe’s great-great-grandmother, Edith Lore Ferverda played the piano beautifully, accompanying a great many dance recitals as my mother performed.
As Phoebe has continued to mature, she developed an interest in science. Here, she’s swabbing for DNA testing.
I have NO IDEA where she got the idea to do something like that😊
Next, Phoebe wanted to sequence DNA. Here, she’s in the lab at Michigan State University doing just that with strawberries.
We’ve spent hours reviewing where her DNA segments originated – because she is lucky enough to have the autosomal DNA of 3 grandparents and one great-grandparent, plus several aunts and uncles.
Phoebe’s DNA as compared to mine. The blue areas on her chromosomes are what she inherited from me.
Nothing makes genetics personal like your own family members and the power of visual examples.
Just a Normal Teen
Amid all of this serious stuff, Phoebe is just a normal fun-loving teen.
Cutting up with her friends.
Making friends with chickens!
Playing in the snow. Her sister is hidden behind the tree and just caused it to dump on Phoebe.
This young woman perseveres and conquers what she sets her mind on.
Phoebe Branches Out
Now in the second half of her teen years, Phoebe is branching out and finding her wings – or maybe her voice.
Yes, Phoebe still hikes and climbs trees. One of my favorite photos, a lucky shot.
However, when on the ground, Phoebe has taken a shine to the stage. She has danced for years, but the theater bug has bitten her recently.
I was convinced that Phoebe was going to be a geneticist, but she has since developed an interest in the arts, aside from piano performances. She also sings, dances and now acts in community theater.
Of course, my mother performed professionally – so maybe Phoebe comes by that ability naturally.
Must have “skipped a generation,” or two, because I guarantee you, I have absolutely no talent there.
Is Phoebe’s dancing and theatrical ability handed down on the red segments above, passed down to Phoebe from my mother, through my blue segments? If so, those genes didn’t express in my generation.
While Phoebe was recently appointed to the board of trustees, this is not her first time working as a public servant.
Phoebe volunteers at the Dahlem Outdoor Environmental Education Center and has been a volunteer assistant camp counselor since she was 13. She has been attending since she was 5. It’s one of her favorite places.
Phoebe’s on the committee for the annual Goblin Walk Fundraiser. She’s a moose, above, in brown, and a hummingbird in the blue/green sweatshirt, below.
Phoebe sees beauty everyplace and in everything.
She has a great eye for color and detail and enjoys photography in grandma’s garden.
Phoebe was quite pleased with herself the day she realized she was taller than grandma.
What Phoebe doesn’t realize is that the white and purple phlox blooming beside us is from her great-grandparent’s farm. Yes, Mawmaw and Pawpaw are with us in subtle ways.
I dug the Phlox and brought it home the day Dad passed away. A few years later, it moved along with me to a new house and is now migrating to my children’s gardens a quarter century later.
Our ancestors are with us, not only in our DNA, abilities and appearance but in other subtle ways too.
Someday, I hope these same plants, or their descendants, will grow in Phoebe’s own garden. In the mean time, I’ll be the steward of the plants because she has a lot of cultivating to do.
The future is bright and full of promise. Whatever Phoebe’s life choices, I’m privileged to witness this remarkable young woman develop her potential, find her grounding, fledge the nest and fly on her own.
I have no doubt that Phoebe will leave this earth a better place than she found it.
Her ancestors would be very, very proud of her. This one already is!
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