Thirteen

 

Miranda Holding Sam

Miranda Holding Sam

Thirteen years ago I snapped this photograph of Miranda holding her new cousin Sam. He was about six weeks old when she and I boarded a plane bound for Alaska to see the firstborn son of my sister Margaret and her husband Leon. 

Elizabeth & Sam - Trying To Make Him Laugh

Elizabeth & Sam - Trying To Make Him Laugh

Sam as it turns out, was the laughingest baby I’ve ever known and if you ask my sister she’ll tell you he only ever laughed with wild abandon with me. (Use your imagination here to picture the silly dances and sounds I had to make in order to encourage such giddiness) You should know I’m talking about giggling, squealing peals of real laughter not just the smiles and cooing you get with a lot of happy babies. Born in Alaska, we didn’t see a lot of each other face to face over the years, but my memories of the way he would laugh can still make me smile and it’s one of the stories everyone talks about when we remember Sam’s baby years.

Last December, I had a chance to spend a week in Alaska with Margaret and her husband Leon along with Sam and Nik. It was the first time I’d been around Sam since he was about 3 1/2. so the changes were huge. Sam, the laughingest baby I’ve ever known has a more mature sense of humor now.

He understands subtlety in a way that takes you by surprise, sometimes being a step or two ahead of you before you realize he understands irony in way that most thirteen year olds don’t get yet. 

There are a few other qualities I had a chance to see up close during my visit, such as Sam’s innate sense of direction. It turns out that Sam’s love of maps makes having him in your car a bit like having a personal GPS that tells you where to go and then reassures you that he knows what he’s taking about. I saw him do this more than a few times when we were in the car together last December and thought how handy that would be when he makes it over to Cornwall sometime for a visit. 

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Like his younger brother Nik, Sam is quite the music man. Preferring a Gibson guitar over his brother’s Fender, he seems to like to rock a bit more gently to some less raucous rock and roll classics and it was great fun for me to be able to see him play live at a Christmas concert. 

He’s had a intense interest in Huskies and the Iditarod for as long as I can remember and got his dog Buddy, an Alaskan husky when he was about six. (Sorry …I don’t have a better picture of Buddy) The picture below though shows one of the funny things Buddy likes to do when he feels like he wants to join the rest of the action.

Buddy At The Gate

Buddy At The Gate

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Sam has a need for solitude and time to think that I totally get and conversations with him always leave me thinking about our discussions and marveling at the perspective and insight of such a young man. He digs deeply into areas that interest him and is more than willing to chat at length about certain subjects… sharing details you might not ever have considered. 

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I think what I enjoy most though is seeing Sam interact with his brother Nik. With almost the same two year age difference that his mother Margaret and I share, I’m sometimes reminded of how she and I were as similar and different as Sam and Nik are while still enjoying the connections that come with having a sibling so close in age.

 

Sam Holding A Lizard With Nik Looking On

Sam Holding A Lizard With Nik Looking On

Today Sam is thirteen and recognized as a teenager on his way to all the experiences and expectations that will come with the title of teen. New directions can be more challenging for some of us than others, but with his uncanny sense of direction, I feel sure he’ll have no problems finding the path most right for him.

Happy Birthday Sam 

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I Can’t Believe She’s 35!

 

Jennie & Elizabeth 1974

Baby Jennie With Elizabeth 1974

Almost 14 years separate us in age. Born on Easter Sunday, my youngest sister was a surprise in many ways. My dad, having remarried when I was 12, never expected to have more children than the two he’d had in his first marriage to my mother. I know my stepmom was as surprised as anyone when she found herself sitting in her doctor’s waiting room with women much younger and their developing belly bumps. In 1974, women who were 40 or older were more likely to be planning for their first grandchild’s arrival than a baby of their own.

So it was that Jennie, not Jennifer like so many girls born in the 70′s, came into my life. You could say she was a gift from the Easter bunny having arrived on the day when children wake to find surprises left by the fluffy symbol of Easter. Her maternal grandfather called her Bunny right from the start, making it a special nickname that only he would use in conversations with and about her.

I moved into their new baby household when Jennie was about six months old, stretching the limits of what my stepmom had probably planned for her life when she married for the first and only time at 38. Looking back, I am amazed at how well she handled all of unexpected  changes in her transition from single working woman to new wife, before all too quickly being called on to mother an infant and teen.  

Jennie, having been born to older parents grew up almost like an only child. While I was around and involved, I was a teenager after all and pretty well focused on my school and social life. Jennie and I played together, but I don’t remember having had too much required of me…as in no forced baby sitting or sulking about it as I can recall. I remember building her a little puppet theatre and covering it with a hideous pink fabric left over remnants of the 60′s… found somewhere I can’t remember. I made puppets and stories to go with it forcing her to endure and participate in my first playwriting experiences. (Sorry… no pictures seem to exist of the theatre to share.)

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Jennie was my model when I tried my hand at 17 with my first forays into posed portrait work. She was such a good sport especially since she was barely four at the time this poor quality image was taken.  

 

Jennie At Four

Jennie At Four

Joining the Army at 18, I was a visitor mostly after that, a sister who sent letters or gifts from other countries with occasional visits home while on leave. During the 5 years that I was away from Georgia, Jennie changed quite a lot during that time growing out of her little girl self of four into a more outspoken performer of nine. By the time she reached high school she was performing in musicals, sometimes winning the leading role. She began college as a performance major, but changed directions along the way, moving towards a degree and profession aimed at helping others.

 

Miranda Wearing Jennie's College Cap On Graduation Day

Miranda Wearing Jennie's College Cap On Graduation Day

After a few difficult years of helping children through Family and Children’s Services, she returned to school for a master’s degree in community counseling and added a certification to it that would enable her to provide counseling and support to children in a school setting. It’s there she seems to have found her home working with children who frequently need a listening ear and directional support. She spends her days in a rural setting where some of the children come from difficult home situations. Jennie’s quick to recognize a need where someone else might overlook it and at times has gone so far as to buy shoes for a child who didn’t have any they could wear. She does good work there making sure all of the children have equal opportunities for success along with a bit of nurturing and acceptance they may not receive at home.

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Jennie with Mitzi - At Home In North Georgia

It’s hard to believe that she’s 35 today … Happy Birthday Jennie!