Since I became a great grandmother a little over a year ago, I can say that I can relate to just how excited my husband’s grandmother, Nettie Knox felt when she became a great grandmother. Of course, for her, becoming a great grandmother was also a birthday present. It was a gift she was very pleased with. That birthday present was one that I gave her, and I didn’t even know I was doing it…her first great grandchild.
After my daughter, Corrie Petersen was born, Bob’s parents and grandparents came to the hospital to visit. The very first words spoken as they walked in the door were from Grandma Knox when she said, “She was born on my birthday!!” She was literally floating on air, and that was just the beginning of an amazing bond that would last until Grandma’s passing, and for Corrie, it has continued in her heart and will always be a part of her. I’m sure that Grandma feels the same way too in Heaven, because a bond like that continues on forever. They shared far more than just a birthday.
Becoming a grandmother is a wonderful experience, as any grandmother knows, so when your grandchild has a child, and you find yourself a great grandmother, you realize that your legacy has gone to the next level. Your line will continue on into the future, and the next generation will no doubt witness even greater things than your generation, or that of your children or even your grandchildren. The future will find things common place that this generation thought were science fiction. Grandma Knox saw many changes in her years of life. Airplanes were very new then…just 5 years since the first flight. The first Ford Model T was produced that year. I wonder what she would think today, knowing that we have cars that have actually driving by themselves. Telephones, for most of us anyway, were still attached to the house. Cell phones came out in 1973, but they were something only rich businessmen had for a long time. Grandma passed away on July 29, 1990, having witness many changes in this world, but there are many that have happened since that would be completely shocking to her. Those things are for her descendants to experience. That is a part of what has become her legacy as a mom, grandmother, great grandmother, 2nd great grandmother, and now a 3rd great grandmother. I think she would be pleased with her family. Today would have been Grandma Knox’s 111th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandma. We love and miss you very much.
Few things change a person quite as much as a baby. It has been nearly a month since my great granddaughter made her entrance into the world. I have watched as my grandson, Chris Petersen and his fiancée, Karen changed right before my eyes. They went from being carefree kids, to new parents…just like that. It’s hard to believe that they are parents now. They have crossed a bridge, of sorts, and their lives will never be the same. Time has flown so quickly…as time always does. Before we know it their baby girl will be one year old, then Kindergarten, high school graduation, marriage, and babies of her own, but lets try not to get ahead of ourselves. Time will take care of that on it’s own.
Their baby is a sweet-natured little girl, who really doesn’t cry much unless she is hungry, and even then, she will wait patiently for her dinner, if she has visitors. She wasn’t a real fan of her first bath, but her second bath was much more enjoyable. Who knows, maybe she will be a swimmer. She also seems to really like to think things through. I like to say that she is a concentrator, just like her great grandma…me. I think this baby girl is going to be very smart, and able to analyze the situation before she makes decisions. I suppose it’s a bit early to tell, but I’m going to take some great grandma privilege here and say what I think she will be. Karen and Chris are adapting well to parenthood, and working through the short nights. They are both so in love with their precious girl, that nothing else matters.
Adding a new baby to our family has been the biggest change in more than 22 years…when my great granddaughter’s daddy arrived. Babies change so many things, and our family was quickly beginning to change. Within two and a half years, we had three more babies in our family. Our world would never be the same, and for that we were very happy. It wasn’t that our family wasn’t great, but now it was even better, because it had been almost 21 years since our family had changed in such a big way…when we had our own daughter…her grandma, Corrie Petersen. Babies are such a great blessing, and as each first child arrives, a big change happens…because there are suddenly parents, where once two kids stood.
Leap Day babies only get an official birthday every four yeas. According to tradition, on the off years, a Leap Day baby gets to celebrate their birthday on February 28th, March 1st, or both. I suppose they look at it this way…their actual birthday gets lost in time 3 years out of 4, so they have to make due with the other days. And maybe they even have a right to celebrate for two days. It seems strange to celebrate a lost day, but that is what they do. My granddaughter, Shai Royce is a Leap Day baby, and she has had her years of celebrating her day on the 28th, the 1st, and both, but for the most part, she chooses the 1st for her three off year birthdays. I have always celebrated her off year birthdays on March 1st, because the 28th was her great grandmother, Joann Schulenberg’s birthday, as well as her cousin, Chris Petersen’s birthday. Chris was born one day before Shai, so that day just made no sense to me. Nevertheless, tradition allows her to celebrate on both days, and so , in order to make sure that she and anyone who knows her don’t think I forgot her birthday, I at least send her a text that says, “Happy first day of your birthday.” It actually should have said, “Happy first day of your missing birthday!!
Having a birthday that goes missing three years out of four could tend to give a person a bit of a complex, but I think that most Leap Day babies look at it as have a really special day every four years, and a really special situation the other three years. It is unusual to have your birthday disappear, after all. In the United States, as of 2016 (the last Leap Year), there are currently only 187,000 people who were born on Leap Day, plus approximately four million others from around the world. Babies have a one in 1,461 chance of being born on Leap Day. That makes my girl very special, in the world’s view. Of course, I always knew she was very special.
Shai has always been a hard worker with a heart of gold. She is good at so many things. She is great with children, and she could easily have been a nurse, or something in the health care line. She has a bubbly personality, and a smile that lights up her whole face. Her beautiful expressive eyes welcome you into her wolrd. She brings the sunshine into the room with her, when she walks in. I never would have expected that Shai would be my only granddaughter, but that has turned out to be the way it was. We used to love to do our nails together, and when she got into hiking, we hiked together. She was a great companion…until she moved to Washington state. That and the day her family moved were very sad days for me. I miss my beautiful granddaughter very much, but I know that she is living life her way, and that is the best thing I could ask for her…other than an awesome missing birthday day. To day is the second day of Shai’s missing birthday. Happy birthday Shai!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My great grandparents, Henriette and Carl Schumacher were both of German descent. They both came to America at different times…Grandma in 1882 and Grandpa in 1884. They met at a baptism and fell in love. They were married, and had 7 children, one of whom died as a little girl. They were just two of the many German people who have come to this country as far back as the colonial days. Of course, there were many German people who came here before my great grandparents. One of the most notable groups was the 13 German Mennonite families from Krefeld who landed in Philadelphia. These families founded Germantown, Pennsylvania on October 6, 1683. The settlement was the first German establishment in the original thirteen American colonies.
There are many people in the United States who can trace their ancestry back to German roots in one way or another, and the German-American people have been a building block in this nation. These were people who wanted to come here for a better life, or to escape some of the horrors of the German government, and I for one am thankful that my grandparents immigrated to this country. President Ronald Reagan believed that the German-American heritage was so important to this nation, that in 1983, he proclaimed October 6 as German-American Day to celebrate and honor the 300th anniversary of German American immigration and culture to the United States. On August 6, 1987, Congress approved S.J. Resolution 108, designating October 6, 1987, as German-American Day. It became Public Law 100-104 when President Reagan signed it on August 18, 1987. Proclamation number 5719 was issued on October 2, 1987, by President Reagan in a formal ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, at which time the President called on Americans to observe the Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. Now for many people, that might include German beer, as well as Oktoberfest activities…basically a party.
The Germantown, Pennsylvania, settlers organized the first petition in the English colonies to abolish slavery in 1688. Originally known as German Day, the holiday was celebrated for the first time in Philadelphia in 1883, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the settlers from Krefeld. Similar celebrations developed later in other parts of the country, but the custom died out during World War I as a result of the anti-German sentiment that prevailed at the time. Then, in 1983, President Reagan decided that the time had come to reinstate it. I think it’s a good thing, because those German people who left Germany, were not like the German government was. They were truly good people, who were good for this nation.
As I visited with my Aunt Dixie Richards at the Byer family picnic, last Sunday, she talked about how her grandchildren were getting older now, and they need her less and less. She was sad about that, because this was an era that had defined her life for the past 22 years…and truly even beyond that. She was mom first, and then grandma. It was who she was. Being mom and grandma defined her completely. Aunt Dixie was always about her family, and now she was feeling like they didn’t need her anymore. Of course, she and I both knew that wasn’t technically true. She is very important to all of the members of her family, it’s just that her idea of her usefulness was in question. It wasn’t that she didn’t think she was needed at all, she just wasn’t sure what her new role would be with these less needy grandchildren.
I can understand how she felt, because I have felt that way myself at different times in my life, as has Aunt Dixie. We were both caregivers…until were weren’t. We were hands-on moms…until the kids grew up, and did their own things. And now we are both hands-on grandmothers with grandchildren who no longer need our help. So, who will we be now? Will we someday soon become hands-on great grandmothers? Probably not, because the hands-on grandparents will be our children. Our role will be simply to hold and cuddle the great grandbabies sometimes, when we get the chance. It’s a strange place to be.
Of course, both Aunt Dixie and I will find our way in this new reality we live in. Our lives will be different, but that doesn’t mean the kids won’t need us, because they will. Aunt Dixie still has a younger grandchild…her only granddaughter, Mayme, but she is in school too, so she won’t have nearly as much time with her when school starts. It’s kind of a lonely feeling for Aunt Dixie, but like all of us, she will move forward, and figure out how to redefine herself, and before long it will all be ok again. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My Uncle Bill Spencer always loved the handwritten letters that were written by his family. It didn’t matter to him if it was nieces or nephews, his siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. He saw in every word, great value…as if it were pure gold. The more I look at old letters, and search for information about my family online, the more I realize that Uncle Bill was really on to something. Seeing the handwriting of our ancestors…be it on a letter, draft card, or photograph always gets me excited. To think that my ancestor actually signed that card, or wrote that letter is very cool. I especially love finding things that were written in some other language. When my grandmother Anna Schumacher Spencer and her brother Albert Schumacher were in school, the teacher made fun of their language. When they came home and told their mother, my great grandmother, Henriette Hensel Schumacher, she decided that German would no longer be spoken in their home. I don’t know if she ever changed her mind on that issue, but if German was spoken, it was not often. So to find a letter written in German by my Great Grandmother Henriette Schumacher to her daughter, my Aunt Min Schumacher Spare is especially exciting. I wish that I understood then, what I understand now about the handwriting of my ancestors. I am so excited about to find these great letters from people I have come to feel like I know well.
When I look at the handwriting of my great grandmother, I see a woman who, even in the face of much pain and adversity, prided herself on her handwriting. Of course, life happens, and we can’t always have the same control of our handwriting that we once might have, but at the time of this letter in May of 1911, her handwriting was pretty and delicate. My great grandmother suffered much with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and yet, I believe that she loved beautiful things, and that she was a delicate and beautiful woman. I know that she was so proud of her family. She would like to help them all she could, but with a large family, and tough times, it was not much. Nevertheless, it was her hope that all of her children would succeed in anything they chose to do…after all, America was the land of opportunity.
Mina Schumacher always wanted to be a teacher, but in the end, she became a bookkeeper. I think she was probably ok with that, but maybe always felt a bit of regret. Nevertheless, her hanwriting to me shows strong woman who loved the pretty and delicate things in life. She often signed things using beautiful script or calligraphy. It was her own sense of style. Many people never give any thought to the impression their signature will make on another person, but she did, and I loved it since the first time I saw it in my dad’s photo album. It was just as beautiful and graceful as she was. She knew that the handwriting of our ancestors is important.
It would be hard for most of us to imagine a world where we got to go to town only once a year, and yet that was the way of things back when my Great Aunt Bertie Schumacher was a little girl. The Schumacher family moved from Minnesota to a place 8 miles from Lisbon, North Dakota, and the school house was 3 miles from where they lived. Bob and I, in our many evening walks have walked 8 miles at a time, but not in the winter, and since that walk takes us 2 hours, I can’t say that it would be feasible as a way to go to town for groceries, because then there is that walk back loaded down with groceries. Just the thought of 4 hours of walking in the winter cold is enough to make me cringe.
Nevertheless, the children needed to be in school, so Great Grandpa Carl Schumacher got up early every morning, to get the horses out and break a trail, then hook up to the sleigh for the 3 mile drive in to the school with his older children, Anna (my grandmother), Albert, and Mina. Aunt Bertie remarks in her journal, that she and Elsa were very glad that they could stay home with their mother. The sleigh was nothing like the more romantic New England cutters we all think about, but was rather a grain wagon box placed on two heavy runners pulled by their sturdiest horses because of all the deep snow the area got. Great Grandma Henriette would bring the older 3 children out to the wagon, and place bricks she had heated by their feet. Then she would wrap them in blankets that even covered their faces to protect them from the bitter cold. In all the time the children went to that school, they were there everyday, unless they were sick. It was by far the best attendance record in the school, and the Schumacher family lived the furthest away from the school. When Aunt Bertie went to school, a place she was not very fond of, she had to force herself to do what she needed to. It was at this time that she met the only teacher that would remain in her memory for the rest of her life. She was beautiful, and well dressed, but it was her graciousness and her love for children that made her the best teacher little Bertie would ever have.
Not long after Bertie started school, the family moved closer to Lisbon, and the school was only a mile away, and much to Bertie’s delight, it had an indoor bathroom. No more running outside to the outhouse in the middle of a freezing cold day and then running back inside in the cold again. Bertie felt like she was attending school in a palace, I’m sure. One day, when her mother had to drive the long distance into town on a very cold winter day, she decided to leave little 4 year old Elsa at the school with Bertie and their brother, Fred for the day. Elsa had never been away from her mother before, and they were very close, so she proceeded to cry. The older children could not console her, and finally a teacher came and took Elsa under her wing, calming her and allowing her and her siblings the peace of knowing that everything was going to be alright. Bertie recalls how it is funny that the memories that really stay in your memory are the ones where someone showed such love and kindness that the memory of it lingered on for years to come. What a lovely way to be remembered. That is something I think I should like to be remembered as. Loving and kind enough that the memory of my acts of kindness and love stay in the memories of those whose lives I might have touched.
Becoming a grandmother was such a thrill for me. I had wanted to be a grandmother by the time I was 40 years old, and my oldest daughter, Corrie gave me the gift of a grandchild just 2 months before my 40th birthday, but Christopher was an even bigger gift to my mother-in-law. Christopher was her first great grandchild, but more than that…he was born on her birthday, just as his mother, my daughter, Corrie was born on my mother-in-law’s mother’s birthday and was her first great grandchild. My only regret is that Corrie’s great grandma didn’t live to see that day. She would have been delighted!! She always felt very special to have her first great grandchild be born on her birthday. In fact, it was the first remark she made to me when she walked into my room, and I knew that I had somehow…without even knowing it and never having planned it, given her a gift that would enrich her life as long as she lived. Now Corrie and given that same gift to her grandmother.
When Corrie managed to have her first child on my mother-in-law’s birthday, we were…shocked to say the very least. By that time we had gotten used to Corrie’s birthday being on her great grandmother’s birthday, and the fact that our niece, Machelle was born on her great grandfather’s birthday…same couple by the way, but when Christopher arrived on his great grandmother’s birthday, and it was the daughter of the great grandmother whose birthday Corrie was born on…well, I don’t know the statistics, but I’m sure it’s pretty rare.
The years have flown by since Christopher’s arrival, and I find myself looking up at a sixteen year old young man today, who will get his driver’s license this afternoon. Sometimes it is hard to wrap my mind around that fact. Chris, as he is now called, should still be that teeny little boy who was and still is famous for making the cutest faces. He could always make me laugh. Christopher always had a flair for the comical as a little boy. I can’t believe that he is so grown up…so close to being a grown man. Where did the years go? They went by so quickly.
I am so proud of Chris. He is a hard working young man, who holds down a job, bought his own car, plays football, and studies hard in school. He also helps out in the care of his great grandma, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, and I know that is a little sad for him, because his great grandma doesn’t understand the significance of their relationship anymore. Nevertheless, they love each other, and when she is told about their birthdays…she says she remembers. And, I think she does then. She remembers that she has a great grandson who came on her birthday, and she remembers just how special that is. She remembers how exciting that was. They both know that they are blessed.
Today my grandson, Chris turns 16…that most exciting year of all. He has his car ready to go…a Camaro, of course. He has been working on it for some time with his dad, and now it is all fixed up and sporty…just the kind of car a young man wants to own. The chick magnet that every guy wants to be driving. He is a good driver, and I think he will do wonderfully well on the road. I think his great great grandmother would have loved to have seen this day. Happy birthday Chris, and happy birthday Mom!! I hope you both have a wonderful day!! I love you both!!
When Corrie was just a little over a year old, and Amy was just 3 months old, we took a trip to Yakima, Washington to visit Bob’s great grandmother. His great grandparents had come to Casper for a visit just 3 months earlier, and shortly after returning home, Great Grandpa passed away. He was 93 years old, and fell off a ladder while doing some repairs to the home they lived in and broke his hip. He lived an amazing life, as you can see.
When we went to visit Great Grandma, Corrie was just learning to walk. Grandma had a little chair with short legs, just the right size for a little girl. Corrie loved that chair so much. She sat on it a lot during the time that we were there. So much so, in fact, that Great Grandma decided to give the chair to Corrie, after telling us about it’s history. The chair had belonged to her sister, and she had given it to Grandma. At the time that she gave the chair to Corrie, it was over 100 years old. That was in 1976. So that chair today is over 135 years old.
Throughout the years that chair has been a part of our lives, and has been used by many a small child. I’m sure that many of those kids would have loved to take that chair home, but I knew that it was a special gift given to Corrie, by a great great grandmother, now long since gone. Grandma passed away in early 1984 at the ripe old age of 96 years. She had continued to live alone in her own home all those years. Another amazing feat, but then she was an amazing woman.
When Corrie got married in 1993, that little chair went to a new home after all…Corrie’s. It was a piece of furniture that Corrie has cherished through the years. It has had to have several paint jobs during all those years, and is in the midst of one as I write this story, but the memories that have been built around that little chair…well, if it could only talk. It has seen many a little girl, and doll sit on it for tea parties, and other little gatherings. It has been used as a little table of sorts at times, and when Corrie and Kevin had children, the little chair saw a new generation of children, this time boys get to enjoy its perfect size, as they found out that they could get up on it easily, and without any help, which was the same thing that had so attracted Corrie to it all those years ago. Not a bad life…for a little chair.