Saturday, August 8, 2020



Alannah and Alicia--three days after birth

For her birthday, I told Alannah the miraculous story of her birth. She and her sister, Harmony, were sitting at the kitchen table, eating chicken strips, grapes, salad and sandwiches—a birthday fun party with their cousin, Scarlett, and her baby sister, Violet. As Violet munched a chicken strip on my lap, I revisited the “being born story”—Alannah’s name for the story of August 8, 2011 told her over lunch

“We were all a little worried,” I said. “Harmony was born two years earlier, and she didn’t breathe for the first seven minutes of her life. With Mama’s type-1 diabetes, childbirth is complicated and her new doctor wanted to be very careful.”

The story brought back a flood of memories: Mario and I were living in South Africa at the time. We regularly SKYPE called Alicia, and at the beginning of July, she informed us that her doctor moved up the due date. When the baby positioned herself in place, the August 10th due date would be more like August 1st. I changed my flights and came to the United States early—arriving in late July for a two week stay.  Mario stayed home—because at the time, a round-trip airfare was about a thousand dollars (unless you changed it, and then it was more) and we were (for lack of a better description) missionaries living very simply.

Three Generations--Me, Alicia and Harmony, one week before delivery

“Mama and Daddy let me come to the last doctor appointment, so I met the doctor,” I told the girls, as they ate lunch. “I was worried that I had a flight out of San Francisco on August tenth, and he told me he couldn’t guarantee that the baby would be born by then.”

 “I was born on the eighth,” Alannah said. “So there!”

We laughed. “What he really said,” I whispered, causing all of the girls to lean forward and listen. “Is this: ‘I can’t do anything about your travel schedule.’”

“WHAT?” Alannah said, indignant. “What did you say?”

“I promised Mama I wouldn’t say anything, so I looked at him like this....” I put on my glare-face and all the girls laughed.

“The mom face,” Harmony said. “Moms do that face.”

“When you were born,” I said to Alannah. “Mama was weak and took a long time to recover. I had to leave Chico the day after you were born.”

I’m silent, thinking of the hellish separation we had for seven years. I had to leave my daughter, who had just had a baby—and it was no one’s “fault”—it was our lives back then.

Alannah broke the silence. “What did I look like?” she asked.

“You were the fattest baby I’d ever seen,” I said. We all laughed. “You were so fat! You came out and cried, and we were all so happy! You were so healthy!”

Today, reliving that story still makes me remember the emotional pain of separation. As much as I loved our life in South Africa, it was so hard to be separated from family. In reality, we’re family people, and the hardest ones to say goodbye to was the grandchildren.

Alicia, Alannah, and me--just before I said goodbye.
August 2011

Today, I can see them on any given day—maybe just by Zoom, Skype, or facetime, but still—we’re here. This is one of the greatest blessings of my life.


Today, Alannah is nine years old. She's curious, talented, and loves to learn about so many things.  Science is fascinating, cooking is fun, but art is where she excels. She loves to put on plays, watch ballet, and she's wonderful at singing.  She paints, draws, and writes poetry. Like her sister, she loves reading and being read aloud to.

Lately, she's been really getting into American Girl dolls, and she treasures her collection. She also loves to dress up in costumes. Her birthday party was a flurry of American Girl dolls and costumes, one after another!

To say that Alannah is a joy is an understatement. She is love personified, and expects almost nothing from everyone. She enjoys people, loves her friends and family, and loves laughing. She is the beautiful, adorable granddaughter I treasure. I am so grateful she’s geographically closer to me. I need her in my life!

Alannah, me, Scarlett and Violet selfie

Happy Birthday, Alannah! You are the best, most imaginative nine-year-old this world has ever seen!

I love you!