I traded my cousin family portraits for a ticket up to Fairbanks, Alaska, for my Great Grandmother's 97th birthday celebration.
Getting picked up / embarrassed by the family at the airport is one of our oldest and most celebrated family traditions.
My mother was born and raised in Fairbanks until she was eight, when Grandma Jojo and Grandpa Larry moved the family to Anchorage. Most everyone else is still in Fairbanks, or so it feels when you've got everyone crammed into Grandma's little home.
"There's a fruit platter there for you guys, and there's cookies, and the Coke is in the garage." - Aunt Betty Sue, 10am
My family drinks a lot of diet soda (regular Coke on special occasions). Here, Aunt Colleen is illuminated by the dim glow of 10:30am while she pours a Diet Pepsi.
"I hope she doesn't come to the front door - there's snow up to your eyebrows." - Great Grandma, regarding the nice lady trying to deliver her birthday flowers
The birthday girl, Great Grandma Meg, "GG," on Saturday morning. An incredible woman. A former nun. Taught dance lessons at the Catholic school while raising six kids. Makes hundreds of quilts for children in need. A legend.
"What do you want for your birthday dinner?" "Hmmmm....pork chops and noodles." "We knew it!!"
"14 degrees....above?!?" - GG
balmy (last week was -45)
Piper and Bentley. Technically my second-cousins-once-removed. We say "cousins." They live in Fairbanks.
Parker is my first cousin. He's applying his horticulture certificate, growing cannabis in Houston, Alaska (the biggest state).
Bentley plays three years up in hockey (he is 6), and is still the best on the team. Piper is an absolute star in both soccer and silks.
The slick "97" candles apparently weren't enough for Aunt Betty Sue.
Terrifying. Luckily it was a double layer cake, so we could take off the entire top layer after it was coated in burning molten wax and eat the bottom layer.
My Great Uncle Ted, Aunt Colleen, Great Uncle Bill, Great Aunt Betty Sue, Aunt Bonnie Sue "Boots," Parker, me, Megan "Bugsy," Piper, Great Grandma Meg, Bentley.
post-Catholic-mass tradition: The Diner.
10. My Great Great Aunt Betty Johnson, Miss Fairbanks in the 1940s (she would go on to become Miss Alaska).
11. A moose.
Corned beef hash and poached eggs.
"You all don't stand a chance. You're all getting prayed for." - GG
GG was born in Duncan, BC (on Vancouver Island), in 1920, and moved to Fairbanks in 1932. She has been there ever since. On this diner Sunday, she is 97. When she turns 100, she had promised to dance.
The Peat Bog in Goldstream Valley
Our other famous relative, Bonnie Sue Hitchcock ("Auntie")
Aunt BS' book, The Smell Of Other People's Houses, is selling off the shelves worldwide. The UK and Germany released editions in 2016 (Geruch von Hausern Andere Leute ), and Spain and Poland are next. Besides being a top 10 bestseller at Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, Washington, the novel has been included in The Guardian's list of Best Children's Books of 2016, Shelf Awareness's list of best children's and teens books of the year, New York Public Library's 2016 list of their top 10 favorite books for teens, the 2016 list from The Chicago Public Library, and Barnes and Noble's list of top 25 in 2016, AND Time Warner/Spectrum's list of the 16 most compelling YA novels of 2016.
She has also been nominated for prestigious awards, including the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and the 2017 William C. Morris Award. HUGE.
She hates attention, she's going to be mad I ranted so much about her acheivements. But look at these nice photos of her. idk, whatever, here's her talking about it on BBC.
here's a tearjerker tale (at least for me):
"I know I should pray for Donald Trump....but I don't wanna." - Great Grandma
Apparently, when you turn 100, you get a birthday letter from the president. When Great Grandma was nearing her 96th birthday, she told Aunt Bonnie Sue how excited she was to get a letter from Obama. Aunt BS had to break the news that when GG turns 100, Obama wouldn't be in office anymore. GG was very quiet. Aunt BS tried to console her, explaining that perhaps when GG is 100, there would be a woman president. GG thought about it but said, "I don't want one from her....and I particularly don't want one from that Donald Trump." She asked Aunt BS, "Do you think [Obama] would write me one now if I promised to make it to 100?"
Aunt BS secretly wrote to the White House to ask just that, and just before GG's 96th birthday, she got this letter from Barack and Michelle.