Twenty-five years ago, I wrote a column for The Sentinel. That wasn't anything out of the ordinary - I wrote a column every week back then.
But this column was special. Katie Colleen Seiler had been born late the previous evening via emergency C-section, to our daughter, Tamra, and her husband, Pastor Dennis Seiler.
Richard and I were grandparents, and our lives were changed forever.
Mary Margaret Pecht
Photo submitted by MARY MARGARET PECHT
Katie Seiler and her Yorkshire terrier named Mocha.
We were immediately besotted with this little scrap of humanity and, by the magic of one-hour developing, we had a fistful of pictures of her by the time she was 15 hours old. One of them ran with my column that day.
Katie talked at an early age and, at least in part because of that, she was a funny child, and she quickly became column-fodder for me. She didn't mean to be funny, she just was.
Case in point: Her first birthday fell on prayer meeting night, and their church had a cake for Katie. After everyone sang, "Happy Birthday,'' Katie surveyed the group and calmly pronounced, "E-I-E-I-O,'' a la Old McDonald.
One Katie-story which did not make a column (for obvious reasons) can now be told. Katie was 20-21 months old when her mother was expecting her brother (J. Dwight) and was experiencing morning sickness. She hurried to the upstairs bathroom so Katie wouldn't see her being sick. Didn't deter Katie, she just climbed up the steps on her hands and knees. She patted her mother on the upper arm and said, "Mommy... sorry.'' Tamra explained that it wasn't Katie's fault; Mommy's tummy was just sick - and then proceeded to be sick again. Katie tapped her on the arm again, "Mommy... sorry.'' Same explanation, same routine, repeated three times. Then, with all her inadvertent insight, Katie tapped her mother on the arm again and said, "Mommy... Daddy's fault.''
The family moved to North Dakota when Katie was almost 9 and we lost the close contact we cherished. But we quickly learned that "close'' isn't miles. We are still close despite the thousand miles that now separate us physically.
Katie grew up to be a "people'' person. Even as a young teen, she was equally at home with the contingent of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College students who attended their church in Albert Lea, Minn., as she was with her peers or the little children. That has held her in good stead over the years.
She was head RA in her residence hall at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa, during her last two years of college, responsible for 49 other girls. She chose to remain in Ankeny after graduation, and today is customer service manager (second in command) at a bank branch in the area.
Katie has grown up to be a beautiful young woman (no, it's not just that we're prejudiced), and she's just as nice as she is beautiful. She accepted Jesus as her personal savior at a young age, and has always been immersed in the church. Today she is very busy in the life of Ankeny Baptist Church, plays piano on rotation/as needed, teaches a Sunday School class of young boys, and plans to go on a missions trip to Kenya in July.
She's an excellent pianist, and has played at church since she was 14. She had no formal high school graduation ceremony since she was homeschooled, so she marked the occasion with a piano concert.
Her enthusiasm for life knows few limits. She's excited when she gets a new shirt - but she's excited when you get a new shirt, too.
I've seen her speechless only twice. Once when we gave her a collector doll for her birthday which she had admired, starry-eyed, the fall before but had not asked for. The other was her 13th birthday, on which we arrived at the Seiler house about 3 a.m. (since the family was asleep, we used our own key to go in the house and go to bed; didn't even awaken the dog). Come morning, Tamra told Katie her birthday surprise was on the spare bed. She rushed downstairs and there we were. Yeah, she was speechless.
Things have changed, I admit - lots of them. When Katie was born we bought a gigantic camcorder to record her special moments. When she graduated from college three years ago, a friend recorded her graduation on a cell phone.
Katie shares a modest three-bedroom house in Ankeny with two other young women - all graduates of Faith. Last year, she added a new member to the household - a Yorkshire terrier named Mocha, who is convinced it's his house and they are his household staff.
But Katie still has the big, china-blue eyes that have always been what one remembers when she's gone. Like most of us, she had known some disappointments along with the joys and I have seen those blue eyes glisten with tears - like when the doll house she had saved for was gone when she went to purchase it (and which, I admit, broke my heart).
Sometimes I wonder if Katie's associates at the bank know that their boss used to like to spit on the refrigerator door. I think she liked to see the patterns it made. Consider this true scenario:
"Kaaaatie, what did Mommy say?''
"Ladies don't spit.'' Ptuey. Ptuey.
I wrote 25 years ago, "Just call me Katie Seiler's grandmother.''
I am still immensely blessed to be Katie Seiler's grandmother.
Mary Margaret Pecht is a Ferguson Valley resident who has been writing for The Sentinel in one capacity or another for more than 50 years.