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Swept up in the granddaughter whirlwind

Published October 30, 2005

Meet Jessica Eileen Tischler, 12, granddaughter extraordinaire. J.E.T . are appropriate initials. Jessie is the Energizer Bunny on steroids.

She is the half sister of Sarah Vahcic, my older granddaughter. You have met Sarah in previous columns. Both girls are breathtaking blonds. Sarah is tall and striking. Jessie is petite and funky! Please note the emphasis on FUN.

Sarah is filigreed chandelier earrings with pale pink and blue crystals and lace-trimmed tank tops. Jessie wears grandma's aqua quarter moon earrings with bold flowers, gold swirls, glitter, dangling flowers, yellow, pink and aqua stars and colorful beads with a purple T-shirt emblazoned with SASSY in sequins.

Sarah is hand-painted roses on a letter to grandma, crewelwork, crocheting, Scrabble and the church nursery. Jessie is volleyball, gymnastics, dancing and singing. She's a former all-star cheerleader.

Jessie was supposed to visit on her own this summer. But with golf camp, soccer camp and more, it didn't happen. Instead, in early September, Jessie, Sarah and their mom, my daughter Kim, visited from Ohio. After a cold had Jessie sidelined for a couple days, she was raring to go.

Off we went to Roger's Christmas House Village in Brooksville. This was a special treat planned by Sarah and myself for Kim and Jessie. Sarah and I try to make it a stop every year, but this was a first for the other two.

The girls donned large candle rings as crowns, and all marveled at the Swarovski crystal. We lingered among the lavender soaps, flagged down a Red Hat lady who graciously took our picture - and, of course, spent grandma's money.

We also visited a remarkable woman, Velma Kaufman. At 96 years young, Velma has gone from Times customer to, over the years, becoming family. Hubby and I love her dearly. Sarah thinks she's neat.

Velma had never met Jessie or Kim, so Sarah and I decided to share this special lady with them. Velma's one of a kind. Her heart is big enough to build a skyscraper in it, but she'll give you "what for" if you try to do something she considers wrong or hurtful.

Of course, Jessie and Kim loved her just as much as we do. What's not to love?

To get a couple hours alone, Jessie and I visited Chateau Chan Sezz in Inverness. Our dish of choice was creme brulee. How many 12-year-olds even have an idea what creme brulee is? We had three between us: basic for Jessie, Grand Marnier for me and a split on another basic brulee.

A huge fan of Emeril Lagasse, Jessie had to chat with chef and owner Keith Chancas, who pointed Jessie to cooking schools and a kids cooking school summer camp.

Of course, we took time to raid grandma's jewelry. Everyone went home with something. It was a great time to ham it up. Jessie donned a vintage 1960s plastic necklace as a tiara. They also tried the grande dame effect of sparkling rhinestones.

Jessie especially ogled the funky earrings grandma has accumulated. Remember those aqua crescent moons?

Did I forget to mention that any time one of the granddaughters shows up, so do their Florida friends? For Sarah, it has always been Laura Lee Ritchie, daughter of Citrus Times Top of the Class writer Paulette Ritchie. Laura Lee is my adopted Florida granddaughter.

For Jessie, it's Stephanie, Melanie and Natalie Dodd, daughters of sheriff's Lt. Doug Dodd and his wife, Laurie. Riley, the Dodds' young son, will have to wait a few more years to join the fun.

Then there's our friends, Delbert and Donna Smith, who have adopted the girls and always have their pool available and miniature poodle Cleo waiting to be loved. Both girls took advantage of the pool and Cleo this year.

For the girls, coming to visit grandma in Florida is like coming home.

Although I have a son, Bob, living in Cleveland, when I look at these girls, Kim, Sarah and Jessie, I realize I'm looking at my legacy. There is a direct link of womanhood from mother, through daughter to granddaughters.

In a photo of Kim in kindergarten, I see the faces of her daughters: the blond halo of hair, the blue eyes and that indescribable smile.

As a teen, Kim literally took my breath away when she entered a room. That smile was the sun, moon and stars all shining at once. Then life stepped in and brought cloudy days. But after the storm, when you least expect it, that smile overwhelms you once again.

Sarah, 17, is much like her mom as a teen: beautiful but taller, grander, softer, and with that same delicious smile that reflects from her eyes as well.

Jessie is on the verge. She is lovely and delicate . . . like a diamond. Like a whirlwind, she carries you on with the force of her personality, leaving you unsure of where you've been or where you're going, but happy to be along for the ride!

This was supposed to be a column just about Jessica, but for some inexplicable reason, my girls are all tangled together. Each mirrors the other, but each stands alone in her own light. They are my reflection.

Next year, Jessica. Next year, when you visit "Camp Grandma" on your own.

[Last modified October 30, 2005, 01:12:10]

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