If happiness really is being a grandparent, as ubiquitous license-plate holders have it, the Anaheim Hills home of Brian and Tracy Folkman is one happy household indeed.
The arrival of their 10-pound baby daughter, Allison Frances, two weeks ago was greeted not only by the baby's grandmother but her great-grandmother--and her great-great grandmother. With mom, that makes four generations of women.
And baby makes five.
Lined up in the Folkman living room for a family portrait earlier this week, the five generations were the picture of familial happiness.
In descending order of age, there were great-great grandmother Susan Anderson, 86; great-grandmother Virginia Fletcher, 64, both of Lawndale; grandmother Sue (Mrs. Richard) Goldman, 46, of Redondo Beach; mother Tracy, 24, and baby Allison in her mother's arms.
"Allison is going to have the same rooting team Tracy had," said Goldman between shots. "Tracy was a great gymnast and a big soccer player (in high school), and we followed her around from school to school."
"You're a lucky girl; yes, you are," grandma Goldman cooed to Allison. "I think it's very rare to have five generations of girls."
Johni Cerny, president of the Salt Lake City-based Lineages Inc., which claims to be the world's largest genealogical research company, acknowledges that five generations of women is indeed rare.
"I can only think of one other time we saw it and maybe once I've seen it in a magazine or newspaper," Cerny said. "In this day and age, I'd say it's still fairly unusual. Thirty years ago it would have been very unusual, but as women's life spans continue to increase and as time passes, it will probably be less uncommon."
Bill Mattox, director of research and public policy for the Family Research Council, a Washington social policy think tank, agreed that having five generations of women living at the same time is statistically rare. However, he differs with Cerny about the possibility of its increase.
Excluding unwed teen-age mothers, he believes five generations will become even rarer in the future because of the overall trend of delaying both marriage and childbirth, which would increase the age gap between generations.
Regardless of the rarity, Tracy Folkman said that being part of five generations of women makes her feel special. "It makes us a lot closer," she said.
In their case, longevity and relatively early motherhood account for the five-generation span. Anderson, Fletcher and Goldman all were between 18 and 22 when they gave birth.
But what makes them even more unusual is that all three women each had only one child--a girl.
It didn't take baby Allison's arrival to bring the four generations of women together, however. "We get together all the time," Tracy Folkman said. "I don't think any of us makes a move without the other one knowing."
On hand for Allison's birth at Placentia-Linda Community Hospital were the baby's father, a project manager for Koll Construction, and Tracy's parents, who both took pictures of the happy event.
The baby's mother, a Lockheed systems analyst who will return to work in several weeks, described having three generations of doting grandmothers for her child as "wonderful. She just gets so much more loving that way."
Lots of Attention
Is Allison getting spoiled by the three-generational grannies?
" Getting spoiled? She already is spoiled," said Folkman with a grin. "That girl has everything she could ever want. Everybody holds her, kisses her and talks to her."
Despite all the motherly wisdom assembled under one roof, Folkman has not been deluged with advice.
"I think they probably learn more from me, with all the classes (the hospital) offers," Folkman said. "But I think once they are here, their expertise comes into play."
But, surely, the three women must have some advice to impart to the new mother. They do.
"I think that she should form her own decisions as to what she wants, rather than people telling her what to do," said great-grandmother Fletcher, after whom Allison received her middle name.
"Actually, I think the best advice is to hold her (Allison) and love her as much as she can and that's what we've been doing, passing her around," said grandmother Goldman, tending to diaper duty in the baby's nursery.
Great-great grandmother Anderson, seated in a rocking chair in the baby's room, had even more succinct advice for Folkman.
"Just take care of her," she said.
"Want to hold her?" grandma Goldman asked, placing the baby in Anderson's arms.
The small, gray-haired woman beamed.
"She's a doll, isn't she?" she said. "Allison! Allison! She'll soon have some teeth. Look at her! She's laughing. . . . She's a happy baby."
Great-great grandmother and the baby sat and rocked, both ends of the generations content.