Selected Stories from
The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration 2012/2013
— Stories dated 1970–2000 —

Turtle Trouble

Wayne, New Jersey, USA; c. 1970s

“Mom, I’m going down to the lake!” I slammed the door shut and rode my bike down to the curb by the path to the lake, about ten minutes from my house. Turtle Trouble illustration by Hannah R. Anderson: boy has jumped off his bicycle, happy to find a turtle

“Look,” I said to myself, “there is a turtle.” I bent down to pick it up, and it tried to nudge me, but it missed. I rode home as fast as I could with the turtle in my bike basket.

When I showed my mom, she shrieked with fright, but I asked if I could keep it anyway. She replied, “Let the turtle go back to the lake. If it comes back to you, you can keep it.”

I decided to be smart about this, because I really wanted this turtle. I went up to my bedroom and put the turtle down. I reached over to my desk and grabbed a Sharpie marker. While humming to myself, I wrote on the turtle’s shell If lost, please return to Michael Singer. After that, I wrote my phone number and address. Before it got too dark out, I put the turtle near the curb. Remembering that turtles are very slow, I figured it should be back by the lake in the morning.

The next day I was so exhausted from bike riding for so long the day before that I decided to sleep in a little longer. As I reached to shut off my alarm, I heard my mom scream, “Michael, get down here!” I would have taken a longer time, but she seemed really mad.

“Is this your turtle from yesterday?” My mom looked like she was going to cry, she was so mad.

I answered truthfully, “Yeah, I wrote on its shell so I could find it again.”

My mom looked at me and at the guy with a black jacket and blue hat at the door holding the turtle. She told him thank you, took the turtle, and shut the door. My mom told me that since it came back, I could keep it, but I — and only I — would take care of it. I agreed and proudly marched up the stairs with my new pet turtle.

Haley Singer, daughter of Michael; New Jersey, USA

Illustrator: Hannah R. Anderson


My Dad, Immigrating to the U.S.

Mannheim, Germany; Queens, New York, New York, USA; November 20, 1971

This story is told from the view of my dad, Jim Cavezza.

When I was only six years old, my dad, mom, and I moved to America. The year was 1971 when I was first told I was moving, and I felt very afraid, because I didn’t know what to expect to find in another country so far away from mine. I didn’t speak any English, and I was leaving my friends and extended family behind.

On the plane ride to America I kept asking my mom, “Where will I go to school? Where will we live?”

My mom said we would live in an apartment in New York City. I didn’t know how to make friends, because I didn’t speak English and I didn’t know how to play any games. I didn’t even know what games they played or what they were called.

When I started school, I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t even understand what the teacher was saying. It was like I was deaf. I sat in the corner all day, playing with Legos and thinking, “Let me out of this place. I want to go home.” When school was finally let out for the day, I ran all the way home, not even stopping or looking back.

One day I was walking back from school in the snow. I ran into the neighborhood bully. He was about fourteen years old and about six feet tall. He started coming after me. Eventually he cornered me. He started punching me and kicking me. After he knocked me down, I had bruises everywhere. I even had a broken nose. I limped home, and when my mom and dad saw me, they almost had a heart attack.

“Hi,” I said.

“What in the world happened to you!” they exclaimed in unison.

“The neighborhood bully cornered me and beat me up. He even broke my nose.”

My dad rushed out the door and in a couple minutes came back with the bully. My dad started smacking him and saying, “If you are to touch my son again, I will smack you even harder and in a much more painful place!” My dad smacked him one more time and then threw him out the door.

“All right, Dad,” I groaned.

After a few hours had passed, there was a knock at the door. My dad went and opened it. There were two policemen, the bully, and his dad. “Um . . . sir, did you hit this man’s son?” the policeman asked.

“Yes, and you want to know why? Come take a look at my son!” my dad exclaimed. My dad led them upstairs, where I was lying on the couch. “This is what he did to my son!”

My mom was holding an ice pack over my head. The policeman studied me for a second and then said to the bully’s dad, “I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t press charges against this man.”

“Of course you can’t press charges against me,” my dad said in a sarcastic way. After the policeman left, my dad took me to the hospital. I came back a few hours later and felt better than I had before. I even wanted to go back to school. I couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

Dominic Cavezza; New Jersey, USA


Attack of the Polar Bear

Olenegorsk, Russia, 1972

It was 1972 in Olenegorsk, Russia. My mother, Kate, was only two years old at the time. Her sister, who was five years old, had joined her for the most exhilarating sled ride down a gigantic hill! They jumped off the sled a little dazed, and had a massive snowball fight. After that, my mother’s sister forgot about her and went inside. My mom did not notice.

Attack of the Polar Bear illustrated by Madision Grady: polar bear standing, growling fiercelyMy mom started wandering around the forest’s edge. She went inside the forest. When she was about ten feet inside, she heard two frightening booming footsteps behind her. She turned around, and about fifteen feet away from her was a startling 350-pound man-eating polar bear!

She did not know what to do, so she called out her mother’s name. No response. Then she called out her father’s name a little bit louder — but still no response. After that, she heard the polar bear growl. She screamed out her sister’s name at the top of her lungs, and the bear roared. She started to whimper and burst into millions of wet tears. The polar bear finally noticed her boisterous crying and roared. It started coming closer little by little. My mom screamed and screamed, but still nobody heard her.

Back at the house, everybody was worried about my mom outside all alone, and they started a search group to find her. Minutes passed, and the polar bear was about six feet away now. The polar bear and my mom noticed a rustling in the bushes. Three seconds later a very angry mob of about six to seven people came screaming and swatting the bear away. The monstrous polar bear stood up on its hind legs, roared at the top of its lungs, and ran away as fast as a bull.

The angry mob went over to my mom, picked her up, and cheered as loud as they could! My mom, along with the angry mob of people, paraded back to the house in a triumphant march. They ate a glorious breakfast that included warm boiled eggs and sizzling bacon.

When my mom told me this story, I was in shock for a long time, because it is extremely rare to be seen and almost attacked by a polar bear. If the angry mob of people had been just one minute later, my mom would have been an angry polar bear’s breakfast.

Daniel Volobuev; Missouri, USA

Illustrator: Madison Grady


The Kmart Disaster

Des Plaines, Illinois, USA; c. 1975

It was my uncle’s senior year in high school. For eight months he had been working for Kmart. Little did he know what was in store for him one day. He was working in the gardening department. He was stacking cement mix with a forklift.* That was when it all started.

When my uncle was on the forklift, he put the forklift too high, and it hit the water pipe. SPLASH! The water came out! Since it was winter in Chicago, the water had green water-freeze protection. “Nooooo!” screamed my uncle. “I am going to lose my job.” He ran to the emergency phone. “We have an emergency!” he screamed. That was when he saw that hitting the pipe had turned on the water sprinklers. That would not have been so bad if they hadn’t been going off in the whole store. The green water was spraying everywhere.

My uncle ran out the door just in time to see two fire trucks, two cop cars, an ambulance, and his father. Surprisingly, his father had been driving by when he saw the incident. He wanted to see what had happened. “What happened here?” said the fireman.

“It’s a long story,” said my uncle.

Of course, he lost his job a week later. He ended up ruining all the products in the store. The whole cost was over a million dollars, but he was not charged for the merchandise, because it was an accident.

The reason I tell this story is because if you ever have an “accident,” it won’t be as bad as this. You should never feel bad for a mistake like this. It happens to the best of us. Despite this, my uncle grew up to be the dean of Stanford University for twelve years.

P.S. In his next job he dropped a knife in a meat grinder.

* A forklift is a machine with fork-like prongs used to lift and move heavy objects.

Shaun Slamowitz; Colorado, USA


Stuck to the Ground

Oakville, Missouri, USA; 1978

It was a sunny day in May 1978. The birds were chirping, the lawns on Sky Hill Drive in Oakville, Missouri, were all green from the April showers. A mischievous eight-year-old boy named Bryan Lucas had just told a doozy of a lie at his Catholic grade school, and it was on this day that the “coin prank” became legendary.

Before Bryan was read his rights by his mom (my grandma) he was asked to bring the brown trash can up from the curb. As Bryan walked to the side of the house, breathing in the fresh air for his last time for the next couple days, he suddenly had a brilliant idea. Bryan would have some fun while being “grounded.”

Bryan went into the garage with a smirk on his face. He proceeded to grab superglue out of the rusty old toolbox and a quarter out of his mom’s powder blue Chevette. Walking proudly, chest out, Bryan strolled down the sidewalk. Bryan squirted a big glob of glue onto the bumpy concrete. Next he pressed the quarter into the glue with all his might. Bryan stood up and brushed his hands together as if he had succeeded at the biggest prank ever.

When Bryan went back into the house, he happily went back to his room to begin his grounding sentence. At this point, Bryan had no idea how long he was going to be grounded, but he knew his entertainment for the duration of the sentence. With his green eyes focused on the sidewalk, with the quarter shining in the sunlight, Bryan awaited his first victim. Bryan had a great eye-level view from his bedroom as he sat in his beanbag chair.

A person came by and noticed the quarter, bent over, and picked and picked, trying to grab the lucky coin. No luck. Then more and more children and adults came by — people walking their dogs, kids stopping on their bikes — all attempting to become twenty-five cents richer and luckier. Some people shook their head and laughed when they realized the coin was a prank.

My grandma heard lots of laughter coming from Bryan’s room and could not imagine what he was up to now. Grandma went into his room, and Bryan confessed to his latest prank. Grandma was unable to be mad, because she thought it was a pretty clever idea. Bryan did receive a lecture and a threat to never lie at school again. Bryan and my grandma sat together looking out the window with their dog Pepper by their side, enjoying the entertainment of all who walked by.

Hailey Peterson, niece of Bryan; Missouri, USA


A Miscommunication

Guangdong Province, China; c. 1984

It was the winter break of my dad’s junior year in high school and the time to join his parents, who had gone to Foshan to visit his ailing grandparents.

His parents’ friend bought the ticket for him and sent a telegraph to Foshan about the arrival time. At age fifteen, it was going to be my dad’s first time on a train all by himself. He took a very thick book and fifteen pounds of tangerines with him, which were from his mom’s workplace and signified good luck for the coming Chinese New Year.

The twenty-hour train ride was smooth, but he could not fall asleep, because there wasn’t room to lie down. To keep himself busy, he read the book, written by Mikhail Sholokhov.

Finally he arrived at the Guangzhou station. Pushing and shoving through crowds of people, he craned his neck to search for his parents. He knew exactly where to expect them, since he had gone through this train station several times with his parents on vacations. After being jostled by countless people passing through the station, he finally got to the exit. They weren’t there!

“Maybe the traffic is bad,” he thought.

Trains came and went in a flash, and so did crowds of people. A long, hopeful hour and a half later, there was still no sign of his parents. He was getting anxious. Searching his memory, he vaguely remembered how to get to Foshan, which was twenty miles away. He started to ask almost everyone he came upon.

Several confusing bus transfers later, he finally got to where the buses to Foshan were supposed to be. They were gone! People told him that the bus station had been moved to the west end of the city, because the city’s center couldn’t handle the heavy flow of holiday passengers. Suddenly, it started raining, and he had no umbrella. He was soaked and was stuck with two not-so-attractive backpacks, making him look almost like a hobo!

An hour later at the western suburb, my dad was once again disappointed. The last bus had just left, and it was getting dark. He was starting to think of how to spend the night in the city when some motorcyclists came and offered people rides. My dad had seen these makeshift taxis many times before but didn’t know if he could trust them. In addition, they were asking for twelve dollars, whereas the bus fare was two dollars. With no other choice he decided to “roll the dice.”

My dad didn’t know his uncle’s address but remembered how to get there from the small town’s main theater. After the ride in pouring rain, he finally got to his uncle’s house and could soak his aching feet in boiling hot water. As it turned out, his uncle had misunderstood the telegraph and thought he would arrive the next day.

My dad would never forget that long rainy day, the feeling of growing up, and being able to handle the unexpected.

Rebecca Tan; Missouri, USA


The Game-Winning Shot

Spalding, Nebraska, USA; 1984

My dad came to the basketball game like it was like any other game. But it wasn’t. It was the district finals — the game that determined which team would go to the state tournament.

Dad’s team, the Greeley Bulldogs, was playing their archrival, Spalding Academy, who had already beaten them twice — by fifteen points each game. Spalding was rated fifth in the state, and everybody thought Greeley didn’t have a chance. Spalding even thought it was going to be an easy game. But boy, they were so wrong!

When the game started, Spalding took an early 8–0 lead, and everybody thought it was going to be a blowout. At the end of the first quarter, Spalding was winning by twelve points! Dad’s team had their heads down, and their confidence was even lower. Their coach said, “Don’t worry! It is only the first quarter, and we still have time. Now get back out there and get back in this!”

Greeley started the second quarter hot. They made five of their first six shots, cutting the lead to two points. But then the gym hushed. Greeley’s best player went down in agony. He was so injured that he couldn’t play. Somebody had to go in for him, but the coach didn’t know who. He looked up and down the bench. Then he finally stopped, looked right at my dad, and pointed at him.The Game-Winning Shot illustrated by Kelsie Waggoner: hand reaching across to point at a young basketball player on the bench

At halftime, Spalding was ahead 38–36. Dad’s coach told them, “Just keep doing what you’re doing; play your game, not theirs. This is our game!”

In the third quarter, Greeley scored ten points in a row. However, Spalding answered back and tied the game within minutes. But before you could even blink, Greeley was up by six points again. Surprisingly, Spalding would get back into the game. At the end of the third quarter, Greeley was ahead 50–45. Greeley’s coach encouraged, “Just one more quarter!”

At the start of the fourth quarter, the gym noise was earsplitting. Greeley scored the first points of the fourth quarter. Greeley’s momentum was grand, but Spalding didn’t quit. They ended up taking the lead with one minute left in the game. The score was 78–76, but then Greeley made a three-point shot and was ahead by one point. Spalding called a timeout, and in the huddle, Dad’s coach said, “We need to hold them! Get a steal and hold on to it. Don’t let them get easy points.”

Greeley made a two-pointer to make them lead by three points. Spalding struck right back with a three-pointer, and the score was tied with ten seconds left in the game. Greeley threw the ball in. Dad grabbed the ball at the three-point line and shot! The ball sank into the basket as the buzzer went off! Greeley won. Greeley was going to the Nebraska state basketball tournament! The final score was 84–81. That is what I call a great game-winning shot!

Connor Wood; Nebraska, USA

Illustrator: Kelsie Waggoner


Hands Across America

Toledo, Ohio, USA; 1986

When my mom was just about my age, almost eleven, she saw a commercial promoting Hands Across America. She knew instantly this was something she wanted to do.

Hands Across America was a charitable cause to help the homeless and fight hunger right here in America. There were commercials and even a song! The vision of Hands Across America was a line of people holding hands from coast to coast (New York to California). In order to reserve your place in line, you had to make a ten-dollar donation. My mom was very excited, because she remembered how the song “We Are the World” made a huge impact on her and the rest of the world. My mom thought this would be an amazing opportunity to participate and be part of something big! She can remember being over the moon when she received her location and totally cool T-shirt in the mail.

Unfortunately, she never got to wear the shirt. My mom’s cousin Pete, my second cousin, was a marine stationed in Hawaii at the time, so he could not participate. Pete was home on leave the week before the colossal event. He saw my mom’s shirt proudly displayed in her room, just waiting to be worn. He loved it! Pete said it would be a great conversation piece back at the barracks. My mom figured since he was serving our country, the least she could do was give him the shirt. So that’s exactly what she did!

Hands Across America illustrated by Elizabeth Adams: diverse people holding hands under the sun,  across the curved surface of the earthThere were approximately 6.5 million people holding hands! The line was 4,152 miles long! It was May of 1986 when Hands Across America took place. My mom said she didn’t think there were enough people to make an unbroken chain, and she could see broken links from where she was, but it didn’t matter. It was monumental to my eleven-year-old mother. My mom and grandma watched the news later that night. The newscaster had said that even though hands were not held everywhere, if each person stood four feet apart with their hands stretched out to their sides, from heaven it would look like one continuous line.

In conclusion, I think Hands Across America was a pretty unique and fantastic experience for my mom to see and for me to hear about. To see our country participating in something so humanitarian rather than being at odds with one another would be wonderful. Maybe sometime in my lifetime, our society will come together again for the aid of our own.

Jocelyn Crossley; Ohio, USA

Illustrator: Elizabeth Adams


The One-Ticket Escape

Beijing, China; June 5, 1989

June 5, 1989. My mother, father, and four of their colleagues were anxiously huddled in worry and fright in an old subway station. Chaos surrounded the six college students as they struggled to remain together despite being jostled by the crowd. All the buses were down, and outside nothing but tanks seemed to be running — rolling across the unpaved roads in rhythmic parade.

The six colleagues were desperate. They needed to escape the panic of Tiananmen Square,* and their only option was the subway. Everything was gated in, including the waiting area and the ticket booth. But what were they to do with the one ticket they could afford? The adventure began.

“All right,” my mother, Wenli, suggested, “how about we send one of us with the one ticket to climb over the gate and purposely be caught? We have a ticket, and the excuse can be we didn’t know about the gate opening.”

The other five looked uneasy at the idea.

“What if we aren’t allowed past? What if we’re caught?”

Firmly, Wenli answered, “Well, is there anyone willing to try?”

A long moment of silence ensued. Then abruptly her girl colleague, Hong, bravely responded, “I’ll do it.”

“But what if you’re caught?” my father asked uncertainly, concerned about the overall safety of his friends.

“We can do it,” Hong replied boldly. “We will get out of Beijing and to a place of safety.”

Thus the plan was hatched. Hong was to climb over the fence and distract the conductor, who would open the gate to talk to her. When the gate was opened, the other five were to sneak in and board the train. A simple, but dangerous, plan.

Dexterously, Hong climbed up and over the fence with no trouble.

“Hey!” the one and only conductor yelled. “What are you doing?”

The conductor rushed over, opening the gate at the same time. Hong feigned confusion as she looked at the approaching conductor’s stern figure.

Meanwhile, the other five stealthily headed toward the gate opening, blending into the crowd and remaining alert. They hid their anxiety and hoped for success.

“If you have a ticket, why didn’t you go through the gate door?” the conductor was demanding of Hong.

Hong innocently answered, “I didn’t know there was a door. The crowds hid it from my view. I thought I needed to climb over.”

Reluctantly the conductor let the girl through, and with the other five successful in their part, the entire plan was officially a success. Relieved, they boarded the train, and today they all live in America with this unforgettable memory as part of their history. Often, my parents reminisce about the terror and nervousness during the historic event. They will forever be grateful for the survival of their friends and themselves.

* Tiananmen Square was the center of a seven-week student protest against the Chinese government — to which the government responded with military force. To learn more, read “Tiananmen Square Crackdown” in Grannie Annie, Vol. 6.

Julia Hu; New Jersey, USA


Toyota Tercel Trouble

St. Louis, Missouri, USA; 2000

My dad is an environmentalist. In fact, he is the greenest guy I know. He keeps his carbon footprint small as an atom and reuses almost everything. My dad bikes to work every day, wears socks that my dog has chewed till there are no socks, and owned the same car for twenty-one years.

In 1980, he took ownership of that car, a Toyota Corolla Tercel, one of the "greenest” white cars with blue pinstripes of the time. My dad remembers the car well. He bought it in twelfth grade for $6,120, with the money he earned by scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins for two years. The beloved car had a stick shift, only two doors, and a hatchback. It traveled thirty miles per gallon — pretty green for back then! My dad drove it to college in northern California, to medical school in San Diego, to Arizona, and then from Arizona to St. Louis!

After sixteen years, the car started getting hard to start in cold weather. On freezing days my dad would spray stinky starting fluid into the carburetor to start the rickety car. A couple years later, the passenger door broke. It was too expensive to fix, but my dad made the best of the event, and of course, the green guy kept the car.

In 2000 my dad drove the twenty-year-old car to the dentist. When he parked at the dentist’s office, he tried to get out of the aging car, but to my dad’s dismay, the driver’s door had joined the passenger door in the land of being stuck. “Well, that’s all right. I’ll just open the window and climb out that way,” my dad thought. So he unrolled the driver’s window and climbed out. At that point, my dad realized that, unfortunately, if he didn’t want his stereo to be stolen, he would need to close the window. So he reached into the open window, cranked up the window halfway, then pulled his arm out. Then he opened the hatchback, which opened and closed only from the outside, and crawled in. He landed on the seats that were spilling over with foam like a glass of overflowing root beer. Next he rolled the driver’s window up from inside the car, scooted back to the hatchback, climbed out the hatchback, closed the hatchback, and joyfully marched to his dentist appointment, basking in the pride of his success.

After the appointment, which wasn’t as pleasant as he had anticipated, he sighed, and then got to work. First he climbed into the car through the hatchback and then rolled down the driver’s window. Next he climbed out the driver’s window, closed the hatchback, climbed back into the car through the open window, rolled up the window from inside the car, and drove away.

My dad didn’t give away that beloved Toyota Tercel until 2001, when, in addition to becoming donated, reusable metal scraps, it had also become the place that an ant colony called home.

Belle Sara Gage; Missouri, USA


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Grannie Annie, Vol. 8: Historical Family Stories Written and Illustrated by Young People
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The Game-Winning Shot illustrated by Kelsie Waggoner: hand reaching across to point at a young basketball player on the benchScroll down for "The Game-
Winning Shot," written by
Connor Wood and illustrated
by Kelsie Waggoner.



Individual authors
retain the copyrights to
their works, which are
published here with

The setting of each story is
noted below its title. In
cases where the exact year
is not known, “c.” (circa)
indicates that the year given
is approximate.


Return to main Vol. 8
Stories page


Stories on this page:

1. Turtle Trouble
(c. 1970s)
Haley Singer
New Jersey, USA

2. My Dad, Immigrating
to the U.S.
(November 20, 1971)
Dominic Cavezza
New Jersey, USA

3. Attack of the Polar
Bear (1972)
Daniel Volobuev
Missouri, USA

4. The Kmart Disaster
(c. 1975)
Shaun Slamowitz
Colorado, USA

5. Stuck to the Ground
Hailey Peterson
Missouri, USA

6. A Miscommunication
(c. 1984)
Rebecca Tan
Missouri, USA

7. The Game-Winning
Shot (1984)
Connor Wood
Nebraska, USA

8. Hands Across
America (1986)
Jocelyn Crossley
Ohio, USA

9. The One-Ticket
Escape (June 5, 1989)
Julia Hu
New Jersey, USA

10. Toyota Tercel
Trouble (2000)
Belle Sara Gage
Missouri, USA


Click here to read additional
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celebration as well as stories
from previous years.

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Consult our Index of
. (This year's stories
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