Anna sat quietly in the backseat of the van next to her older sister, Sara. It was taking a long time to get to the family reunion. Anna watched the canyon trees fly by, and every now and then she spotted a silvery mountain stream snaking its way down the hill. The sky was as blue as Anna’s eyes, and the clouds looked like white puffs of popcorn.
“Are we almost there?” she said, knowing it hadn’t been long since the last time she had asked.
Mom shook her head and pointed out the window. “We have to go over this mountain, and then you’ll see the lake. About another hour, I’d guess.”
Anna sighed. It was hard to sit still and wait when they’d been planning for months to come to the reunion. All her favorite cousins would be there, and so would dozens of others whom she didn’t know at all. Mom said there were relatives coming from New York, California, and even Hawaii! Suddenly Anna’s three-hour drive didn’t seem so long.
“There’s the lake!” Sara shouted. Anna strained her neck to look. Beautiful Bear Lake stretched out before them like a bright blue carpet. From the mountaintop, sailboats and motorboats looked like tiny toys on the surface.
“When your great-great-grandparents got married in the Logan Temple,” Dad said, “they came down this same road in a wagon. Great-Great-Grandpa looked out at Bear Lake and said, ‘Let’s take a swim before we go home.’ And even though it was early June and the water was freezing cold, they waded in at the north beach and had a nice brisk swim!”
Anna loved that story, even though Dad told it every time they came over this hill. Mom said one of the aunts was bringing 95-year-old Great-Great-Grandma to the reunion and that this might be the last time they were all together.
Finally the houses and farms started looking familiar, and Anna didn’t have to ask if they were almost there. Just past Great-Great-Grandma’s white frame farmhouse, Dad turned onto a dirt road and drove to the community center. It had once been an old church with hardwood floors and wooden benches, but now it was just a place for large groups to gather.
Anna spied Aunt Laura’s car and wriggled out of her seatbelt to go find her cousins. People were spilling out of the doors on all sides of the old church, and there were games set up on the lawn outside. Mom and Dad were already hugging people and talking excitedly. Even Sara had spotted one of her pen-pal cousins and was running to meet her.
It wasn’t long before Mom and Dad were calling Anna and Sara to “come meet someone.” Anna tried her best to smile and be polite. One after another, she shook hands with and hugged cousins, uncles, and aunts until their faces and names were a blur. Over and over again, she heard, “Why, Anna, you look just like Great-Great-Grandma! You two could be twins!”
What? Anna couldn’t believe it. Even Mom and Dad were nodding their heads in agreement. She glanced over at a shady spot under a cottonwood tree where an old, feeble, white-haired lady sat in a lawn chair—it was Great-Great-Grandma! Twins? No way!
Someone came out on the steps of the old building and began loudly ringing a handbell. “Calling all the family of Heber and Lizzie Nelson! Time for lunch! Come on in!”
Long tables and folding chairs were set up inside, along with rows and rows of food. Anna slid onto a chair beside Sara. “Sara,” she whispered, “why does everyone say I look like Great-Great-Grandma?”
Sara shrugged. “I don’t know. Probably because you look like Mom, and Mom looks like her mom, and she looks like her mom. …”
It was true. Anna did have big blue eyes and reddish-brown hair, just like Mom. But they certainly weren’t twins!
Great-Great-Grandma was walking slowly to her seat at the head of one of the tables. Mom was helping her, and Anna stared again at the old, wrinkled face and snow-white hair. “I do not look like her,” she whispered as she folded her arms for the prayer and blessing on the food.
The man who prayed thanked Heavenly Father for the wonderful legacy of Heber and Lizzie Nelson, and the blessing of having dear, sweet, Great-Great-Grandma with them at the reunion. He gave thanks for her testimony, her gentle nature, her willingness to be an example to everyone she met, and for her beautiful spirit. By the end of the prayer, most of the adults were crying. It was clear that Great-Great-Grandma was well loved in this big family.
As Anna munched her chicken and potato salad, she again heard someone say, “Did you see little Anna? She’s the mirror-image of Great-Great-Grandma!”
Mom saw Anna frown. She stood up and held out her hand. “Come here, Anna. I want to show you something special.”
Anna slowly put down her fork and followed Mom over to a large display table by the wall. On it were an old saddle and branding iron that had belonged to Great-Great-Grandpa, the lunch bell that had come across the ocean with the first Nelsons, heirloom quilts, and lots and lots of family pictures. Mom pointed to one picture in a pretty silver frame. The photo had originally been black and white, but it had been colored by a professional photographer. Anna looked at it with wide eyes. “Why is my picture here, Mom?”
Mom smiled and hugged Anna. “That’s not you, honey. That’s Great-Great-Grandma. She’s seven years old in that picture, just like you.”
Anna’s mouth dropped open. There were Anna’s blue eyes, Anna’s reddish-brown curls, even Anna’s dimples. The little girl was even missing a front tooth, just like Anna!
“Wow!” Anna exclaimed. “She really does look like me!”
Mom laughed, leaned down, and whispered, “I hope you grow up to be like her inside, too.”
Anna turned around and saw Great-Great-Grandma. She hurried past aunts, uncles, and cousins until she was standing in front of the little white-haired lady. Great-Great-Grandma smiled, and Anna saw the dimples so much like her own. “I’m glad I came to the reunion, Anna,” the lady said in a soft, gentle voice, “just so I could see you.”
“Me, too, Great-Great-Grandma,” Anna said, hugging her tightly. “Me, too.”
“In many ways each of us is the sum total of what our ancestors were. The virtues they had may be our virtues, their strengths our strengths.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “The Phenomenon That Is You,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 53.