These days, American families are smaller and much more likely to be fractured. Divorce has become more common and with it more single parents and blended families. On top of this, Americans move around the country much more often than in the past, 11.4 times in their life, as estimated by the Census Bureau. These trends add up to families that see each other less and less and lose the intimate connection across multiple generations that Americans often had in the past.
Knowing all this made one special birthday party this year all the more special. That’s because it featured two ladies, Raffaela Eckenberger and her grand-granddaughter Ella, named after her, both of whom live in Yonkers, New York.
It meant even more because Raffaela, known by the family as GG (Great-grandma), turned 100 years old and little Ella was celebrating her very first birthday. The pair’s birthdays are less than a week apart, which made a joint celebration a must.
The two, whose birthdays are just six days apart, are the oldest and youngest members of their family.
At one table at a bistro in Scarsdale, New York, the family had its oldest and youngest members, with lots of people in between who were brought together for the special occasion. To make things even more adorable, the matriarch and her descendant were dressed in matching outfits, as reported in People.
Little Ella’s mom, 33 year-old Diane Collingham, asked GG what she was going to wear and found out that she had picked an outfit perfect for spring: a yellow cardigan, white shirt, and pearls. Collingham made sure that baby Ella had the same, even down to the pearls!
The party was a lot of fun for everyone involved. Diane was happy to see her grandmother-in-law enjoying herself: “She loved having everyone there and she loved being able to share the attention with Ella.” The event was called a “Raffaellabration,” a nice merging of the two personalities behind it.
The two spend lots of time together, and great-grandmother is known for her strong appreciation of her great-grandfather. “GG constantly says Ella is beautiful—every second of the day. It’s an ongoing joke now,” says Will Collingham, her grandson.
Against all the national statistics, the family has managed to stay close and spend lots of time with each other. Raffaela Eckenberger set the pattern many years ago by building a tight relationship with grandson Will when he was a kid.
Will told People, “I’ve always been really close to her and grandfather,” adding that “they lived a block or two from where I grew up and would pick us up from school and take care of us in the afternoon.”
When Raffaela’s husband died several years ago, the family did the right thing and brought her to live with her children. Since then, she’s been able to have the amazing chance to see a new generation coming on to the scene.
Aside from having some difficulty hearing, Raffaela is in great health for a centenarian and still has plenty of energy to play with Ella. Her great-granddaughter is a “smiley, friendly and a strong-willed little lady,” according to her parents. The apple must not fall very far from the tree! The birthday reminds us that years don’t mean much when family is involved. While GG and Ella are 99 years apart, they’re close as can be.