She was bundle of joy, arriving into the world on the 4th of March. She was perfect and healthy. The second daughter of her parents, baby Annie was exactly what parents hope for. One-hundred and eleven years ago.
Today, Anne Langston Christopher is the 39th oldest documented person in the world and the great-grandmother of my husband. What’s more, she’s still healthy.
Christopher was born on a plantation in South Carolina 30 years after the Civil War. She was 17 when the Titanic sunk and in her 30s and 40s during the Great Depression.
She has lived through 43 percent of American history.
“You could write a book on her,” said her 84-year-old daughter and only-surviving child, Marion Emmitt.
Before Christopher married and started her family, she did what most young women her age never dreamed of: Going to college.
Christopher attended Limestone College in South Carolina and graduated in 1920 with a degree in education.
“That wasn’t done back in that time,” Emmitt said. “That was a new thing. She was a person beyond her generation.”
Christopher agrees with that point.
“I reckon I was a pioneer when I went to college,” Christopher said.
Emmitt said her mother often talks about her college years.
“You know, growing up, I didn’t pay much attention to it,” Emmitt said. “But now I understand it. Her and her college roommate had a lot of fun and played around. She loved her roommate; she even named me after her.”
Emmitt paused to laugh about what she was going to say next.
“They weren’t prim and proper like the other girls,” she giggled. “I think that’s why she gets along with the young generations now. Nothing really shocks her. She just goes with the flow.”
Christopher’s independent side sometimes interrupts her easy-going mentality, however.
When she was 108, she refused to move into assisted living, said her grandson, Robert Emmitt. She changed her mind when she realized all the attention she was getting.
Christopher has two granddaughters who visit her regularly. When she wants to see the rest of her family in Texas, she just hops on a flight from Atlanta. She did that six years ago.
My husband, Christopher Emmitt, said his family took her to visit a Texas history museum, which did not peak her interest.
“She was not impressed at all,” he said. “She grew up with everything there and wondered what the big deal was.
After the museum, we took her to a hamburger joint and she insisted on leaving the tip. She put two pennies on the table. We just smiled and left a few dollars when she wasn’t looking.”
Hamburgers may not be on the list of life-prolonging foods, but, for Christopher, it doesn’t matter.
“She eats good,” said Esther Posey, administrative assistant of the Winthrop West Senior Living community. “She loves fried chicken. Boy, does she like that. And she lets you know when she’s hungry.”
Along with fattening foods, Christopher has enjoyed other unhealthy habits.
“She smoked for years after we all grew up,” Marion Emmitt said. “But she quit when she was 96.”
Christopher said she doesn’t know the secrets to a long life.
“I guess the Lord’s good to me. I eat well and sleep well. That’s two things,” Christopher told The Associated Press last month.
“And she’s not on any medication,” Emmitt said. “She just takes a multivitamin every day. She calls that her medicine.”
At the assisted-living community, Posey said, Christopher sleeps a lot, enjoys life and stays positive.
“She’s a sweet lady and very alert,” Posey said. “She never forgets anything you tell her. That little thing is as sharp as a button.”
Posey said she believes Christopher’s schedule just depends on how sleepy she is.
“She used to play balloon volleyball on Tuesdays at activity time,” Posey said. “But lately, it’s been really cute to wake her up because she looks at you and just says she believes she’ll keep napping.”
Christopher also keeps herself looking as pretty as possible, her daughter said.
“She always keeps her wig on her head when she goes to the dining room,” Emmitt said. “She puts on her lipstick and rouge every day.”
Thirty years go, Christopher chose her pallbearers and the preacher who would conduct the funeral. But Christopher said they’ve all died and she’s going to have to find new ones.
And she just keeps going on.
“She wonders sometimes why she’s still here,” Emmitt said. “She jokes that the Lord forgot about her. But she knows God’s in control. She has such a positive emotional outlook on life. And she has a deep abiding faith. She just always knew the Lord would work everything out.
Christopher’s granddaughter, who lives close to her, agrees that it’s her worry-free mind that keeps “Gran” living so long.
“As a family, we’ve always said that she’s living so long because she never worries about things,” said her granddaughter Harriet Brock. “She doesn’t know what the word ‘stress’ means. Not that she hasn’t had hard times in her life, but she deals with them well and just knows that everything’s going to be OK.