Few people knew what was going on behind the scenes the day we photographed 2-year-old Annabelle Stern for our November 2003 cover.
Her parents wanted it that way. This day was about Annabelle. About focusing on blessings, not fear. About living in the moment, not the “what ifs?”
Annabelle looked like a princess with an entourage when she arrived at the photo shoot at Young’s Farm (now Mortimer Family Farms) in Dewey. Her mom, writer/editor Amy Silverman, and “super nanny,” Jacqueline, drove up in one car. Sandy Liberman, our managing editor at the time, and I came in another, followed by freelance photographer John Beckett.
Our little supermodel (and yes, we all called her that) had multiple darling outfits, including that perfect orange sweater, a gift from her aunt. She had the diversion of snacks, baby chicks, a turkey and the attention of all those hovering adults with their own kind of clucking.
Just two people were missing: Annabelle’s dad, journalist Ray Stern, and her 4-month-old baby sister, Sophie. It was no surprise that Daddy stayed home with the new baby. All I said about it in that month’s letter from the editor was that they were “unable to join us.”
In reality, Sophie was very sick. Born with Down syndrome, she would soon undergo open-heart surgery to repair a congenital defect. Amy remembers the day at the farm with Annabelle as a welcome respite from the worry of anticipation: “It was such a relief to have something else to focus on, something fun to focus on.”
Annabelle is now an articulate, graceful 13-year-old, wise beyond her years. The granddaughter of Dance Theater West co-founder Susan Sealove Silverman, Annabelle has taken dance classes since she was tiny. The eighth-grader continues to dance at her school and at her grandmother’s studio.
With two creative, accomplished and award-winning parents, it’s no surprise that Annabelle also has other talents. She draws, paints, sculpts and plays the ukulele. Her paternal grandmother taught her to sew. She has a passion for fashion—and hopes to work as a fashion designer some day.
Why Annabelle likes to dance: Dance is my way to calm down; it’s my routine. It’s just part of who I am. If I don’t dance [for awhile], I find myself doing pirouettes in the aisles of the grocery store. I want to dance all my life—take classes, maybe teach.
Why the ukulele? I always tried to play guitar but couldn’t because my hands were too small. I got a ukulele for Christmas last year. A friend taught me four chords and I just went from there.
On being Sophie’s sister: I feel like it [Down syndrome] doesn’t really have an effect on our relationship. I never look at her—like when she comes into my room to say “Good morning”—and think, “She has Down syndrome.” She’s just Sophie.
Her pet peeve: Kids at my school use the word “retarded.” I want to say to them, “That doesn’t mean what you think it means.” I seriously doubt they would say that, if they knew. This one girl in my dance class at school, she was doing these weird things with her arms and stuff. And she said, “Ha, ha—retarded swan!” And I could feel my smile just, like, disappear. That word is just so disgusting.
What her mom says about Annabelle: She’s an old soul. Patient, kind, funny, creative—and an excellent shopper.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a “Then and Now” series that looks back at former cover kids (and moms and dads) who have appeared on our magazine. The project celebrates Raising Arizona Kids magazine’s 25th year of publication.