Allison Linares sat in the living room of her Winder home, peppering her mother with questions. They were outlandish questions, things only a child would ask so off-the-cuff. But that’s how Allison started the decade in 2010 so that’s how she’ll start the next.
The 9-year-old was the first baby born in Gainesville in 2010, arriving at 12:33 a.m. at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center on New Years Day, weighing 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measuring 19½ inches long.
Her mother, Shelby Alvarez, didn’t know she would be born that early — her due date was Jan. 3. But Allison came just after her mother, along with some friends and family around her, watched the ball drop on TV as the clock struck midnight.
“We celebrate New Year’s plus my birthday,” Allison said, sitting on the couch in a colorful, polka dotted shirt. “We do fireworks.”
Each year it’s a different theme for her birthday party, which is always celebrated on Jan. 1.
“What we’ll do is we’ll sing happy birthday to her and shoot off fireworks right after midnight,” Shelby said. “We celebrate New Year’s, sleep for a few hours and then wake up and it’s time to celebrate again.”
Allison has had princess parties and mermaid parties but this year, it’s an emoji party. Her favorite emoji? The money sign.
A lot can happen in a decade, and for Allison, it’s a whole lifetime’s worth. She’s moved schools, gained a couple of sisters and has had plenty of time to dream.
“I want to be a veterinarian,” she said. “I really like dogs and I just think it’d be really cool to be a veterinarian.”
And Shelby said her daughter might just do it. She’s been saying that’s what she wants to be when she grows up for the past few years, and she’s smart enough to make it happen.
Allison’s favorite subject in school is math. Her favorite color is red. She doesn’t have a favorite book, but she loves to read and likes listening to music — as long as it’s appropriate, her mom said. She’s a Girl Scout, she plays soccer and might try out gymnastics soon.
“She’s very smart and grade-wise she does really well,” Shelby said. “And she is actually a little bit of a perfectionist. Everything has its place and if she says something, she does a pretty good job of following through with it.”
In the decade she’s been alive, Allison has learned to cook a few simple things like eggs and pancakes. Her mother said she’s helpful and even does her own laundry.
“She doesn’t complain,” Shelby said. “She’s just like, ‘OK mom.’”
Allison’s bedroom, with a polka dotted wall and baby blue bed frame, stays clean for the most part and she helps keep the rest of the house clean, too.
But it hasn’t all been polka dots and clean rooms in this decade.
A few years after Allison was born and just after her sister, Madison Linares, 7, was born, their mother and father got divorced.
“I was not prepared,” Shelby said. “It got tough there for the first six months. It was really tough. Thankfully we had family that was there for us and they were so young and thankfully they don’t remember much of it.”
Shelby has since gotten remarried and had another daughter, Ava Alvarez, 1.
“They’re great kids,” said Alex Alvarez, Allison’s stepfather. “When they became part of my life, they filled my life with a lot of joy and new experiences as well, especially at that age. I didn’t see them grow, so I kind of had to step up and catch up with everything that was going on in their lives, but after a couple months, we really got to know each other.”
Allison is tough, though. She’s already had two surgeries in her 10 years of life. One surgery was to correct a lazy eye when she was 4 years old and the other was dental work when she was 5 years old since her teeth weren’t growing in properly.
“She’s a trooper,” Shelby said. “I’m so proud of her. Just watching her reach all these milestones every step of the way and seeing where she’s at now ... I’m just proud of her. She’s so smart, she’s a great sister, she’s sweet, she’s kind to everybody and I’m just so proud of her.”
Allison started walking at 9 months old and talking at 2½ years old. Even through those milestones, navigating childhood in a decade when so many things are changing isn’t easy — especially for the parents.
The first iPhone was released just a few years before Allison was born, and she just recently got her first one, although it doesn’t have service.
“I’m waiting for her to show me that she can be responsible with it,” Shelby said. “We just both agree that we want her to show us that she can be responsible by not losing it and by making responsible choices.”
And for the most part, she’s been doing just that.
“She loses her charger a lot,” Shelby said, laughing. “But other than that, she does great.”
As Allison sat there, listening to her mom talk, she’d interrupt every now and again. She’d ask those outlandish questions, but hoping for her mother’s approval.
Turns out, Allison wants to “go out into the jungle and pet a lion.” Her mother told her to put that on her bucket list. She asked for $3,000 for Christmas and her mother told her to keep on asking. She even wants to go to Paris — as evidenced by the Eiffel Tower necklace around her neck — when she gets older. Her mother hesitantly said, “Sure.”
No matter what happens in the next decade, Shelby is ready to see what her daughter takes on. Ten years old makes her stop and reminisce, but 20 years old is almost unfathomable.
“Just thinking that she’s going to be 10 this year, I tear up a little bit because it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, where has the time gone?’” Shelby said.
Even through the tears, she’s happy with where her family is and how her oldest daughter has fared in her first decade. If the next looks anything like the past decade, she knows it will be a good one.
“Life’s been good,” Shelby said. “Not always perfect, but life has been good for us and we couldn’t ask for anything more. Every one of us are healthy, happy and have everything we need.”