When you live in the same city with your extended family, you tend to share the mundane as well as the monumental.
The women in one Manhattan clan are a perfect example. They span four generations. There’s Billie Woodward, the matriarch; her daughter, Susie Baxter; and Susie’s two daughters, Jessa Voos and Kassie Baxter. Along with Jessa’s little girl, Indie, that’s four generations of women in one family, in one city.
“We’re just a close, happy family,” Susie said.
Their bond is evident as they talk with each other. Laughter comes easily and compliments are exchanged freely.
“We laugh a lot,” Billie said. “We’re always laughing. We’re very lucky.”
And while they do reminisce over family trips and funny stories, for them the things that come to mind tend to be routine: cooking dinner, talking on the phone, running errands.
“When your family is long-distance, you share big moments: special occasions, holidays, and of course the sad things like funerals,” Jessa said. “We share the details of everyday life together. That’s been really incredible.”
Theirs is a close-knit family centered around the connection between the women, which has given each of them the strength to leave Manhattan and pursue their individual dreams, but also has drawn them back here to their family and the city they call home.
Billie, whom her granddaughters call GB, first came to Manhattan to attend college in 1948. She left once, but decided she liked the town and moved back. Her husband, Phil, better known as Woody, bought a small men’s clothing store in town which became a big clothing store for men and women.
Susie and her husband, Steve, also lived in other cities, but later decided to return. She works as a real estate agent and interior designer.
Jessa lived in Nashville and Los Angeles, and came back to open a yoga studio in Manhattan. After high school, she reconnected with an MHS classmate, Scott Voos, whom she later married, and they decided that they wanted to move back to Manhattan to start a family. In addition to Indie, they also have a baby boy, Crew.
And Kassie, who works for Steel and Pipe Supply Co., was living in Lawrence until moving back in September. She has a son, Beckham.
Kassie said she’s glad to be back, because she’s so close to her mother and her sister. When she was going through a divorce, for instance, they were there for her in a heartbeat.
“Mom and Jessa are by far my best friends,” she said. “We call each other all the time.”
The two sisters became moms at nearly the same time. When they were pregnant (Jessa with Indie and Kassie with Beckham), their due dates were just five weeks apart. And each was in the room when the other gave birth.
Kassie and Jessa both said they’re lucky to have such good examples of motherhood in their lives.
They describe their own mother as strong, patient and humble, someone for whom openness and honesty were always important.
“She’s very generous,” Jessa said. “She’s so busy with her work, but she’s always taking time to help Kassie and me with the kids.”
“When we were teenagers, my friends would be like, ‘Let’s go to your house. Your mom’s so cool,’” Kassie said. “I could tell her anything.”
And their grandmother has been an important figure in their lives, as well. They describe Billie as talented, active and more aware of trends and current events than anyone else in the family.
“Jessa and I always say that when we’re 84 we want to be like her,” Kassie said.
“I think she’s probably the most amazing woman I know,” Jessa said. Every time I talk to her, she’s doings something for someone else. And she does it with such a positive attitude. She’s incredible.”
Susie, too, said her mother was always very positive.
“She supported all my various animals I brought home as a child,” she said.
And the feeling is mutual. Billie said of her granddaughters, “They’re just super young women. You couldn’t ask for better young women.” She said that when her husband died of cancer 20 years ago, her granddaughters, just girls at the time, spent a lot of time with her to cheer her up.
Jessa and Kassie both said that while they haven’t been moms for very long, they try to take things they’ve learned from their mother and grandmother.
“I’m new to the mom business, but I have two amazing examples,” Jessa said.