At age 4, little Brittany Guderian had big blue eyes, a self-inflicted mullet and a love for books. Her parents placed her in a local Head Start program, and in that classroom a photographer captured her image.
The rest, as they say, is history. Brittany Guderian, now Brittany Attaway and mom to three children, is all grown up, having served as the poster “child” for A Storybook Christmas the past 23 years.
Her face, now known to thousands, has appeared in countless ads for the program that embraces the magic of reading. Few knew her name.
Attaway said she cherishes her brush with fame that has colored most of her life. It strengthened her love for the written word. To this day, her grandmother clips her photo each time it appears, to be included in a time-worn scrapbook. Attaway said she wouldn’t change a thing, at least where Storybook Christmas is involved.
Attaway has faced challenges. She had her first child at age 17, during a phase in her life that produced a War-and-Peace-sized supply of second thoughts, nearly died two years ago, and today juggles obligations as a wife, mother and student as she trains to become a paralegal.
What keeps her going, she said, is the best book she knows: The Bible.
“I read it as often as I can,” said Attaway, who also enjoys devouring articles about politics, crime and the law. She attended schools in the La Vega Independent School District, but left at age 16, before graduating. After getting her life squared away, she said, she pursued and received a General Educational Development certificate — and later moved on to McLennan Community College to study medical office technology.
At every turn, she said, she turns to God for direction and strength.
Her go-to verse in times of uncertainty is found in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, where in verse 29:11, the prophet says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” said Attaway, quoting the words by memory. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Incredibly, she said, she grew even closer to God in November 2016, when blinding headaches and blurred vision forced her to see a doctor. She thought her ailments were related to her pregnancy, the birth of her third child, Jraven, now 2-years-old, and the medication she was taking for chronic pain.
Alarmed by test results, her physician phoned Attaway with an urgent message to meet him at Providence Health Center’s emergency room. She was anemic, her blood count dangerously low, and the medical staff ordered a transfusion. She was admitted to the hospital, and visitors dropped by throughout the evening, assuring they would help in any way possible.
“I just told them to pray,” said Attaway. “I do have a rare blood type, RH-negative, and I was wondering if there had been a problem finding some. I kept asking, ‘Is the blood here?’ I was saying one last prayer, and it finally arrived. I said, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ and I was so relieved. My husband was with me the entire time, laid with me nearly all night. I will never forget that day, November 17, 2016. I remember everything about it.”
She and the young man who would become her husband, Justin Attaway, met while working at a Sonic drive-in. He was a cook, she a car-hop. He now is employed at the Manitou North American plant on Imperial Drive.
“We got married in 2009, and have been together ever since,” she said.
Family and close friends have known about Brittany’s notoriety since the beginning. They joke about how cute she looks in that photo, her unusual haircut, which they laughingly describe as a mullet — short in the front and long on the sides and in the back. Actually, she says, the styling was her mother’s attempt to repair the damage Brittany had inflicted.
“I had cut my bangs, and moma tried to make do with what was left. It was the only hairstyle that didn’t make me look like a boy,” said Attaway.
Her parents are no longer together, but Attaway said their life lessons still serve her well.
“We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor, either,” she said. “We were taught to be grateful and to value what we had. We were middle-class. We got everything we needed, and a little of what we wanted.”
Attaway loves to cook, collect recipes, decorate, and her favorite meal is lasagna with garlic bread and a salad. When she has time, and the mood strikes, she enjoys walking trails in a Woodway park, often with her three kiddos: Jraven, the youngest, 9-year-old Annaliese and 11-year-old Caleb. They enjoy bonding with nature and each other, said Attaway, whose husband occasionally accompanies them.
No cell phones or electronic devices are allowed on these trips. Sometimes Brittanny will bring along a camera and take pictures. She loves sunsets.
On Christmas Day, the Attaway family and in-laws up from Houston will eat their traditional meal at Summer Palace. Later she will see her parents — Kelli LeDuc and Richard Solomon — and may visit her grandmother in Bellmead.
Everything revolves around family for Brittany — the little Bible she bought for Caleb, books by Dr. Seuss, grandma’s lighted nativity scene, collecting recipes, decorating, making a house a home. Loving one another with one thing in mind: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
That’s Philippians 4:13, and it appears on her Facebook page.
As for that photo, Attaway said she continues to grin and bear it. It’s a part of her past for which she’s taken a lot of ribbing. But she cherishes the thought.
This will be the 28th year for Storybook Christmas. Championed locally by longtime Tribune-Herald staffer Ann Roznovsky, who passed away in December last year, the nonprofit organization has given more than 450,000 new books to underprivileged children in McLennan County.