Category Archives: Christmas

The Magic of Christmas

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Guest post by my 3rd cousin 1x removed, Kookie Hemperley.

One of my fondest memories of the magic of Christmas began when I was a small child while visiting with my grandparents, Wesley and Beulah Thompson Stanley, in the piney woods of East Texas.  My aunt, uncles, cousins and our family always gathered at Granny and Pop Paw’s for Christmas.

Pop Paw worked at the lumber mill and had scouted out trees days in advance.    On that particular day, a cool crisp one, he told us that if we didn’t go get a tree, Santa wouldn’t come.  We eagerly jumped into the back of his old truck and headed out in search of the perfect tree.

Wes Stanley and his Christmas tree hunting truck

Wes Stanley and his Christmas tree hunting truck


Being small children, we would have chopped down any tree if that was all it took for Santa to come, but Wes had something special in mind.  We searched and searched.  We looked at pines, which he said weren’t shaped right.   We looked at cedars and he said their limbs were too flimsy and difficult to decorate.  Finally he led us to the perfect tree!

It was a holly, straight, tall and loaded with bright red berries.  Everyone agreed it WAS the perfect tree.  He sawed it down, threw it in the back of the truck with all the kids sitting around the edge of the bed imaging what Santa would place beneath it.

Granny didn’t have much as far as decorations go; a few tangled, wrinkled icicles left over from Christmases past and some glass balls that time had faded and had very little color.  But we decorated it in style!  We made a paste from flour and water for glue and made paper chains for garlands, cut out paper lanterns, and the berries complimented the homemade decorations.  When it was completely decorated, we were all in agreement.  It was magical!  Surely Santa would appreciate our handiwork and bring something special.  We sang Christmas carols as the aroma of Granny’s specialty, fried apple pies, came from the cast iron stove in the kitchen.

I don’t even remember what Santa brought; I think only apples, oranges and nuts.  But that tree and the fellowship we shared instilled in me the love of Christmas and family to share the magic with.

After marriage, Don and I would go to his parents on Christmas Eve to exchange family gifts.  Afterwards, my sister-in-law and I would load the kids into a car and take them to see Christmas lights while Don and his brother were busy at our houses putting bikes together and the toys from Santa under the tree which we had gone to the woods and cut down. To the kids, the ride was magical to see the lights others had decorated their yards and homes with. The children never caught on as to why the dads didn’t go with us.

As years passed we set aside one afternoon a couple of weeks prior Christmas to go to the woods and, as Wes would do, chop down a special  tree.  The kids were almost as excited as I.  Usually we cut down a cedar.

But the one thing that had changed was that I now had fallen for flocked trees.  Don and Steve would flock the tree as Kelly and I covered our ears from the words Don would utter as the flocker stopped up or the vacuum hose would crimp and the flock would either come out in gobs or not at all.  Nevertheless, we had flocked trees.  And the bigger the better!  Most times they had to be tied to the beams of the den to stand erect after being heavily decorated.  Sometimes we made paper chains.  Sometimes we baked gingerbread men for ornaments.  And despite all of Don’s fussing about having to flock the tree, when it was fully decorated, he never failed to say, “It’s the most beautiful tree we’ve ever had.”

Let the Flocking begin

anta always came on Christmas Eve when the kids  were small therefore they only had a gift or two from Mom and Dad.  After they had outgrown that stage, I would wrap and put the gifts under the tree, where they would shake, rattle, smell and make a million guesses.

Kookie's children

Some of the magical moments that are dear to me are granddaughter Rachel’s first

Rachels first Christmas

Emy’s visit with Santa.

Emy's visit with santa

And the happy faces of Christmas.

happy face of christmas 01

happy face of christmas 02

happy face of christmas 03

Surprises always came packaged differently and one never knew if your big gift would be under the tree, in your stocking, or in the form of something warm and fuzzy.

Don and I always had an Open House where a roaring fire on Christmas Eve warmed friends who would stop by for a bowl of gumbo and beverage. Sometimes we had to wait until they left before Santa came.  Sometimes they stayed to see what surprises he would deliver to the Hemperley kids.

I have so many magical memories of Christmas in my lifetime; like the year we were so broke that all Don could afford for me was a pair of house shoes.  I don t think I gave him anything.

Or, our first Christmas after he returned home from Japan and we were stationed in Maryland.  Maryland had a record snow fall that year, so we bundled up Steve, who was about a year and a half, and played in the snow building a snowman and having snowball fights.

Or the year he surprised me with a color TV and I sat up well after the three stations we could receive went off air and watched the test pattern until the wee hours!

Or many Christmases when the house was so full of relatives, home for the holidays, that we would run out of beds and couches for them to sleep on.  Santa must have had a difficult time delivering gifts for  there were pallets or sleeping bags on every inch of floor.

Much has changed in my celebration of Christmas.  Some loved ones are now gone.  I no longer go to the woods for a tree to flock.  In fact, this year I put up a flocked fake tree!!!

My kids now have kids and are now Santa!

We still open gifts on Christmas Eve and have gumbo for supper.  However, Kelly now cooks it and I can sit back and enjoy the night.

I no longer have kids sniffing or sleeping under the tree.  My dog has taken over that job!

Ahso under the tree

The magic of my Christmases began many years ago with my grandfather taking all the grandkids to cut a tree. It’s in my heart.  It’s in my memories.  It’s with my family. It’s who I am and where I came from.

May we all remember the true meaning of Christmas.  May we all remember the past, cherish the present, and look forward to a Christmas that is magical this and every year.

Merry Christmas!!!

Kookie Hemperley

Decked the halls, y’all!!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.   It should with only two weeks left.  I thought I would share with you what has been going on around here.

Knucklehead and I got the tree out  (with the help of Uncle John who got it out of the attic for us) and we set it up.  Then we plugged in our PRE-LIT tree to find that only half of it was pre-lit.

Pre-lit tree, not so pre-lit

Totally bummed, I had to run up to the Dollar General store and buy some lights to fill in the dead spots.  I did, and Knucklehead when to decorating.  I’m lucky if he placed one ornament every thirty minutes or so.

Knucklehead decorating

After a VERY long night, with both of us wanting to kill each other by the end of it, the tree was finally finished and I did the rest of the decorations while Knucklehead and Ringo watched TV.  We finished at 1:00 am.  I was whooped but the end result looks good and both Knucklehead and I survived and still love each other.

Booyah!  Can’t ask for more than that.

The Decorations Christmas 2012

I took several pictures of Ringo by the tree as I wanted to get one of him with his ears up but I was making him sit and stay, right in front of the tree and he thought he was in trouble so his ears never came up. Here he is anyway.

Ringo Christmas 2012

Then I took some shots of Knucklehead which I love, so here are a few. I love to get close up shots of people’s faces. I want to remember every little line, dimple or freckle. Sometimes dirt, but that’s what little boys are for.

Knucklehead 01

Knucklehead 02

And my favorite of all time:

Knucklehead 03

Cameron, my step-son and who I call CamWow, but Skylar calls Camera, came in over the week-end and I took some shots of him and Knucklehead and this is what I got.

Knucklehead and CamWow

I do believe CamWow was about to rub a bald spot on Knucklehead’s head, but he didn’t. Then we had to have the obligatory wrestling match of which Ringo had to get involved in. I love the fact that they are jumping around and in the background on the TV Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins are jumping on the trampoline in the movie “Big”. I’ve been getting great photo bombs from the TV lately.

Knucklhead, CamWow and Ringo

Also, if you will take a moment to look at the bottom half of the tree in the above picture of the kids, you will notice the rest of the pre-lit lights on the tree went out. YAY!! Another trip to the store, hence the new lights on the couch and I should tell you, it is no fun trying to stick lights on an already decorated tree. Alix stuck them on for me and now it looks good, but that tree is going in the trash after Christmas and I’ll be getting me a flocked tree next year. So get ready family!

Here is my little Skylar in front of the tree, he is such a cutie.

Skylar Higginbotham

Lastly, I have been going to a few Christmas parties and I believe I have worn more makeup in the last two weeks than I have all year.  There’s not much point in getting all fancied up here on the compound, it’s not like the chickens care, so it’s been a treat to get all “Dolled” up and roll out on the big town of Heber Springs.  LOL.

Anyway, I took this picture to send to The Hubs before the DAV Christmas party, just to remind him I can clean up a bit so it turned out pretty good and I guess I’ll share it.  I hardly ever post pictures of myself but I’ll do it this time.  At least I don’t have duckface.  LOL


Knucklehead has prepared his Christmas list and placed it in his wish box under the tree.  I was pretty impressed with his list, it wasn’t much and it’s all affordable stuff so it should be easier this year.

Knuckleheads Christmas Wish list

After all this activity when I just want to sit down and watch TV and relax, it seems I always have to fight for the remote.  Do you have this problem at your house?  Even Ringo hogs the remote.  He loves Cesar, the Dog Whisperer!  He does cry when he watches Animal Hoarders though so I have to try to avoid that.

Ringo hogging the remoteSo, that’s it.  I’m going to go and fight for the remote and watch a sappy love story or a Christmas movie.

I hope you all are enjoying getting ready for Christmas, I am but next on the list is shopping.



Christmas Traditions for the Harris’ and families

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First off, just let me say that I’ve been enjoying all the Christmas posts from the Geneabloggers.  While I haven’t had time to do the daily blogging on the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, it gave me a great idea. My mother has always talked about her family and the things they did while she was growing up, but I don’t know one thing about my Dad’s Christmases.

I took those blog suggestions and interviewed my father, on camera.  It was awesome!!!  The interview went great, and it prompted me to go back and look through some of my grandmothers photo’s for Christmases past.  Prepare for picture overload.

First, the men would eat. That’s Uncle James back there grinning like a Cheshire Cat.  Oscar is on the right, and on the left looking at the back of Uncle Doc’s head, and my grandfather on the right, Earl’s head.  But lookout fella’s, I think Ruby was hungry and didn’t want to wait.   Looks like she’s just going to grab it right from the bowl.

Since you guys seem to be in no hurry, the girls are going to stand behind you and try to send you secret mind signals to get up from the table so they can get your food. Mary Helen, Ruby, and Lou Jane, are going to burn a bald spot on the back of your heads Oscar and Audie with their x-ray eyes!  And, they think it’s funny!

See, I told you!!  The men cleared a path and Aunt Sis moved right in!  Follow her ladies, like Mary Helen did.  Lou Jane is on the left explaining to Audie how long it will take for the hair to cover the spot on the back of his head, and Major and Doc weren’t fazed at all.  You gotta bring it better than that girls, to get them outta the food!  I think Earl might be scared though, he’s watching Lou Jane hoping she won’t zap him next.

Mittie Lou runs in and says, “If I kiss you Daddy will you get up and let me have some food?” By the look on his face, I would say it’s about to be your turn girls!  Uncle Doc is about to take his last bite anyway!

Way to go Ladies!!  Glad you got your turn.  I mean you deserve it, after all the hard work preparing the food, you should get to eat.  I hope it was still warm after those slow pokey men.

Now that the eating is over with, how about “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” for a while.  We gotta work this food off!!

Lou Ann says “Enough of this, let’s do gifts!!”

Nedra’s a little overwhelmed by all the gifts, so I think she is going to call some folks in for some help.

Pat and Billy are not sure what’s up with the adults, I mean for real, cut the chit chat and let’s start ripping some paper!!  Audie, Rhodean, Uncle Doc, and Grandpa Major and Big Momma Mollie are just waiting for someone to hand them out!

Aunt Sis to the rescue again.  She’s gotta keep it moving, keep those gifts flowing people!!

Ok children, you have waited long enough.  The surprise guest is about to make his appearance.  But be warned, I think the snow at the North Pole is really bright, cause Santa, I mean the surprise guest, looks like he’s been baking in a tanning bed, and we all know you didn’t have those back in the day!

“Ho! Ho! Ho!  I hope I brought someone some Aloe Vera, cause I need you to re-gift it back to me.  My face is burned.  Maybe it’s from the glare on the snow, or the wind from my fast flying reindeer’s, but seriously, I need a volunteer.  Who wants to rub some Aloe Vera on my face?”

“Now wait just a minute lady, you don’t have to jump in that fella’s lap, and there’s no need to hold me back.  Ole’ Santy will get Mrs. Santy to do it later.  We gotta get this party moving anyway!”

“Well little lady, I think Burton Hillis said it right when he said ‘The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”

So that is how my Dad spent his Christmas when he was growing up.  And by the way, the picture right above, that young man to the left of Santy is my Dad, Rufus Higginbotham.  My Mom is sitting next to him.  She was Mary Helen Parks at the time.

Here they are again, my parents:

And here’s my Dad with his cousin Ruby:

I have such a nice looking family.  I bet they had some really good times on Christmas Eve.  I know I did.

Here is me with my grandmother Edna:

And here’s my grandmother many years later.  She had eyes as blue as the sky.  I love her and miss her.

So there’s my walk down Christmas memory lane.  I hope you all enjoy the pictures.  I know I did, and if I hadn’t interviewed Dad, I would have never thought about looking for his photo’s or learning about his Christmas traditions.


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