KELLY ANN HEMPERLEY BROWN: A STORY OF PONYTAILS & LEOTARDS

Kelly Anne Hemperley

She looked so tiny as she climbed the steps to the red brick building for her first day of school. Her dishwater blonde ponytails bobbed and danced beneath blue ribbons which matched the ruffled dress she wore. She was elated; I had my doubts. After all, she was just a mere babe, not yet five years old.

We met the teacher, Mrs. LeBleu, who after making announcements about needing room mothers, announced the children were to stay another hour……..WITHOUT MOMS………. And that we should return at the appointed hour to pick up our darlings. Kelly knew no one other than Donna, our next door neighbor and her best friend.

I drove around town a while, thinking I should not leave her all alone, but knowing inside, this was my first step, not hers, to her growing up.

Arriving back at school at the appointed time, she jumped back into the car; ponytails once so carefully preened, all but out of the rubber bands. Ribbons, chosen especially for the day and carefully tied earlier were now hanging by a few mere strands of wispy hair. She was full of herself! She had met Donna there and had made some new friends.

Her excitement of the morning, what she needed for school, where her desk was, all made her babble on without once taking a breath. We had to go stock up on Big Chief notebooks and Crayola crayons.   She also needed pencils; paste, scissors and the list went on and on!

“Know what I did today, Mom?” she asked as she fidgeted with her ruffles.

“No what, Kel?”

“I sang a song in class today!”

“You did what?” I asked not thinking this was my shy quiet daughter.

“Well, the teacher asked if anyone would like to sing a song for the class and nobody else would, so I did.”

I could hardly believe my ears. Here was my little munchkin, who I had been so worried about, in front of the entire class, entertaining all thirty-five of squirming, wiggling five and six year olds. My Kelly? I mean, she would barely speak to visitors in our own home. Where did all of shyness go?

From that day forward I knew she wasn’t nearly as inhibited as Mom thought. From that day I learned you don’t push her into doing things, unless she wants to do them anyway. From that day, I learned she would make it alright without Mom; but could Mom make it without Kelly.

I also learned she is like a beautifully wrapped birthday present…… you don’t know what’s inside; you just know it is something extremely special.

Step two of the growing up process took me quiet by surprise, as she proudly pranced into the kitchen one night as I was pouring cornbread batter into the pan to bake. She still wore ponytails, only now there were light brown and no longer sported ribbons. The ruffles and dress were now replaced by blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a shirt that was too large for her, or for that matter, her brother as well.

“Mom, I need a bra!” she proudly proclaimed with a meek smile that timidly showed her tinseled braced teeth.

I poured cornbread batter onto the over door and missed the pan completely!

Looking up at her in total disbelief of what had just fallen upon my ears, I was speechless. I couldn’t keep her the little girl who sold Browne cookies forever. I had been too busy running her to band practice, the orthodontist or slumber parties to even notice her budding maturity. However I did decide at that moment if she was old enough for a bra, she was old enough to make cornbread and promptly taught her how.

Kelly and cornbread

 

The next few years were filled with typical teenage disasters. Everyone else had three holes pierced in each ear and she only had two. She hated math. She needed a date for a special party. Her brother wouldn’t allow her to tag along on camping trips when it was clearly for males only. She did learn that while she liked the money of her after school job, being there on time was a drag. She also learned that all fifteen of her best friends could fit into her orange VW bug, complete with sunroof, without the police stopping her.

Once she tried to run away from home when she was sure her dad and I loved her brother the most. That myth was soon dissipated when I assured her that, in the words of my mom, I had sweated blood to give her life and what I said was the law! After a good swift spanking, that of course hurt me more than her, we unpacked her bags.

In many ways she was too “normal”. We never had to threaten nor beat her into oblivion to get her homework done. She never questioned a “no”; was always home on time from a date, and for the most part, helped with chores around the house without a confrontation. She was an honor student, an all-state band member, a class officer and won the “I Dare You” award at commencement exercises.

Then one night she came home early from a date with Scott, the tall skinny boy with an appetite not unlike a mother wolf with pups, who had been camping on our den couch for quite a while. She was sporting a new diamond engagement ring. No one cried. N one objected. No one threw the lanky kid with the enormous appetite out the door. She was truly happy; Scott, Don and I were too and on that night, he became our second son.

Scott and Kelly 1985

All of our lives have changed since she married in 1985. Her pony tails were replaced by short strands of silver; her smile is radiant (thanks to braces); she seldom wears ruffles much less leotards, She has two beautiful daughters and one grandson and Scott has loved and cherished her for all these years.

Since today is her birthday, I wish her love and happiness. She never ceases to amaze me! Every day I have with her is like opening a birthday gift.

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2 comments on “KELLY ANN HEMPERLEY BROWN: A STORY OF PONYTAILS & LEOTARDS

  1. How do you write a comment with tearsin your eyes? Love you both so very much. Great story but if I think long and hard , sift through all our memories, I betcha I could come up with a few priceless ones too. Gotta go get a kleenex now. Ju

  2. Such a sweet story. It made me cry. Happy Birthday Kelly.

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