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VIRGOS: HERE’S OUR SIGN!

According to astrology, Virgo, the sixth sign of the Zodiac, runs from August 23 through September 22 (although some say the cusp day is the 23).  It is the only sign represented by a woman.  Virgos typically are reliable, practical, meticulous and do well in vocations of service, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, bookkeepers.  They are also creative and sensitive.  Do I, as a Virgo, believe all of this?  I don’t put a lot of credence in it however I do read my horoscope daily!

In my family tree of most recent relatives, I have sixteen Virgos not counting myself.  My grandmother was one.  One aunt, one uncle, one daughter, one daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, one grandson, one great grandson, one niece and her husband, one nephew, one nephew’s wife, two great nephews, and one great niece are all Virgos. Whew!  Not to worry only four are the subjects of this post.

Granddaughter Emerson Avery Hemperley (Emy) was born September 3, 1992 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Steve and Andrea Tanet Hemperley.  As a child she took ballet but soon diverted her competitive spirit to sports playing tee ball and soccer.

Emy Hemperley

 

Emy, 1996

The photo above shows her determination while playing at an arcade in Celebration Station in New Orleans in 1996.

Emy began school in Mandeville, Louisiana; graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Following graduation she traveled to Paris, France and has visited other large cities including New York City.   She attended Ole Miss, missed New Orleans, returned and is currently enrolled at the University of New Orleans.  She and her family enjoy spending time at their camp in Monterey, Louisiana however Emy is truly a New Orleans girl to the core!  She loves the city and all it has to offer; Mardi Gras, clubs, good food, family and friends.

Emy at Mardi Gras

Zachery Tucker Hemperley, Emy’s brother, was born September 6, 1994 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Tucker first attended school in Mandeville, Louisiana and graduated from Jesuit High School in New Orleans.  While living in Mandeville, he played tee ball and loved skate boarding.

Tucker Hemperley

Tucker likes to hunt and fish and can often be found at the family retreat entertaining friends.

Tucker's First Deer

Tucker’s first deer was taken in Monterey, Concordia Parish, Louisiana.  The following photo was made while fishing in Mexico.

Tucker fishing in Mexico

Tucker is in his second year at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge where he pledged K A.  Below is a photo of Tucker and Southern Belle, Gabby Ray at the fraternity’s celebration of the Old South.

 

Tucker and Gabby

Nine days following Emy’s birth, granddaughter Lauren Elise Brown was born in Hobbs, New Mexico on September 12, 1992 to Scott and Kelly Hemperley Brown.

Lauren was active in scouting beginning at the age of four.  Too young for the Daisys, she attended meetings where he mother was scout leader.

Lauren's first apron

She went on to become a Brownie, Girl Scout, and earned the Silver Star award which is the equivalent to the BSA Eagle Scout.

Lauren Elise Brown

She attended Herndon Magnet School in Gilliam, Louisiana and graduated from Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport. Lauren enjoys Renaissance Festivals, Dr. Who, fly fishing and camping with family. They have traveled as far West as Colorado, North to South Dakota, and East to Florida and Washington, D. C. Lauren attended University of Louisiana Monroe and Louisiana Technical College in Shreveport where she studied the culinary arts. She is currently employed at a law firm in Shreveport.

the Dawsons

Lauren married Christopher Wayne Dawson and on August 23, 2014 gave birth to another Virgo, a son, Benjamin Rhys Dawson in Shreveport, Louisiana. Ben enjoys being fed, napping, and being spoiled by everyone.

Benjamin Rhys Dawson

And the final featured Virgo is my daughter, Kelly Anne Hemperley Brown. Kelly was born on September 21, 1963 in Texarkana, Arkansas. She was a mischievous child who was always into something. The joke in our family was that had she been born prior her brother, he would never have been born! There was always impishness in her eyes as she was about to get into something. However, to this day when she hears me call out “Kelly Anna”, she knows she’s in deep trouble! Give her a challenge and she will eagerly accept it.

Kelly Anne Hemperley

Kelly was educated in public schools in Vivian, Louisiana graduating from North Caddo High where she was a member of the Louisiana All Star Marching Band and the winner of the I Dare You award at graduation. She attended Louisiana State University-Shreveport for a short while before enrolling in business school. Prior to her graduation she was hired by the Caddo Parish Police Jury as personal secretary to the administrator; a position she held for seven years before moving to Hobbs, New Mexico. While employed at the Police Jury it changed to a Commission and a resolution was written into the Commission’s minutes, which was entered into Caddo Parish’s history, for her dedication and work during the transition.

Resolution of Appreciation for Kelly Hemperley Brown in Caddo Parish

 

In New Mexico she was employed by the City of Hobbs where she received special recognition as employee of the month.

Kelly Hemperley Brown, Hobbs, New Mexico

In 1993 her family moved back to Caddo Parish and she returned to work for Caddo Parish; this time in the District Attorney’s office in the drug division. Since then she has been responsible for the training of all secretaries in the District Attorney’s office and most recently moved to the position of secretary for the Appellate Court.

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Kelly’s dedication to helping others, lead her to become a Girl Scout leader for many years; church secretary; church youth leader; and exercise instructor. However I think she would say her most important job today is that of being wife, mother and grandmother. A job she does well!

Now that you have allowed me to give you a little insight to my favorite Virgos, I would also like to wish the others who share the sign a Happy Birthday. They are Andrea Tanet Hemperley, Marty Stanley Roberts and husband Jimmy, Damon Goodwin, Melissa Slaughter Goodwin, David Stanley, Greg Stanley, and Amanda Roberts Mather!

 

 

MILITARY MONDAY: THOMAS BRYANT BROWN, CHIEF MASTER SARGEANT, USAF

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Tom Brown on wedding day

On this Monday, Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, I have chosen to honor Chief Master Sergeant Thomas Bryant Brown, born July 8, 1935 in Texarkana, Arkansas to Barron Scott Brown and Grace May Bryant Brown.   Tom’s mother, who had already had a daughter, Barbra Ann and a son, John, died at his birth.  His father passed away three years later.  Tom was raised by his grandparents, Scott Preston Brown and Leah Templeton Brown in Doddridge, Arkansas who were already getting on years, him seventy and her fifty-nine years.

Tom attended school in Bright Star, Arkansas graduating in 1953.  He played basketball and was vice president of the senior class.  In a booklet for the fifty year reunion he said his fondest memory of Bright Star High School was “When Cecil Morris (the superintendent) gave me my diploma.  I had doubts about getting one.”

Tom enlisted in the Air Force in 1954 and served twenty-four years before retiring.  The bases he was stationed at were Schilling AFB in Salina, Kansas; Little Rock AFB in Little Rock, Arkansas; Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota; Altus AFB in Oklahoma; Anderson AFB on Guam and Blythville AFB in Blythville, Arkansas.

While stationed at Schilling he met Wanda June McDaneld at the First Free United Methodist Church.  They were married on May 26, 1957.

Tom Brown Wedding

Tom began his career as an aircraft technician, more commonly known as a mechanic. He worked on B47s until the B52 made its debut and later the KC 135. He became a crew chief having as many as many as twenty planes to insure were mechanically sound for flight. His crew followed the planes wherever their missions went. While a crew chief he spent three tours in Thailand and more than a couple on Guam. On another occasion when a plane had problems in Viet Nam he and his crew had to fly in, repair the plane and fly out of the area. He later said that was the scariest day he spent in service.

Thomas Brown USAF

I am not sure if this photo depicts receiving a medal as it is not marked, however as you can see in the photo below of his uniform jacket, he received the Bronze Star; the USAF Outstanding Unit Award; the AF Good Conduct Medal; the Commendation Ribbon; the Army Good Conduct Medal/Ribbon; the National Defense Service Medal; the Viet Nam Service Ribbon; the USAF Longevity Service Ribbon; the USAF NCO Professional Military Educate Graduate; and the Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Ribbon.

Tom Brown's Service Medals

Here’s another photo of Tom (second from the right on bottom row) with other unidentified service members:

Tom Brown, USAF

Tom and Wanda had three girls, namely Tammy Jo, Sandra June, Barbra Leigh and one son, Scott Preston (who also happens to be my son-in-law) named for Tom’s grandfather. A lot of the time while Tom was in service, Wanda was left in the states to raise the children and have as much as possible a normal family life without the children’s dad. Many times I would tell Tom what a fine family he had raised to which his standard answer was, “Well you better praise Wanda; I was always gone”.

Following his retirement the family moved to Jefferson, Texas to be near his uncle and aunt, Rabb and Ione Bryant, where he worked for the Marion County Tax Assessor’s office. He was a member of the Retired Enlisted Association and annually made a trip to Branson, Missouri to attend the reunion of the 44th Bombardment Wing. Tom loved to fish and quite often would take enough fish to fry for all those in attendance, not to mention epic sized fish fries for Bright Star reunions and family get togethers.

He was a loving husband and father whose biggest smiles came while being with and doing for those he loved. Most of the time he wore an Air Force cap covering his red hair; all the time he had a kind word and a warm hug for you!

Thomas Bryant Brown passed away in Shreveport, Louisiana on August 17, 2011 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was buried with military honors at Old Foundry Cemetery, Lodi, Texas beside his wife of forty-two years, Wanda June McDaneld.

WEDNESDAY’S WOMAN: SYBOL LILLIAN O’PRY HEMPERLEY

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Sybol O'Pry HemperleyThe biblical verse from Matthew 5:5 says the meek shall inherit the earth and when I read this verse, I feel it perfectly applies my late mother-in-law, Sybol Lillian O’Pry Hemperley.  She was meek in nature, small in stature, unassuming, and not one to enjoy the lime light.  She was also a devoted wife, mother and Christian; today she is remembered as Wednesday’s Woman.

Sybol was born January 16, 1909 in Provencal, Louisiana to William Henry O’Pry and Amanda Salena Jones.  The O’Pry family consisted of Sybol and brothers, William Carl, Marshall Henry, Joseph Dowden (J. D.) and Leo Curtis.  In the 1910 census the family is located in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana where William Henry worked as a lumber grader at a planer mill, however, by 1920 they were located in Lafayette County, Arkansas where he was listed as a farmer. The family later moved to Caddo Parish, Louisiana in an area known as Pine Island, where William Henry sold Watkins products.

Sybol married John Raymond Hemperley on August 9, 1930.  Raymond had bought the marriage license in Arkansas however, at the time, they were living in Louisiana and Sybol wanted to be married in Louisiana.  How to resolve this problem?  They were married in the middle of the road where the two states join with one foot in each state!

While living in Gilliam, Louisiana they first lived on the “Ward Place” and later bought sixty acres just below there known as the “Cody Place” outside of Gilliam, Louisiana. Raymond’s parents, John Daniel Luther Hemperley and Laura Sara Jane Josephine Matilda Ann Hanson (thank goodness she went by Laura!) lived with them.  They had a shotgun house with Raymond and Sybol’s family on one side and John and Laura on the other. The family grew to include Sybol and Raymond’s three children, Jesse Raymond, Donald Ray and Mona Rose.

When the children were small, Laura kept the children while Sybol, Raymond and John worked the farm.  They raised cotton, hay for the cattle and a large garden.  They had chickens and hogs and when it was “hog killing weather”, the neighbors would come to help so the smoke house could be filled. The pantry was always filled with beautiful canned foods that line the walls and extra sugar, flour, etc. in the kitchen cabinets.  Since she had lived through the Great Depression, I believe she wanted to rest assured she could feed the family. Sybol wasn’t a fancy cook but liked cook books and was always clipping recipes from the newspaper or magazines.  I inherited one of her cookbooks, The Watkins Cook Book, pictured below.  You will note the copy write was in 1938 and that it cost $1.50.  I have no doubt she got it when her father was selling Watkins products. It is filled with some of her clippings which often have her hand written notes.

MeMaw's Cookbook

 

Typically Sybol wore fresh starched and ironed cotton dresses unless she was working in the garden where she wore long sleeves (no matter how hot the weather), a bonnet she had made, and gloves.

Sybol O'Pry Hemperley (MeMaw)

She loved flowers and her yard was full beautiful ones, particularly her favorites, daliahs and cleomes, also known as pens and needles.  She is pictured below with great grandsons, Brian, David and Greg Stanley by an iris bed.

Sybol Hemperley with great grandsons Brian, David and Greg Stanley

Sybol never gossiped, talk ill-will of anyone nor did I ever hear a profane word come from her mouth all the years I knew and loved her.

Sybol O'Pry Hemperley

Sybol Lillian O’Pry Hemperley at wedding of Kelly Hemperley Brown

Sybol never learned to drive and after Raymond’s death in 1970 the farm was sold and she moved to Gilliam.  She continued her gardening, attended church regularly at Linda Lay Baptist, and enjoyed her children and grandchildren.  She never had much, nor needed much.  She never asked for much; never wanted much other than visits with her family.  She was a simple, loving, giving, meek Christian woman. I have no doubt she “inherited the earth” but also a place in Heaven.

Sybol (who was lovingly called “Babe” by Raymond) passed away on January 10, 1986 in Vivian, Louisiana.  She is buried beside Raymond at Bathsaida Baptist Cemetery in Ida, Louisiana.

John Raymond and Sybol O'Pry Hemperley

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and it’s a time to drag out your favorite recipes, plan a menu, and go grocery shopping.  Sometimes it becomes stressful worrying if you will have enough food, who’s coming to dinner and will you get it on the table on time.  Holiday meals should never become a chore but rather a celebration of family, friends and the fellowship you can share with one another.

Our family’s celebration for Thanksgiving is pretty traditional in the menu.  However, it’s the contribution of each family member’s specialty that makes it more delightful and less complicated. Son—in-law, Scott Brown starts the night before by smoking a turkey that is falloff the bone tender and juicy.  Everyone has their favorite part of the turkey and when my daughter-in-law came into the family, she would only eat drumsticks therefore they were reserved for her alone. The simple way to resolve this problem for the younger family members, who also liked them, was to purchase a package of nothing but drumsticks.  Now everyone is happy!

Of course we have to have the traditional cornbread dressing which I make.  Recently I have taught granddaughter Rachel how to make it and we usually do that together.  When Don was alive I made two dressings; one regular and another with oysters which was his favorite.  Kelly makes mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and of course we have broccoli rice casserole, which my South Louisiana grandkids refer to as “green rice”. Other items on the menu include a fruit salad, green salad, cranberry sauce, rolls, etc. For deserts Scott often makes a sweet potato pie and he or I have to have pecan pie with Jack Daniels in it.  Now before you back away from that one, the alcohol cooks out and you are left with a delightful flavor.  Kelly’s favorite is banana pudding and my niece, Janet Stanley, who is the carrot cake princess, always makes one for me.  Sometimes I make 5 Minute Fudge however, my sister-in-law gave me a recipe for crock pot fudge that is so easy to make (as if the 5 Minute Fudge is difficult!).  Another “must” is bread pudding with either a coconut rum or Jack Daniels sauce.  Granddaughter Lauren is a wizard with cupcakes so she’s in charge of those and, sister, Judy Stanley introduced us to pecan pie muffins.  Can you tell by the time the football games are on TV we’re in a sugar coma?  Bring on the coffee with Kool Whip floating on top!

Now that your mouth is watering, thought I’d share a few of our favorite recipes with you.

First up:

Janet Hemperley Stanley’s Carrot Cake:

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Mix together 2 cups sugar, 4 eggs, 1 ½ cup oil. Sift together 2 cups flour, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. salt. Fold in: 3 cups grated raw carrots and 1 cup chopped pecans. Bake 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cream Cheese Frosting: 8 oz. cream cheese, ½ stick butter, 1 box powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. Mix until creamy and frost the cake.

Next:

Kookie Stanley Hemperley’s Easy Bread Pudding Kookie Hemperley 6-2-2012 Large pkg. Day old Danish with pecans and raisins, 1 qt. heavy cream and 8 eggs. Break up bread and cover with cream and eggs mixing well. Let soak for a few minutes and then pour into baking dish sprayed with Pam and bake at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean (about 30-40 minutes). Sauce: 1 cup sugar, water to dissolve sugar, *orange or lemon juice to taste, vanilla, small amount of heavy cream and pecans chopped finely. Add all ingredients and cook down until thick. *You can substitute Cocoanut Rum, Jack Daniels or Grand Marnier. (Of course, cooking takes all the alcohol out but leaves a good flavor)

Next:

Velma Stanley’s Crock Pot Clusters

Velma Irwin Stanley1-16 oz. jar salted dry roasted peanuts, 1-16 oz. jar unsalted dry roasted peanuts, 1-12 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 bar German chocolate and 2-1 ½ lb. white almond bark.  Layer all ingredients in a crock pot and set temperature to low and cook 3 hours. Stir at the end of 3 hours. Drop onto foil by spoonsfull and let set until hardened.

And last but not least:

Judy Stanley’s Pecan Pie Muffins

JuJu May 2010

1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup brown sugar firmly packed, ½ cup all purpose flour, 2 large eggs, ½ cup butter or margarine melted.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl; make a well in the center of the mixture. Beat eggs until foamy and stir in butter. Add to dry ingredients stirring until moistened. Place in muffin tins (spray or coat with butter). Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from pans immediately. Makes 8-0 muffins. We like these because you can eat them with your hand and don’t have to wash a dish!

As you can tell, our meal is collaboration from the whole family, which makes it more fun. And of course, each person around the table has to say what they are thankful for before we all dig in. That can be funny, sentimental or sweet. So, in closing, I’ll start this Thanksgiving season by saying, thank you Lord for family who sustain me; for friends who bring joy, for health; and for genealogy which brought me to Susie Higginbotham Reynolds who allows me to share a part of her world!

Who Do You Think You Are? – My Review

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For months I have anticipated the return of one of my favorite shows, “Who Do You Think You Are”.  Even if I don’t know much about the featured celebrity, I hopefully will discover a new source for searching or find a hint that will lead me in a new direction.  Last night “Who Do You Think You Are?” made its 2013 season debut and left me with mixed reviews. 

For starters, searching for ancestors just doesn’t fall into place as it is portrayed on the show.  As someone who has done research in libraries, cemeteries and personal interviews over a period of more than thirty years, I can tell you that you may search months, years or decades to locate one document much less the entire life story of your ancestor. Sometimes you come up totally empty handed.

Personally I love Ancestry, the sponsor of the show.  In fact I have three family trees on their site and praise it as my “go to sight” for research.  However, I believe the illusion of how easy it is to discover your past, who you are, and your family’s place in history on “Who Do You Think You Are?” is just that…… an illusion.  The average beginning genealogist, I’m afraid, will get a false sense of tracing one’s tree.  And when disappointment sets in, some will lose interest and their tree will never branch with limbs and twigs.

Sure, if you are a celebrity and have money to travel, it would make the process easier.  If you are one of the fortunate ones that can hire a professional genealogist to do the research for you, oh well, you have just missed the personal satisfaction of a history lesson in places, events and your heritage.  To me, documents from a professional would merely become a piece of paper with names on it.  I wouldn’t have the pleasure of that “ah ha” moment!  There is no greater reward in genealogy than to discover a document or photo and have the feeling of accomplishment in your pursuit.

Kelly and Rachel  Brown, Kookie Stanley Hemperley and Mamie Stanley-4 generations

Kelly and Rachel Brown, Kookie Stanley Hemperley and Mamie Stanley                     4 generations

Through the generations: Mother, Mamie Martin Stanley and I located cemeteries, interviewed family members, gathered photos and old documents.  My daughter Kelly Hemperley Brown and her husband Scott and I enjoy locating cemeteries off the beaten path documenting headstones as we go.  Rachel, who is about a year old in this photo, is all grown up now and currently is a Deputy Clerk in Caddo Parish Clerk’s Office. She has researched local court records for me and often accompanies me to different libraries searching old newspapers, microfilms and military histories.  In short, my research has included four generations sharing our family’s history and having that “ah ha” moment together.

While I find the celebrities heritage enjoyable at times, if I had my druthers, every once in a while I would prefer Ancestry send in a John Doe…… you know; ordinary researchers like you and me; the people who have brick walls and do not have the luxury of hiring the pros to do the work for us or to travel extensively.  Every person who has walked the face of this earth is deserving of having their story told regardless of their social status.

Another suggestion I would make to the producers of the show is that they allow the person with the most gathered information on the ancestor be allowed to travel on the discovery journey regardless of whether the featured person is a celebrity or a descendant of John Doe. Had it not been for the encouragement of and the companionship of my mother pointing me in the right direction when I began we would have not had the benefit of sharing what we discovered.  She didn’t have to wait until I arrived home with new information; she experienced it right along with me.

In conclusion when the celebrity located the grave-site of her relative of generations past and greeted it with “what’s up”, I thought how irreverent!  The first words from her mouth should have been that she would have loved to have known him and thank him for his contribution to the war, politics and her family.

Kookie

The Magic of Christmas

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

Santa 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
Christmas.

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!!!

Martin Family Reunion, 1982 – Ida, Louisiana

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Martin Family Reunion 1982 – Ida, Louisiana

I wrote this back in ’96 about family reunions. These days people wouldn’t be pulling out their wallets to show family photos; they’d just pop out their cell phones!

SAME TIME NEXT YEAR

We all gather around, kissing and hugging

While the aroma of fried chicken and apple pie fills the optic and smelling senses

As new babies are introduced to the clan

And older relatives are greeted and offered a helping hand.

Pictures pop from wallets like jacks in boxes

As mid-size kids make their way outside; bored with it all

Dodging Aunt Gracie and her ruby lipstick that leaves behind tell-tale smooch marks, impossible to remove.

Memories of when we were children

Of embarrassing situations,

Some humorous,

Some colorful,

Some we’d rather forget

Are related by a narrator who has them firmly embedded in his mind and on uncanny ability to embellish upon them.

Quite often they’re followed by laughter.

Frequently they are concluded by “not Me!”

Long tables are filled with family recipes, full of calories and cholesterol

Serving dishes vary from Grandma’s black crusted cast iron skillet to a Colonel Sanders’ bucket.

Hands joined, heads bent, someone invokes the blessing of nourishment of bodies and souls, with special thanks for our safe voyages.

Those who have departed on a voyage of another kind are somberly remembered.

A resound “Amen” breaks the silence and the binge begins.

Gray haired women and new brides clear away the dishes.

The older males, refreshed by a breeze under a spreading oak tree, whittle on fallen twigs while balancing on the back legs of straight chairs.

Their creations serve no purpose other than to wile away time or show off a new Buck knife

As younger dads teach the art of flying a kite or how to slide in safely at home plate.

A freckled face boy on a bag swing nearly rams one of the elderly gents as two little girls play Barbies

And two little boys scuffle in the dirt.

The shade grows longer and one by one they load their empty casserole dishes and Igloo coolers for the homeward pilgrimage

With invitations one to another to “come when you can”

Or the echoed refrain of “Same time next year.”

The little girls, shy only hours ago, separate their Barbies.

The little boys, neither of which has a shiner to display as a badge, glare at each other as if to say, “Same time next year.”

The reunion ends as it began with hugs and kisses

And a few teary eyes.

As the family car pulls away, the little girl, squirming in the back seat asks,

“Who was that girl I played with?”

“Your kissin’ cousin,” comes the reply.

Her brother brushes dust from his jeans and rolls his eyes.

“Will I see her again?” asks the little girl.

“Yes, dear.”

“When?”

“Same time next year.”

The little boys a large toothless grin.

“MA! He’s laughing at me.”

“Am not!”

“Am so!”

“Am not,” he says peering out the rear window while making a grotesque face at the little boy he had tussled with earlier in the day.

Same time next year he thinks; and the grin grows broader.

~Kookie Stanley Hemperley~

Here are a few more photos from this reunion, a great time was had by all.

J. D. and Linda Martin race against Martin kids, Kookie with back to camera, Judy Stanley and David Frossard, Mamie Stanley, Scott and Kelly Hemperley Brown all standing by the tree.

Kookie Stanley Hemperley, Mamie Martin Stanley, Tommy, Stanley, Judy Stanley

Womanless Wedding: Wilburn “Kink” Burge as father of bride holding shotgun, J. D. Martin as Bride, LeRoy Carrell as groom, James Hanson as preacher

Mamie Martin Stanley tossing to Kookie Stanley Hemperley.

Dale LeBlanc and Don Hemperley arrive by boat after fishing before the reunion.

Dixie Carter Hanson with grandchildren and Martha Gingles at the piano present devotional music at the Sunday devotional.

Balloons released to announce the Martin Reunion with notes inside to invite others Martins to join us.

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