I just have a lot to say.

Archive for the ‘Family Tales’ Category

June 1st, 2017 by


He litters his bedroom floor with wet towels, sweaty undershirts, and nasty socks.

He seems incapable of turning off lights or fans.

He cannot put dead batteries in the trash to save his life.

He usually needs a haircut and a shave.

His drumming skills vastly supersede his vocal skills, as he belts out 70s rock and roll and plays his own bedside percussion.

He enjoys naps during Big Church and English.

He displayed more Bs and Cs than As on his report cards and couldn’t care less.


HIM TO ME (when he saw the pink ink pen with the pink ribbon at the store during the month of October): Mama, will you buy this? It’s pink, for breast cancer. We support breast cancer!!


His 1st grade teacher told me, “I have moved him all over this room. There is no one he won’t talk to.”

His 2nd grade teacher repeatedly reminded him to do his seat work. She exasperatedly enunciated, “What are you waiting for?!?!” He answered honestly, “Recess.”

His 3rd grade teacher’s eyes welled with tears when I suggested he try 3rd grade a second time.  


ME: What have I always taught you about discussing a girl’s weight?!

HIM: Never call a woman fat to her face.

ME: That’s not exactly right, but it’ll do for now.


He learned to say ball, dog, and daddy, then refused to try new words for months, as if he had mastered all the language he needed.

His eyes popped open on field trip mornings, liked he’d never slept at all. 

He donned one of my old bridesmaid’s dresses for church youth group on a dare.

He dissects the fine art of blowing up cars in killing movies with his daddy, defends his choice of favorite Disney princess with his sisters, and dances to “Shipoopi” from Music Man with his mama.

He loans his strong arms and sturdy back to folks in need of someone to do heavy lifting.

He fuels his lean, muscular body with Peter Pan peanut butter, Pop Tarts, and Dr. Pepper.

He ponders life questions like: “Is still continues redundant?”

He promises, “I’ll be careful. I’ll say my prayers. I’ll drink my milk.”


HIM TO ME: If you don’t do it, you’re going to regret it 50 years from now—uh wait, I mean—10 years from now.


He tucks in his shirt and ties his tie occasionally, and he cleans up real nice.

His guidance counselor suggested carpentry for his junior year, and he discovered his inherited love of woodworking, passed through me from my daddy, whom he was named for but never met. 

He loves his sisters and lets us hug and kiss him in public and often tells all three of us, “You look pretty today.”

He provides most of the fetching and provokes the majority of the laughter in our house.

He cried his last boyhood tears the night his friend died.

He was hard to feed but easy to wake and a joy to raise. 

He’s my favorite son. 

He’s my baby boy. 

He’s a good man.

family close up


February 17th, 2016 by

Hey! Watch This!

“Linda! Pull his license!!” bellowed Chuck’s daddy to his mother with his finger pointed at the guilty teenager.

Chuck was 16 and the driver of the getaway car for a friend who smashed the mailbox of a girl who had recently broken up with him. In his defense, Chuck didn’t know what his friend was up to, but he didn’t stop to think to tell anyone either, until the police called his daddy.

And so it came to pass, a generation later, that the police rang our doorbell.

Phillip possessed a driver’s license and a truck. His BFF held an afterschool job and some spending money. It was spring break, and the teenagers had time on their hands. Individually, these components look healthy and harmless. Collectively, they knit a tapestry of trouble.

They wandered in and out of the house all day. I thought they were downstairs bombing virtual zombies when the doorbell detonated about 8:30 pm. I wondered who would come unannounced at that hour. I put down the pot I was scrubbing, tossed the dishtowel over my shoulder, and opened the front door.

Phillip and BFF looked up nervously. One of the two officers asked, “Mrs. Conner, do you know these boys?”

“Unfortunately, I do. Let me get my husband. This is Daddy’s jurisdiction.”

The knuckleheads had been shooting bottle rockets in the woods next door. In their defense, they didn’t know it was illegal within city limits. They had shot them many times before, but they didn’t stop to think that they had never ignited one in the neighborhood.

(How many stories that involve males, regardless of age, also involve the phrase didn’t stop to think?)

A neighbor heard the fusillade and called 911. The patrol car ventured stealthfully to the dead end of the road, then blasted the outlaws with lights. The panic-stricken stooges charged off running in opposite directions. The lawmen shouted, “STOP OR WE WILL RELEASE THE CANINES!!!”

Only a second ticked before the hoodlums extinguished their escape attempt and threw their hands in the air.

The peace keepers escorted them to our house. They told Chuck that the numbskulls were being reprimanded because their lightening reaction was to hightail it. Until that night, their closest brush with the law had been in-school detention for dress-code infractions.

Their carefree day backfired. Chuck sent BFF home.

It was one of the parenting moments that you are relieved and strict and exploding on the inside from suppressing laughter. With a sparkle in his eyes, Chuck grimaced at our delinquent son and pointed his finger repeatedly as he enunciated his exclamation:

“Celeste! Pull his license!!”

Driver License


January 13th, 2016 by

An Inconvenient Christmas

The details of how we ended up in the hospital the week of Christmas are irrelevant to the story. Chart it to complications of the damn diabetes.

Tuesday was awful.

Wednesday was better. He was supposed to go home on Thursday. Instead, he was returned to ICU.

Thursday, Christmas Eve, was the worst day. But the night was better. A silent night, I suppose, so he was moved to a room. By then, it was Christmas Day.

The relentless rain eased about the time the day dawned.

The room was on a corner and was huge. It had a full sofa and three chairs. The kids brought the presents, the Christmas CDs, and a Charlie Brown tree.

We opened presents one at a time, like always, so everyone could see what everyone else got. As always, Emma received the most gifts. She likes to win the gift competition, so we let her. She got crafting supplies. Abby got books. Phillip got toy weapons. I got a fresh pair of bedroom slippers, and Chuck got a box of Whoppers. Just like always.

The Hams needed to get out of their house, so they came to visit. The kids played a vicious, ugly game of Bananagrams in the middle of the floor. “A Christmas Story” was playing non-stop in the background, as always. Hearing Mr. Ham’s boisterous laugh a time or two was a highlight of the day.


Catherine sent Todd bearing leftovers for supper. She sent it on Christmas china with real utensils. The filet mignon was slightly better than the hospital pot roast on Styrofoam that we had for lunch.

The kids and I found two children on the pediatric hall who were also stuck in the hospital for Christmas. Emma gave each a baby doll that she knitted. Since both patients were boys, we called the dolls action figures. We gave bags of candy to Chuck’s nurse and technician.

Terri and Keith came by on the way home from their festivities with a treat for Chuck.

My family LOVES to do things the way we always have. We covet tradition. We crave the same. A couple of years ago, Emma asked for a particular Christmas sweatshirt. That year, Chuck and I let each open one gift on Christmas Eve, so Emma could wear her new sweatshirt to church. I told them, “This is a THING! This is NOT a tradition! We are NOT starting something new.”

(It was so hot in Alabama this Christmas, and therefore, so cold in the hospital that Emma got to wear that Christmas sweatshirt after all.)

At Christmas dinner in the cafeteria, Emma asked the blessing on our food and thanked God for showing us that Christmas is not about the usual. She thanked Him that we had to step out of our comfort zone this year. She asked Him to please make this a THING and NOT a tradition.


The most inconvenient Christmas ever was

Was the first one

When God came so far to give himself to us,

So when the stress hits each December

How it helps me to remember

God is with us most when things just can’t get worse.

The most inconvenient Christmas ever was

Was the first.

(from “Inconvenient Christmas” by Kyle Matthews)


Sometimes we overlook grace.

Sometimes we get so comfortable that we forget.

Sometimes we get so frightened that we think we are forgotten.

Sometimes we need a tangible reminder.

Sometimes we need to look grace in the eyeballs.

As we were settling into the huge corner room of the hospital on Christmas Day, a young woman in scrubs said:

“Hi! I’m your nurse. My name is Grace.”


March 14th, 2015 by

The Miserable

Her initials are LJ, and she is literal. She wants the facts. She is not good at reading undertones and sarcasm. She is the youngest of three girls. I tell her all the time that she is my favorite, because being the youngest of three girls rocks. This is a concept she can grasp.

She and her family are Our Beloved Lake Neighbors. They were our lake neighbors before they were our friends. We live in the same town, but we don’t run in the same circles. We don’t go to church together; our kids go to different schools; we didn’t swim at the same pool. I am not sure that we would even know each other if we weren’t lake neighbors. We might be “Hey” acquaintances, but certainly not friends worthy of a “How’s your mama?” Over the years, the familial relationship has gone from casual to friendly to Don’t Wanna Pass through This World without You.

I can count on one finger the times that Chuck and I have gone to a friend’s house in the past umpteen years simply to watch a movie with other adults. Our kids don’t do that much anymore either. But at the lake, we pop our corn in an ancient electric popper that Chuck and I received as a wedding present and wear our pjs to Our Beloved Lake Neighbors’ cabin to watch movies together. Oftentimes, the movie is more adult-oriented. This makes watching a movie with LJ a nightmare. She talks non-stop throughout the movie. She wants to understand what’s happening, so she frequently brings the movie-watching to a halt with machine-gun rapid questions.

The time we watched Bill Cosby Himself, she wailed:

“I don’t get it!”

“Why is that funny?!”

“This is NOT funny!!!”

The time we watched the two-disk Oliver! and put the second disk in first, none of the movie made sense to ANYBODY until we figured out what we had done. But for LJ, it was torture. Since LJ is neither my daughter nor the sibling of my children, my family finds this annoying trait delightfully quirky and entertaining. What we cannot fathom is how her own family can tolerate watching a movie with her. They seem numb to her.

The summer that the musical version of Les Miserables was released on DVD, the older sisters wanted to come to our cabin to watch it. Eleven-year-old LJ tagged along. It was late before we ever started the movie, and we knew we were in for a long night. Fortunately for my children, they had seen the movie several times. Literal LJ pelted us with questions:

“Why is that man in prison?”

“Why is that man so mean?”

“Why are they singing all the words?”

“Is that the little girl?”

“Who is that other girl?”

“Which one is her mother?”

“Is that his daddy?”

“Is that a river of blood?”

“Are they all dead?”

“Didn’t she die already?”

“Why did the dead people go to Paris?”

We sent her out of the room for the entirety of “Lovely Ladies” and “I Dreamed a Dream.” She hollered from a back bedroom:

“Is it over?!”

“Can I come back in now?!”

(Don’t fret. Emma left with her and let her play with the bunny. We didn’t strand her.)

In the past 30 years, I have probably listened to the Les Miz soundtrack 1000 times. Never have I been so happy for the ghost of Fantine to come take Jean Valjean to Heaven. The 2 ½ hour movie took at least 3 hours to watch, but it seemed much, much longer.

Not ever being one to leave well enough alone, I wanted to explain something deeper about the movie to the older girls.

“Girls,” said I, “this story is about grace. When the priest forgave Jean Valjean for stealing the silver, he modeled mercy and forgiveness. Jean Valjean grasped it. He understood that we make mistakes in life, but because of Jesus and Calvary, we are freed from the burden of our anger and disappointment. We are meant to pick ourselves up and go on and make a difference in this world. Javert never figured that out. He was not a bad guy. He was swallowed by the Law. He said himself, I am the Law and the Law is not mocked. I’ll spit his pity right back in his face. He completely missed the point. He missed grace and could not accept the mercy that Christ, through Jean Valjean’s actions, offered him.”

The air in the room was thick with thought. I was so proud of myself for my spontaneous midnight sermon. The girls were spellbound at my words.

Literal LJ furrowed her brow and broke the silence:

“Wait . . . Who’s Javert?”

I kissed LJ on the top of her sweet head. I hugged her sisters and watched them home:

“G’night girls! Thanks for coming! See you tomorrow!”

December 22nd, 2014 by

The Great King Family Gingerbread House Throwdown

I googled the word tradition. Among its definitions are descriptors like generations, long-standing, and customary. Can generations consist of merely the living or must it include deceased ancestors as well? How long is long-standing? How many times must an act be performed before it’s considered customary? What do we call an act that is immediately beloved and certain to stand the test of time? Is new tradition an oxymoron? Perhaps there is an appropriate word in another language besides English?

You see my dilemma, don’t you? I want to tell you about something that has only recently come about but is already part of Christmas folklore and ritual for the children of the King Girls and their growing families; yet, I don’t know what to call it. I want to call it tradition, but evidently, it is not. At least, not yet. I am going to borrow the word for this story, though, since I don’t know of another word to use.

Like most traditions, no one planned it or even saw it coming. Like most traditions, it began as nothing.


Emma had stretched a ligament in her ankle at a practice for the vicious middle-school girls’ church basketball league. She had surgery over Christmas break to tighten it. Jordan Lee came to Dothan to cheer her. While grocery shopping, I picked up a marked-down gingerbread house. I thought the kids would have fun decorating it together, especially since Emma was housebound.

Emma was high on Lortab and dozing on the sofa when the other three decided to assemble the house. I smiled as I imagined the priceless image of my children and their precious college-aged cousin sharing a sweet—albeit forgetful—moment. Soon, their shouts woke me from my daydream. They were about to duke it out in the kitchen over whose turn it was to squeeze the icing! They cared deeply about whether or not to put icicles on the roof! They were not SHARING! They were COMPETING! In between licking their fingers, they were smack-talking each other over the placement of gumdrops!



They had acted so mean to each other that I bought two gingerbread houses to diffuse the festive tension.

It didn’t really help.

Jordan Lee, Abby, and Emma participated in the “family bonding” activity. After their tempers cooled, we decided that everyone needed his/her own house, and if the kids insisted on arguing over this sugar-coated fun, then we needed to organize a competition.

gingerbread 2008


The Great King Family Gingerbread Throwdown officially began. Team Jeremy/Phillip out-decorated the girls in a stunning upset.

gingerbread 2009 - 2

Rules are ameliorated every year to adjust to new ideas and new cheaters added to the family. Basically, the rules are:

  • Everyone has a partner, which changes from year to year
  • A one-hour time limit, but houses are assembled before the clock begins
  • Impartial judges
  • All items must be edible and only items on the table may be used; no running all over the house for stuff
gingerbread 2011b

Finger-licking and nibbling are allowed, expected even.

gingerbread 2012

In 2012, Justin and Ellen couldn’t be with us, so they judged via skype.

gingerbread 2012c

Although the competition has always been held at Starla’s house, the location is not part of the tradition nor is the date. Starla likes to hold it before Christmas, because she enjoys using the bright and colorful gingerbread houses to adorn her own house for the holidays. She has saved them a time or two for the following year, and they hold up pretty well in her cool, damp basement. But location and date are just details. As more weddings are held and more babies are born, the act of gathering will become more difficult. The day might come where July 4th sees fireworks exploding outside the house and within it as well. If Independence Day were to be the best day for us to celebrate being an extended family, so be it.

Even then, we’ll be plotting and planning the most appropriate use of red and green M&Ms. Hopefully, we’ll be fussing about it until the Great King Family Gingerbread House Throwdown becomes true to the word tradition.

On your mark . . . get set . . . DECORATE!

gingerbread 2010




December 20th, 2014 by

Searching for the Baby Jesus

I laugh at the Baby Jesus every year when we pull the Christmas decorations out of the attic.

We have an old popcorn tin full of Christmas toys. We have a Charlie Brown set with his little tree. We have all the characters from Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, including the misfit toys and Chuck’s favorite, Yukon Cornelius. (“Looky what he can do!” and “Bumbles bounce!”)

The collection began when Abby and Emma were two years old. I had my pretty, fragile manger scenes that they could not touch, so I bought a nativity play set for them. I don’t remember where it came from. One year, I represented Christmas around the World home shows, so it might have come from there. Or, I might have ordered it from the Lillian Vernon catalog that I enjoyed so much back in the days when Amazon was still just a river.

I set it up on their little table.

Baby Jesus 2

They loved it and played with it every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Being toddlers, they rarely sat still to play with it. They wandered all over the house with it.

“Mommy, ‘her’s de Baby Jesus?” (Where’s the Baby Jesus? Consonant blends are tough at 2 years old.)

“I don’t know, Sweetheart. I put him on your table.”

At the beginning, I actively searched for the Baby Jesus.

I found him in the couch cushions: “I found the Baby Jesus!”

“Mommy, ‘her’s de Baby Jesus?”

“I don’t know. If you would leave him on the table, you wouldn’t lose him.”

When I wearied of looking for the Baby Jesus, I just waited until I stumbled across him.

I found him in the bathtub toys: “I found the Baby Jesus!”

“Mommy, ‘her’s de Baby Jesus?”

“I don’t know. You shouldn’t wander around with him.”

Sometimes the Baby Jesus went missing for minutes; sometimes he went missing for days.  One year, he went missing for weeks. I found him long after the Christmas decorations had been packed away. We always found him, and we always yelled, “I found the Baby Jesus!”

“Mommy, ‘her’s de Baby Jesus?”

“I don’t know. I am tired of looking for him!”

Sometimes I heard myself say, “Bring the Baby Jesus back into the house!” or “Get the Baby Jesus out of your mouth!”

We lived in Birmingham for three years, when the girls were aged 2 through 5. The Baby Jesus survived the move back to Dothan with us. By then, the girls could sit still to play with the manger scene. Phillip never seemed as interested in him, which is a good thing, because if he had been, we would have found the Baby Jesus up to his eyeballs in mud or run over by a toy John Deere.

“Mommy, ‘her’s de Baby Jesus?”

“Why, he’s right where he is supposed to be. He’ll be right here until my future grandbabies chew on him and misplace him. I will look for him–or at least be aware that he’s missing–until I can again holler, ‘I found the Baby Jesus!'”

(I’ll leave the interpretation of this story for someone wiser than I am. But there’s a Sunday School lesson in there somewhere.)


December 8th, 2014 by

My Aubie Christmas Card Story

It’s been over a decade. My feelings have somewhat recovered, and my embarrassment has abated a bit. I love a good story, even if it’s at my own expense, so I’ll tell you exactly what happened.

Back in 2004, one of our local boys was a Friend of Aubie at Auburn University. One Saturday that summer, Aubie came to our church. An orange and blue backdrop with orange and blue balloons was set up in the gym for folks to pose for pictures. Everyone passed around their cameras. Aubie signed AUtographs.


It was an AUsome afternoon.

It was an AUsome year to send an Auburn Christmas card, too. The Tigers went undefeated that fall. We received several cards with pictures taken on that same summer day with “Merry Christmas” and “War Eagle” expressed in a variety of ways.

Never one to leave well enough alone, I wanted to add a Bible verse to our cute picture which expressed my family’s love for Auburn—and Jesus, of course. I chose Isaiah 40:31.

I marveled at my cleverness and creativity.


Every Christmas, I hand write the addresses on the envelopes. Every Christmas, Chuck asks, “Don’t you want me to print labels for you?” Every Christmas, I say, “No, thanks. I like to see the names of the people that I love.”

“I could print them out in minutes. It takes you days to address them all.”

“It’s okay. I like to touch the names of the people that I love. I like to think about each one before I mail them.”

“I don’t mind.”


So, Chuck printed the cards for me–but not the labels! I stuffed and sealed and stamped each envelope. (I do like a return-address label, because writing my own address over and over would be boring and laborious, not to mention time-consuming and tedious.) I dropped them in the mail and marked them off my list.

A couple of days later, I saw Melissa. We grew up in church together. Our parents were friends. Her daddy called me Queenie. He said I was the queen of the Kings. Melissa is three years younger than I am, so she doesn’t remember life without me. She and I have each buried both of our parents. We each lost the first one quickly and unexpectedly, and we lost the other slowly and agonizingly. We have borne each others burdens as we walked rocky roads. Therefore, we have earned the right to say to (or about) each other whatever we want. (That’s why I’ll tell you that she is not “on” Facebook, but she stalks it through one of her sisters’ accounts every day.)

ANYWAY, when Melissa saw me, she grinned wickedly and asked, “Celeste, how do you spell soar?”

Sucker punch.




I knew IMMEDIATELY what she meant and what I had done.

They will sore on wings like eagles.

I had printed it on my adorable Christmas card and sent it out to 200 of my closest friends all over the South and to beloved Yankee cousins in New York.

My people delighted in my oversight. I heard about my goof quite a bit for quite a while. (FYI, never give Bama fans a reason to gloat over you.)

I licked my wounds and stayed out of public for most of the year. (I’M KIDDING!! But I didn’t even know to rejoice that there was no social media. Thank you, Jesus.)

The following year, my friend NancyBorland (That’s not a typo. That’s her name: NancyBorland.) told me to dress up my kids as shepherds and misspell Luke 2:9. I didn’t go to that extreme (besides the girls were middle schoolers and never would have agreed), but I did have a cute pic from vacation that would work.

It wasn’t our main Christmas card. I asked Chuck to print just a couple of dozen (“Don’t you want me to print labels?”) . . .

. . . and I only cent it to my friends with a since of humor.

November 5th, 2014 by

Priceless Pics of My Pretty Peeps at the Peanut Parade


The parade route still went north on Foster, turned right at the old Houston Hotel, and proceeded south down Saint Andrews. Perhaps my sisters were old enough to drive. They were at least old enough to participate with peers. I was in a pickle. Mama was too pooped to plow through the plentiful crowd, and Daddy was back peddling.

“Do you want me to call the Pitmans and see if you can go with them? How about Becky or Evelyn? Are they going?”

“If I can’t go with you, I don’t want to go.”

“Lemme get my hat.”

The Southeast Alabama Community Theater had just performed its first play, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, starring my friend Sandi’s mom, Jo Peterson. She was a passenger on the SEACT float. Daddy hollered, “Are you down yet, Molly?!” She piped back, “NOT YET!”

I remember Kenny Rogers posing in a convertible. Possibly, it’s a phony memory. If so, please don’t reprimand it. I prefer to keep it.

NPF - float
Mama (on left) as Miss Newton (1952)
Mama Byrd made Mama’s pageant dress, displayed on our playroom wall.
sisters at parade

“The parade was fun for two smiling sisters, Angie (left) and Starla King. The daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip King, 1304 Decatur St., used a coat against the chilly morning air,” stated the Sunday Dothan Eagle (1965).


My cousin, Brittany Shepard Pugh, rockin’ her Byrd blood (2005)

DSCN0644 - Copy

Rowdy Boltons (and Halla and Jordan Lee) make everything, well, rowdier (2005).

NPF - Abby

Abby marched with Northview High School band from 2008-2011.

She did not march with an instrument, because she played the marimba.

NPF - Emma

Emma and Briana sold concessions for FBC youth

to raise money for summer missions for a half dozen years or more.

Phillip for blog

Phillip’s first parade (November 9, 2013)

DSCN5025 - Copy

Katy and Jeremy came to cheer for Phillip!


In 1977, particular personnel at Dothan City Schools pondered how to penalize the upcoming 8th graders. They purposefully changed the present junior high schools to middle schools and put all the kids who had finally arrived in the big league back with the babies.

Although my classmates and I are still perturbed over this puddin-head decision, that’s not the year that this post is set. This story takes place in that practically perfect 7th grade year. (7th and 11th were my 2 favorite grades, and not just because they rhyme.)

Mama pressed her babies to perform with the band in junior high. She permitted us to our own preferences regarding high school, pending our knowledge of an instrument. So, there I perched in 7th grade Beginner Band at Girard Junior High School. We had skills tests and theory tests and competed for first chair.

Most importantly, we partook in a primo competition. GJHS provided 2 classes of Beginner Band. The student who possessed the highest cumulative points in each period was picked to portage the pennant for the 8th and 9th grade Advanced Band in the National Peanut Festival parade. I pronounced spit spot that if I had to be in the band, by golly, I would be proudly prancing in the procession.

I pulled it off! Alan Lopez procured the other spot. We both played alto sax, and neither of us pursued our saxophone potential post Girard. The parade premiered on West Main Street that year. We passed right by my church.

Here’s the pathetic part of the parable: I don’t have a picture. It was my prized parade appearance, and I have no proof.

DSCN5029 - Copy

But I’ve got one of Bradley.

October 29th, 2014 by

Daylight Savings Time and the Night I Missed Carol Burnett

“Y’all have to go to bed early tonight.”


“Because the time changes, and we have to move the clocks forward an hour.”

“No, we don’t. We turn them back an hour. We get to stay up an hour later.”

Evidently in the mid-70s, spring forward and fall back had not been coined yet. If so, my daddy had never heard the phrases.

Kristi was spending the weekend with me. She moved to Dothan when we were two-year-olds. Her daddy was the minister of music at our church. Her mama played piano, taught children’s choir, sang in the soprano section and an occasional solo, and did about 1000 other things. We lived near each other and attended the same elementary school. We were sidekicks, soul mates. We were both the babies in our families, so we had that in common. We were babies with a big age gap between us and the next older sibling, so we had that in common, too. We probably had the same personality, because we argued with every breath. Mama said about us, “They are miserable when they are not together, and they are miserable when they are.” Folks often called us the other’s name. Old folks at church occasionally slipped and called me Kristi even as a young adult, long after Kristi and her family had moved.

They moved the summer after we completed second grade at Girard Elementary School. Church members were saddened by the news. Kristi and I were heartbroken. Our parents vowed we would stay in touch. Many times, we make promises in life that with every fiber of our beings we intend to keep, but life pushes in and good intentions get pushed to the side.  Our parents were true to their word, though. If Mama heard of someone going to Birmingham for the weekend, she would call Mrs. Andrews while she was packing my bag, and vice versa.

So, Kristi and her doll Humpty were with me this particular weekend. Daddy let us watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show, but he sent us to bed BEFORE The Carol Burnett Show. We were outraged. He had NEVER sent me to bed before Carol Burnett. We slung our hair and stomped our feet down the hall to my room. We discussed the unfairness as we snuggled in my double bed and took turns tickling each other’s backs.

Sunday School began at 9:30. To our neighbors, the Pitmans, that meant leave for church at 9:00. To the Kings, that meant leave for church before 9:30. Yet, the next morning, as Kristi and I climbed in the rear-facing backseat of Mama’s blue station wagon with the brown paneling down the side, we noticed that the Pitmans’ cars were still in their driveway. Somebody was obviously sick. But why would everyone stay home? Why would both cars be there?


“Sissy, go call Time,” Daddy said.

I ran to the kitchen, to the only phone in the house (the one attached to the wall, the one with the long curly cord), and dialed the numbers on the rotary phone. I knew them by heart: 794-8441. I heard the familiar voice say, “Don’t bank it in a sock; sock it in the bank. Your Colonial Bread time is 7:27. Temperature—.” I slammed down the phone. I didn’t care about the temp.


Angie got out of the car and returned to bed. Starla probably went to study her Sunday School lesson. Kristi and I went to downstairs to play Barbies. I imagine Mama started lunch or called Little Granny. I picture Daddy sitting in his chair, sipping a bonus cup of coffee, reading the Dothan Eagle, and grinning from ear to ear over the new tale he had to tell on himself.

I bet you money (to quote Little Granny) that we were still late to church.

with Kristi 2 - Copy

Kristi with me at my cousin’s birthday party.

September 9th, 2014 by

Snippets of Starla

The hypothesis for Starla’s 7th grade science project at Young Jr. High School was “Adding food dye to chicken feed causes hens to lay colored eggs.” Daddy built a chicken coop for the backyard on Decatur Street, and Starla set about dying chicken feed. Day after day, her chickens laid the prettiest brown eggs, not like the white ones from the grocery store–until the morning that they didn’t. Like a farm girl, Starla went out to gather eggs before school. She came RUNNING and SQUEALING and DANCING back into the house. “IT WORKED!! IT WORKED!!” Mama and Daddy were awful curious, but sure enough, she was holding vibrantly colored eggs.

When mama opened itty bitty Starla’s car door, she slammed it back. “I do it myself!”

No human on earth can out shop Starla. My friend Jordan learned this when Justin was a baby, and she agreed (for the first/last time) to go shopping with Starla to look for a pair of tennis shoes that were appropriate to wear both to Mamaw’s house for a visit AND to watch Steve play church league softball. Jeremy doesn’t like to shop with Starla, because she is so short that she gets lost behind the racks of clothes. But that’s probably just her excuse to disappear at the mall. Jeremy knows what it’s like to disappear, though. He was one of the first boys in his grade to get a cell phone, because when they moved to Mamaw’s house, there were so many great places to hide from his mama when she was in a mood for him to be WORKIN’! He could be up in the man cave that he built in the attic or down by the pond. She would tell him, “Take your cell phone with you—and TURN IT ON!”

Starla: “Tuck your shirt in, Justin!”

Justin (1st born, currently an MBA) “Yes Ma’am!” (Tucks in shirt.)

Little Granny lived with the Spencers for three years. She had been in the kitchen since she could walk. She loved to “help” Starla prepare their meals. One Thanksgiving, Granny was determined to assist. Starla had gotten Granny all dressed up for dinner. She told Granny that she didn’t want her to get her pretty clothes dirty, so she was going to put this pretty apron on her. She said, “Mama Byrd always wore aprons. You’ll look like her!” She tied the apron on Granny and—accidentally—tied her in the wheelchair. Oddly, Granny worked on that knot until about the time dinner was ready.

Starla was a cheerleader at Young Jr. High School. She was also in the marching band. She cheered the first half and sneaked away a little early to put on her band uniform. She marched at halftime and then sneaked back a little late to cheer the second half. The only problem with this plan was that she didn’t take time to tinkle. So, she did a herky and wet her bloomers.

Starla: “Tuck your shirt in Jordan Lee!”

JL (middle child, only girl, currently mom to her own baby girl): “I’m not tucking my shirt in. Nobody tucks their shirts in. This shirt was not made to tuck in. I’d look ridiculous.”

When my girls were potty trained but still needing help in “sanitation,” Emma hollered from the bathroom, “I’M FINISHED!!” I went in to clean her up. She said, “Aw, I wanted Daddy to come. He doesn’t wipe as hard as you do. But you don’t wipe as hard as Starla. She wipes like a pine cone.”

Jordan Lee had a friend over one afternoon. Starla said, “Jer-re-mee is at Driiive-ers Ay-eh-ed.” (Interpretation: “Jeremy is at Driver’s Ed.”) JL’s friend said, “Amazing. Two letters, yet three syllables.” Nobody can stretch a word like Starla. Abby was at her house recently when Starla told Siri to “Te-ext Jer-re-mee.” Siri said, “I do not understand.”

Starla: “Tuck your shirt in, Jeremy!”

Jeremy (baby boy, currently in sales): “Yes ma’am!” (Tucks in shirt; gets into car; drives to school; gets out of car; untucks shirt.)

Steve told his athletic sons, who were also in show choir, “I think you need to take ballet.” They stared open mouthed at their daddy and asked “What has she done to you?!”

Mother’s Day was approaching, and I mentioned to my kids that we needed to get cards in the mail to Mok and Nana (Chuck’s mother and grandmother). Phillip was struggling to learn how everybody was related. I told him that Mok was his grandmother and that Nana was his great-grandmother. He said, “Nuh uh. Starla is my great-grandmother.”

Back to the chickens, Mama immediately knew what had happened. Our mischievous backdoor neighbor thought plain brown eggs were boring and thought Starla deserved to prove her point. After all, she had worked so diligently on her project. Mama gently let Starla know they weren’t real; but for a few minutes, Starla knew just how Jack felt after he climbed the beanstalk and stole the goose who laid the golden eggs from the sleeping giant, for she was the only girl in the world with chickens who laid Easter eggs.

In the spring of 2013, after eight years as the AU Singers Mom, Starla was made an honorary Singer. Only four people in the history of Auburn University Singers have been awarded so: David Housel, Bodie Hinton (long-time head of the music department), Dean James Foy, and Starla King Spencer. Those other three folks are walking beside some little footsteps made by a Mighty Woman.

Bossy Bride - Copy