By Sonja J. Keith
When it comes to decking the halls for the holidays, the Susie and Tommy Walker home in Conway is rich with tradition and love of family.
Like a kid at Christmas, Susie begins her holiday decorating after Thanksgiving. While there is much time and planning involved, Susie is quick to point out that she loves holiday decorating year round, especially at Christmas time – her favorite.
Susie takes her cue from her mother and the wonderful childhood memories of growing up in Blytheville. “I love anything Old World or that reminds me of what my mom had,” she said. “I love remembering what she did and put out. I’m always looking for vintage holiday stuff everywhere I go.”
Susie recalls that it was her task as a child to create the holiday scene under the family’s Christmas tree, with reindeer, a sleigh with Santa and snow.
Today, her favorite holiday task is decorating the family Christmas tree, which has hundreds and hundreds of ornaments. In all, it takes about eight hours to decorate.
But Susie doesn’t mind. As she places items on the tree – which range from a child’s report card and a handmade snowflake to a photo with her sister – she recalls special moments with loved ones. “To me, that’s the most fun.”
One of the items on the tree is a note from her oldest son written in 1994. “It was a really sweet note that he wrote, and something special to us so we wanted to put it on the tree.” Another special keepsake is a silver bell ornament that belonged to Susie’s grandmother. “It is the only thing of hers that I have.”
As the decorations conjure up precious memories, so do some of the goodies that Susie prepares year after year, like Sticky Buns and Peanut Butter Balls. “I have a file of things that we do at Christmas,” she said. “Those things give you that continuity, knowing that your family has been preparing them for 40 years.”
While many of the holiday decorations are used every year and have their own special place, Susie selects a different theme each year for the decorations, with a particular dinner party with close friends in mind. The Bible study group, which formed in 1990, includes Susie and her husband Tommy, Georg and Annabelle Andersen, David and Janet Crow, and Arnold and Shari Hameister.
Held the first Sunday night in December, the group enjoys the same meal although a different theme is observed. “There’s just something about the tradition of it.” After the meal, the group gathers around the tree to open gag and real gifts to one another.
Susie recalls one year the theme was “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and there was a special guest, who recited the poem. Another year when the theme was the “Three Wise Men,” three of the guests arrived at the door in full costume, much to Susie’s surprise.
Last year, Susie selected a “Star Light, Star Bright” theme for her decorations (pictured with this feature) and the selected Scripture was “We have seen His star in the east (Matthew 2:2).” This year, she plans to use “Joy” as the theme, taken from Luke 2:10, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
The special dinner party is one of the many holiday traditions that the Walkers enjoy. Another is spending time with their three grown boys and their families.
When the last ornament is placed and the greenery is all hung at the Walker home, Susie is ready for the most enjoyable aspect of the holiday season – “having family home and together.”