Vl-nov./dec. 2023- house feature

Published 10:21 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2023

“…visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.”

Family traditions then and now

Story by Terri Cowart Frazier

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Photos by David Rorick

Sweet memories of Christmas are like nuggets of gold tucked away for safe keeping. But when the smell of grandma’s cookies baking in the oven, or the heirloom ornament is hung upon the tree, tidbits of time tumble out as fast as you can say Happy Holidays.

Marion and Ann (Farrell) Roberson both come from families that had special Christmas rituals, and after the couple married and had a family of their own, they decided to continue many of those same traditions.

“Our favorite tradition with our kids is piling them all upstairs for Marion to read ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’, like his father did, and they usually all stay together that night,” Ann said. And then of course, their youngest, Annie, puts out the reindeer food she makes along with cookies and milk for Santa.

Marion and Ann met at Ole Miss. He was a junior, she a freshman. Ann said her roommate, who was from Greenwood, Marion’s hometown, practically forced her to meet Marion.

“She kept trying to set us up, but I did not think he was my type,” Ann said. Then we happened to be at Lafayette’s (now the library) on the same night, and she drug me across the room to sit next to him to listen to the band.”

Ann said they talked the rest of the evening.

That same weekend Ann had her Chi Omega sorority initiation. Both her mother and grandmother attended. Also in attendance was Marion’s mother. She had come to support Ann’s roommate.

“So, we met each other’s parents within two days of meeting and the rest was history,” Ann said.

The couple married in 1998 and for a year lived in Memphis before returning to Vicksburg — Ann’s hometown. Marion works as a financial advisor with Monument Financial Partners with Raymond James, and Ann works for Travelers Insurance as a Construction Bond underwriter.

The couple has four children: Maggie, 19, who attends Ole Miss; twins William and Farrell, 15, are sophomores at St. Aloysius; and Annie, 9, is in fourth grade at St. Francis Xavier. The family attends St. Michael Catholic Church.


For anyone who knows Ann, it’s apparent she has a keen sense of style. It is also evident in the couple’s home.

It was in 2001, while they were still living in their Drummond Street home, that Ann said she and Marion began the process of building.

“We started looking at different styles. We liked the Country French style and were really interested in the style of A. Hays Town, which was heavily influenced by the Spanish, French and Creole history in Louisiana,” Ann said. “We liked the warm, welcoming feel of his houses and floor plans, and they seemed like a fit for our growing family and our love of entertaining.

“Ken Tate was another architect who had similar style that we were drawn to, and we found through word of mouth an architect that had interned under Ken Tate, Will Ballou,” she continued. “He was with Dale and Associates at the time, but started his own firm in 2005, Ballou Design Group out of Meridian.”

After meeting with several builders, Ann said they decided to use Robbie Cowart with Richard Cowart, Inc. and in January 2005 the foundation was poured. They moved in the following year in April.

The couple used Vicksburg resident Linda Lewis as their interior designer. Ann said Lewis worked with them every step of the way, from helping to pick flooring, tile, paint colors, wood finishes, plumbing fixtures, fabric choices and furnishings. She also helped the couple incorporate antique pieces into the design.

“We had started collecting antique pieces when we got married, purchased here and there with the mindset of what our future house would need,” Ann said. “So, there are a lot of Louis XV French pieces, like the Troumeau mirror above the fireplace, the chest at the end of the hall with the green marble top, and the large buffet in the keeping room, circa 1810. We also started collecting old transoms and chandeliers that were from France, as well as the antique iron fireback, circa 1850 behind the kitchen range.”

Ann and Marion were also fortunate to have many family heirlooms that served as “foundations for the interior.”

“The Hepplewhite dining room table and sideboard, circa 1820 and mirror, circa 1850, purchased from Manheims in New Orleans belonged to Marion’s paternal great-grandparents,” Ann said. “I had a dark walnut drop leaf table from my paternal grandmother, circa 1914 that belonged to my great grandmother. And the stained-glass window in the entry foyer was a gift donated by my paternal great-grandfather to the Presbyterian Church in Brinkley, Arkansas.”

Situated on a small lake in their neighborhood, Ann said, the children enjoy fishing, and everyone likes grilling out and watching the sun set. The fire pit is also a big hit with the teenagers during the cooler months, she said.

Whether it’s outside or in, the Roberson home offers a perfect setting for entertaining which both Ann and Marion enjoy.

Tis the season for parties

With the open flow of the Roberson’s home, it makes it easy to host large parties. Last year the couple hosted the Y’s Men Club Christmas party in their home. They also played host in 2010. The Black-Tie event is a long-time Vicksburg tradition dating back more than 50 years, YMCA executive director Philip Doiron said.

The Y’s Men’s Club is a social/civic club whose purpose is to support the mission and work of the Vicksburg YMCA. Formed shortly after the YMCA opened in 1923, the Y’s Men’s Club motto is “Serving youth and having a good time since 1925.” The Men’s Club supports the Y by hosting Warner-Tully YMCA Camp workdays, working at various other Y programs, and donating to specific programs and capital projects. The group also hosts two major fundraisers a year — a charitable golf tournament named in memory of the late David Coulon, who was active in the club; and a barbecue chicken dinner sale.

With all of Ann’s family living in Vicksburg, Marion said they host Christmas Eve at their home following the 5:30 p.m. Mass. Marion’s mother and stepfather celebrate Christmas with the family a day or two earlier.

“We enjoy Christmas with them (Marion’s mom and stepfather), and then my parents and both of my brothers and their families join us for Christmas Eve,” Ann said. “We have dinner, but it’s not the same thing every year. I try to mix it up. One year we ordered gumbo and various sandwiches from Main Street Market. That was a hit.”

After dinner is when the children open grandparents’ gifts, Ann said, and the adults play a version of Dirty Santa.

“But the gifts are always fun and unusual. We’ve only had a few sore feelings over gifts being stolen through the years,” Ann laughed.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

From their heirloom decorations to a very special gift, Marion and Ann’s home sparkles during the holidays and it’s partly due to the two Christmas Trees adorning their home — one with colored lights and one all-white tree.

“I always wanted an all-white tree growing up, because my parents only had one with colored lights. I decided I wanted to honor that tradition too, so I went with two. The white tree in the living room is dedicated to the reason for the season — Jesus. It has a collection of crosses, angels, depictions of the Holy family, flora and fauna and things of nature. And because Marion’s family had McLendon Tree Farm in Quitman, pinecones are very prevalent on the tree as well,” Ann said.

Naturall, the tree is topped with an angel.

“I received it as a gift when I was in college,” Ann said.

The colorful tree in the keeping room is decorated with the children’s ornaments made through the years as well as “sentimental” ornaments from both Marion’s and Ann’s childhood. A few Ole Miss ornaments and a collection of Christopher Radko ornaments also hang on the tree.

Marion and Ann started collecting Santas before the children were born and continued the tradition by giving each child one at Christmas.

“Maggie was born in December, so I decided to give her a Santa as a gift to be able to have for her house one day, and then I continued the tradition with each child,” Ann said. “But I also ended up buying myself one, because once they all take their Santa, I will be kind of bare!”

Ann described Maggie’s Santa as gold with pinecones. The twins have Scottish kilted Santas and the Venetian masked Santa, and Annie inherited her paternal great-grandmother’s Elizabeth Kirkland McLendon’s Santa.

“He is holding a small Christmas tree,” Ann said.

The Santa Ann purchase for herself is a French Provincial Santa, with a hen and egg basket, which she said was a nod back to their home’s architecture.

The family also has a Santa sitting and reading “Twas the Night before Christmas.” It was a gift from Marion’s father, Bill Roberson.

In addition to the Santa collection, Marion and Ann have a collection of snow globes.

“Marion’s mother Gage McLendon Franklin loves snow globes, and she has given us one for many years as a Thanksgiving happy that we look forward to adding to the collection every year,” Ann said.

Secret Santa

One of Ann’s favorite Christmas decorations was gifted to her as an “anonymous” gift.

“It is a beautiful Lenox Irish porcelain creche and manger scene. I had admired it at the Vicksburg Catholic School Drawdown silent auction one year, and was bidding on it, but someone kept bidding against me,” she said. “When I went back at the end of the night to try to raise my bid, it had already sold. I was disappointed. But a couple of weeks later my doorbell rang, and there on the stoop was this box. When I opened it up, there was a sign on it that said, ‘Irish Christmas Creche,’ and I glanced up in time to see Father Curley driving away from my house. Like Santa Claus, I always remind him at Advent and Christmas it is my most favorite thing that I pull out now to decorate with.”

You’ll go down in history

Looking back, Marion and Ann recalled some of their fondest memories as children.

“My favorite thing about Christmas growing up was the traditions in the Catholic Church during Advent, lighting the Advent candles for dinner and getting more anxious as a candle was added to the mix every week,” Ann said. “We also had Advent calendars to mark the days, and my mom always set aside one day in the month to make her famous Christmas Spritz cookies that she would give to friends as a neighbor gift, but always kept a large jar at home for us.”

Ann said both sets of grandparents came to visit almost every Christmas and she loved the food they would bring and make.

“Like my dad’s mom, Frances Farrell, would bring her pound cake, and make homemade eggnog and Bourbon sweet potato pie, and my mom’s mom Leola McCorkle, affectionately known as Lolo, would bring the homemade rolls, coconut cake, and other goodies,” she said.

Ann said her family always went to the 5:30 p.m. church service, and then would eat a light supper. On Christmas morning they opened gifts and had a Christmas lunch.

“We always invited our priest Father Noel Prendergast over, and all of our parish priests since,” she said.

Christmas night was spent riding through town looking at all the Christmas lights.

“Greenwood has a huge Christmas parade the first weekend of December — actually two, one in the morning and one in the afternoon,” Marion said. The one in the morning was with high school bands across the state, and the evening parade consisted of floats and Santa.”

Marion said his home had been a “revolving door for family and friends during the holidays.” And he recalled going to his great aunt’s house along with the entire extended family, “probably 60 or more people.” On Christmas Eve, he said, the adults played elves, Santa Claus always called, and gifts were handed out to the children.

“Then we would head to a neighbor’s house. Then my dad would read ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ before bed,” he said.

Like Ann, gifts were exchanged at Marion’s home on Christmas morning, followed by a nice family meal.

Christmas joy

Ann said she “loves” everything about Christmas and the reason for celebration.

“I try to keep my children grounded in that by talking about the Advent wreath and the meaning of the four candles — Hope, Peace Joy, and Love — helping shop for angel tree items and delivering neighbor gifts. Farrell says she enjoys going to Christmas Eve mass, as it’s a nice way to start the Christmas holiday off being reminded of Jesus’ birth,” Ann said.

And as for Marion, Ann said he is likes sitting back at the dinner table, enjoying watching all the family laugh and talk and reminisce.

“As are William, Annie and Maggie,” Ann said. “It’s our favorite thing about Christmas – spending time with family.”



About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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