The other important thing about Christmas, of course, is about family. This year, we were privileged to be visited by Beulah Mae Barefoot Wallace, who we call the "mother hen" of the entire Barefoot name, not only in our home state of North Carolina but as far away as South Carolina and Alabama as well.
Beulah Mae was born in March of 1865, as the American Civil War was ending. Her father was Bright Barefoot, Popeye's great-great-great-great-grandfather, who had fought in the American Civil War for the Confederacy. Her mother was Sarah Hinson Barefoot, who like the other Confederate wives, was a tireless defender of the house.
Sarah died from complications of giving birth to Beulah Mae, and Bright died of alcoholic poisoning when she was only five, orphaning her. She was passed along several families until she ran away at age 13 and started taking care of herself. When she was 16, Beulah Mae married Andrew Wallace. Andrew became rich from owning a textile mill when it became the biggest economy in North Carolina; Beulah Mae stayed at home and hoped to raise a family. However, Andrew died suddenly in 1892, probably as part of a cholera epidemic, and the couple left no children. She then returned alone to Johnston County, site of her family roots, and opened Wallace House, dedicated to caring for children who were very injured or ill, abused, or orphaned. Beulah Mae died in 1946, but some of her children kept the Wallace House open. In 1953, a suspicious fire gutted the building. It remained abandoned until 1990, when the state of North Carolina put a prison on the site in an era when prison-building was in vogue (due to higher incarceration rates and profit motivations). After the Great Tribulation, Beulah Mae was revived, bought back the land, and rebuilt the house. Even better, she brought back all her old clients to live with her again.
Beulah Mae came to us for Christmas, and her very presence brought tears to our eyes. She thanked the entire family for supporting her, then preceded to tell family stories from her place in history and marveled at how the world looked in the modern era. I then came on the stage and sang "The Ballad of Beulah Mae," a hit country song I wrote about her life and the Wallace House, and Beulah cried and mumbled "thank you" several times. We cheered loudly as she left the house ("I've got a lot of kids to take care of," she said simply). (Avatar: Katie Johnson, older woman whose picture I saw on Facebook; once played FarmVille along with her until it got too expensive for me to continue)
Also on this Christmas, Popeye welcomed his eight brothers and sisters, and their children and grandchildren, to his part of the farm compound. Among them, ironically, was Brittany Barefoot, one of Nokelee's grandchildren. (I say ironically because I could have easily had two immediate relatives with that name: Bunky, whose parents wanted to name her Brittany until the ultrasound reading proved that the baby would be a boy; and Brittany L. Spears, who is married to me but kept the Spears last name for professional reasons.) This resulted in over 30 guests from that part of the clan alone, more than double the number that usually are in the houses.