By BOBBY PEPPER
The five children of Sam and Flora Young have never strayed too far from each other through the years. Now in their 60s and 70s, all five live within a 5-mile radius around Verona.
They spend time together with their families during holidays and special gatherings. Yet on Thursday afternoons, the four sisters and one brother set aside a couple of hours for themselves to tell stories of the past, look at family photo albums and discuss what's happening in their lives.
And they always do this over a piece of pie or a slice of cake.
The Young siblings have turned the informal weekly reunion at one of their youngest sisters' home into their own “pie party.”
Whether they're nibbling on pecan pie or Coca-Cola cake and sipping on coffee, they always share a few laughs while strengthening the bond between them.
“We talk about our families, our old times, good times, familiar times and the times that are going on now,” said Martha Miller, one of the twins born into the family. “It's just a fun time for us.”
The “pie party” is hosted by the other twin, Mary Goff of Verona. Miller, who resides in Brewer, and Goff turned 61 on June 11.
They're joined by their older sisters, Verona resident Sammie Burleson, who turns 71 Friday; and Patsy Bass, 65, of Tupelo, and their lone brother, Joe Young, 69, of Tupelo. With the exception of two years when Miller lived in Nashville, all five have spent their adult lives in Lee County.
Before it became a “pie party” site, Mary's house had been a stopping place for dessert.
“We kind of fell into it,” Burleson said. “I would get my hair done on Thursday and then I would come by here for a cup of coffee.”
Bass adds, “Our sister cooks on Wednesday night for her family and she has leftover pie. She would tell us to come by and eat it.”
The visits, however, were interrupted for health reasons. Both Bass and Young experienced heart problems and underwent multiple bypass surgeries. It became a serious concern for all five since they lost their parents, who ran a grocery store in Verona for more than 20 years, to heart-related illnesses.
It was while Young was in the hospital during February when the “pie party” idea was born.
“We were at the hospital and Joe having his heart surgery when one of his daughters asked him if he was going to get involved in the pie party,” Miller said. “The next week, he got out of the hospital and joined us and it's been going on ever since.”
Each week Goff would prepare a pie or cake as well as coffee, or have soft drinks available. The first siblings usually arrive between 2-2:30 p.m.
Goff said there is no particular spot the five sit when eating, whether it's at the dining table or sitting on the couch in the den. No matter where they're eating, one topic that always comes up in their conversation is their youth.
“We get together to talk about old times, back years ago when we didn't get to spend much time together,” Goff said. “We were talking about three weeks ago about the number of places we've lived over a period of our growing-up years. We talked about how we always shared a bedroom except him, and he always had his own bedroom. The four of us had to share a bedroom.”
The five have a wide range of interests. Goff is a bowler while Miller enjoys sending greeting cards. Bass is an avid bluegrass music fan, Burleson is a Meals on Wheels volunteer and Young enjoys motorcycles.
It's common for the five to poke fun at each other, especially the sisters toward their only brother.
“I'm the most important because I'm the only Young of the bunch,” he said. “You see there's a Goff, a Burleson, a Miller and a Bass. I'm the only Young. I know they don't like to hear this.”
Burleson then counters, “But we were Youngs at one time.”
“Yeah, barely,” he replied.
Burleson promptly reminds her brother that she's still No. 1 when it comes to sibling seniority.
“Pretty soon, I will be two years older than him,” she said, smiling. “I'll never let him forget that.”
Just then Bass walks through the door and Young says, “Well, you know Patsy's really the oldest.”
“Yeah, right,” Bass said.
The Thursday gathering gives them time to give updates about their 11 children and 12 grandchildren. At one recent gathering, Miller proudly displayed the latest photo of her youngest grandchild. “We all talk about our sweet young'uns,” she said.
Their June 12 “party” was canceled when Goff went with her family on a trip to California. The following Thursday, she brought back gifts including jelly beans from the Jelly Bean Factory.
“If we see something that the others collect and they'd enjoy, we'd get it and give it to them at the next party,” Goff said.
They share memories and talk about times when they can come together again at the family cabin in Lake Piomingo. It was built by their father, but he became ill soon after completion and died never having spent a night in it.
“We've always gotten together as a family,” Young said. “Our mother made sure that we had a close family. At the cabin at Lake Piomingo, every once in a while she would say Let's have a hamburger supper' and we all went. It made no difference whether we had steak on or not.”
Even though the cabin is a central meeting place for all their families, the Young siblings still find a way to remain close. And that's by sitting down once a week with a slice of pie or cake in their plate and sharing their lives and memories.
“We have so much fun eating, talking and looking at the old pictures,” Miller said. “We plan to do it as long as we can.”