By Michaela Gibson Morris
BOONEVILLE – Fifty-five years ago Wednesday, three little girls were born on New Year’s morning at the Northeast Mississippi Hospital in Booneville.
Those three little girls, Vicki White, Liane Godwin and Nancy Grisham grew up together. The three women still live in Booneville and regularly run into each other. To them, it doesn’t feel like they will have shared 55 birthdays.
“It seems like it should be 25,” White said. “It has flown.”
The trio said the experience of sharing Jan. 1 birthdays has been unique.
“It’s just fun growing up in a small town and knowing someone else has your birthday,” Grisham said.
White was almost a New Year’s Eve baby. Her mother, Betty Jo Downs, who passed away Aug. 3, went into labor on Dec. 31 at what is now Baptist Memorial Hospital-Booneville.
“The doctor would come in and tell her to hurry up and then he’d tell her slow down,” said White, who arrived at 12:23 a.m. to be the official Baby New Year for Booneville in 1959. The honor came with a prize basket including savings bonds, baby rings, diapers and a photo in the Booneville newspaper; White still has the baby rings and a copy of the photo.
Godwin arrived next around 9 a.m. She was a blessing for a mom who already had a house full of boys.
“I had three boys, if this one is another boy, I’m sending it back,” her mother Rita Godwin remembers joking with the doctor.
In the days long before routine ultrasounds gave parents a sneak peek at their offspring, Rita Godwin cried when the doctor told her she had delivered a girl.
“I was so happy,” she said.
Nancy Grisham was the last of the trio to arrive. She was a few days late, said her mom, Ruth Grisham, and was in no hurry to arrive.
“I was in labor and then I was out of labor,” Ruth Godwin said. “I was so glad” when Nancy arrived just before noon.
Because Booneville was such a small town, the girls couldn’t help but be friends.
“I remember attending birthday parties,” Godwin said. “We even have a picture together at one of the parties.”
Being born on Jan. 1 doesn’t guarantee a fondness for New Year’s traditions. All three ladies hate black-eyed peas. It also means their birthdays often were overshadowed by Christmas, and that friends often couldn’t make parties because they were out of town visiting family.
“Growing up, I hated my birthday,” Grisham said.
But one year, it worked in Grisham’s favor. She wanted a Thumbelina doll, her parents had no luck finding one of the hot toys before Christmas, and substituted a similar doll. But young Nancy was not fooled. However, her parents got a second shot at fulfilling her wish.
“Between Christmas and New Year’s, she got a real one,” Ruth Grisham said.
As an adult, New Year’s has been more fun. For 15 years, Nancy Grisham traveled the world as a missionary.
“I have friends all over the world who got a kick of out celebrating it,” she said.
These days, the New Year’s Babies of 1959 see each other frequently as they are out and about in Booneville.
Grisham works as a radiologist’s assistant at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Booneville. Godwin is a department manager at Walmart in Booneville. After working in furniture for more than 20 years, White is semi-retired and working for Prentiss County Schools, where her grandchildren are students.
One of these days, the New Year’s babies plan to celebrate together, but the planning has been elusive.
“We’ve talked about it for years,” White said.