Jean (far right) with her brother and sisters on the occasion of her parents' 40th wedding anniversary in 1969
Jean with her mother at her family home, 808 Crittenden Street Arkadelphia
I try not to claim any of my relatives as mine, because they also belong to the rest of my family.
But at the request of one of her daughters, I am remembering my Aunt Jean.
I say unashamedly she was my favorite aunt.
Her full name was Emma Jean Burris Lensing. She was born at home in Arkadelphia, AR on Friday, 12 May 1933.
She was named for her daddy’s favorite sister, the only one of his sisters who survived to become an adult. It’s the name she shared with one of her granddaughters.
When she found out I was delving deeply into our family history, she helped me out with tidbits of information and photographs. She took the news of our philandering forbear without skipping a beat, and readily agreed to take a DNA test to settle the matter of the ethnicity of another.
I asked her about her own childhood in Arkadelphia. Among other things, she told me she grew up knowing she was not “the pretty one.”
I was shocked and told her so. Aunt Jean was always beautiful to me - inside and out.
She was genuinely appreciative of the smallest act of kindness. When she loved you, you knew it, because she told you so. And showed you in some tangible way- like a little card out of the blue, just to say she was thinking of you.
Aunt Jean was all about family. One day,I asked her to tell me about how she and Uncle Tommy met. As she talked, her eyes lit up with love and memories. I always saw the same look on her face when she showed me pictures of her kids and grandkids. And her kids also included her daughters-in-law and son-in-law. She was so proud of all of her family.
She made The. Best. Christmas cookies.
One of my favorite photos of her was taken in the kitchen of her parents’ home at 9th and Crittenden in Arkadelphia on Mother's Day in 1967. Aunt Jean was goofing around with her sisters as they did the dishes after one of those HUGE meals. I’ll always think of that photo as the Burris sisters chorus line.
Aunt Jean was my go-to person for “the rest of the story” about our Burris family history. My Dad had told me about the time as a kid when he got bitten by a rattlesnake while he was fishing. Aunt Jean rode him to the hospital on her bike. When I asked her about it, she furnished a little detail Dad left out. Turns out Dad and his buddy were fishing on a Sunday, strictly forbidden in the G W Burris home.
I can only recall one instance in which Aunt Jean was visibly annoyed with me. It was a few years ago when she and I wrestled for the check at US Pizza. I thought it was a draw - that we had split the check. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my bank statement and saw that in the end, she had won that match. She had US Pizza credit back what I thought they had charged to my card.
We talked about that later. She told me then that if there were such an occasion again, I was to let her buy, and drop the matter.
There really wasn't anything else to say then but yes ma'am.
She smiled and reminded me that both she and I had inherited that mile wide streak of stubbornness known to anyone who is a Burris, marries a Burris,or happens to more than casually cross paths with a Burris. The “Burris bullhead.”
My Aunt Jean finished this part of her journey on 13 Dec 2013.
She was dearly loved,and will be sorely missed. I hope I honor her memory by remembering the past, but living in the present, by being truly appreciative of small things, and always taking the time to say,“I love you.”
She’s left us the legacy of a life well lived.
And we’ll see her on the other side.
Jean with her youngest granddaughter, Ava