By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Sisterhood doesn’t take blood.
A strong bond between two women can be formed from hours on the road, common interests and sharing stories about marriage. And the deep connection shared by Millington residents Vicki Gregory Hayslip and Josephine Thorne has grown by the dozens and dozens of cookies baked.
“We started this just as a way to say thank you,” Thorne said. “It started with our family. I started in 1961.”
Hayslip has a similar background story about her beginnings in the kitchen.
“I started too in 1961, but not together, she said. “We started together 25 years ago in 1995.”
From their cove to California, the holiday cookies of Hayslip and Thorne are beloved by hundreds. The duo also creates ceramics and other treats like canning, breads, candy, turtles, peanut brittle, fruit cakes and wedding cakes. But the cookies are have been the stars of the show for a quarter of a century.
“When you look at their faces when you first walk in and we go to places like Boatwrights,” Thorne said. “’Are the cookies ready yet?’”
“Dr. Stephen (Boatwright) gave me my B-12 shot today,” Hayslip. “He said, ‘No need asking if you’re busy.’ I said, ‘Naw, we’re in the middle in doing cookies.’ He said, ‘And they’re sure are good.’ I told him y’all get yours next week.”
Thorne and Hayslip made the bulk of their 2020 holiday cookie delivery this past Monday and Tuesday. The 60-pounds King Arthur Flour that made more than 12 varieties of cookies is making the rounds from new businesses in Millington to homes on the West Coast.
Now the women often confused for blood sisters are moving on to their traditional Santa letters. Making more than 4,200 cookies over the past few weeks has kept them busy. Vicki’s daughter Tracy Lynn joined the frontline this year to help keep the 25-year tradition going strong.
Tracy Lynn noted the history of the holiday tradition they share with other across the country.
“It started out as a few cookies and now today its more than 20 different kinds and different breads to,” she said. “With my Aunt Josephine working at the Cotton Council and my mom working at Red Com on base and quickly has grown threw the years to the post office, fire department, doctors offices, Boatwright Drugs, their mail carrier and family near and as far as California.
“Maybe team second generation will step in and take over, as memories come back of the years and new cookies were added they begin to have so many fond memories of the friends they have made over 25 years together,” she added. “And making more than 300 dozen, as they will be gathering and packaging them up this Sunday.”
Thorne and Hayslip have made friends with their cookies and genuine personality. Next door neighbors come and assistant the women with difficult chores in the house and the yard.
“We have wonderful neighbors and we give them cookies within the cove on Tracey Road and Autumn Sun,” Thorne said. “Our parents put this (mindset) in us.”
The women want to pass their giving nature onto the next generation.
“It’s getting a little harder every year,” Thorne noted. “I’m 81 and she’s 73. This year she’s come to help us and that’s been very helpful. But it’s hard. I don’t know if we can give up. I always tell her I can pull my wheelchair up to the table.
“Most people don’t want the work,” she continued. “They don’t want to do it. They don’t want to put in the time.”
Hayslip has been trying to find the next person or persons to hand the torch to in order to keep the tradition going strong.
“I’m 73 and we’ve considered who’s going to do it when we’re gone,” she said. “I’ve given a lot of recipes to my granddaughter in California. Her boys cook and she has a niece in Washington state. She has a great ravioli recipe.”
The women said they can’t give up the practice of baking thousands of cookies as a way to say thank you and I love you. As long as the sisters have each other, they will continue to bake to added to the holiday spirit of the world.
“Most people are nice,” Thorne concluded. “At least, I hope so.”