Home for the Holidays: Jennifer Wilkerson 12/3/09
Written by Vikki Wilkerson, mother of Jennifer
On July 13, 2004, my middle daughter, Jennifer Lynn Wilkerson, went missing. She was last seen leaving her boyfriend’s house about 11:00 a.m. in Lubbock, Texas to go home and get ready to go to work at “Nothin’ but Smokes” around 2:00 p.m. When she did not show up for work and did not call saying she wouldn’t be in, her employer contacted Jen’s boyfriend to see if he knew what was going on. Thinking Jennifer may have fallen asleep, her boyfriend went to the trailer Jennifer lived in. When he arrived at the trailer, Jennifer’s car was parked out front but when he knocked on the door, no one answered. Bewildered but not worried, he contacted Jennifer’s roommate to see if she had heard from Jennifer. No one seemed to have heard from her since she left his house earlier in the day. When the roommate finally got to the trailer, the door was locked, both sets of Jennifer’s keys were hanging just inside the trailer door, but there were no signs of Jennifer. Her car parked out front was unlocked and her cell phone, checkbook, driver’s license, and a few personal belongings were in the front seat. Still no signs of Jennifer. Her roommate’s boyfriend called my husband on July 14, 2004 asking if we had heard from Jennifer. Everyone was already alarmed because Jen would always let someone know if she was going to do something out of the ordinary. The Lubbock Sheriff’s department was contacted, and on July 15, 2004, the media, with the direction of the sheriff’s department, was asking the public for help in locating our daughter. She was listed as being an “Endangered Missing Adult.” So began the heart-wrenching journey of searching for our missing daughter.
Now, still searching and praying and hoping that each day will be the day we receive answers, we have to come to the realization that we may never get to hold our daughter in our arms, or see that wonderful smile, or hear that silly giggle ever again in this world. Although it is all in the same, this story is written to talk about the holidays and how we cope. Memories can be bittersweet and yet they are all we have at this time to hold.
Christmas was always a time that, no matter where life took any of us, we somehow managed to spend together. For 26 sweet years, we would celebrate Christmas at our home here in
We celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, sang carols, pulled taffy, and on some Christmases we would put on little plays for the family. The kids were always the characters in the play. Growing up as a child, one of my favorite Christmas stories was in the Ideal Christmas magazine. It was a story of a beautiful, white winged horse that longed to be part of the story of Christmas. While flying far above a snow covered country town, huge bubbles floated to the sky where the winged horse would wonder at the marvelous reflections of children singing, bright lights on decorated trees, laughter and love. He wanted to be a part of the scene so bad that he flew down to the town, but once he was there all the celebration was in the homes. Sad, he rested in a small barn that belonged to the baker. The baker’s wife came in the stable and saw huge tears coming from his eyes. When the woman was told why he was so sad, she said, “I know what I can do! I will change you into a sugar cookie and hang you high on the Christmas tree!” The winged horse thought for a moment and said “But what if one of the children eats me?” The old women assured him that the children were not allowed to eat the sweets until after they had their dinner and she would get him before that happened. As she promised, she changed him into the most beautiful sugar cookie you could imagine and hung him just below the star on the Christmas tree. What a sight to behold, children laughing and singing, wonderful scents of cinnamon, pumpkin, and apples, and bright shining lights. Just before dinner, the family gathered around on the floor and all listened while the Grandmother read a story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Never had the winged horse felt so much love and happiness. One little girl had been eyeing him all evening and very slowly crept up to the tree. Just has she was about to put her warm little hands around the sugar cookie, her mother quietly grabbed her up in her arms and said, “No sweets until after you eat.” While the family was having their dinner, the old woman returned and placed the winged horse back in the barn, changing him back to his glorious self. The winged horse flew back up to sky with a very happy heart.
We did a play on this story that was just incredible. We made a little outfit and wings for the part of the winged horse. It was so very much fun. We laughed and cried at the same time! We even decorated winged horse sugar cookies for Santa.
Even after the girls were grown, we would celebrate much the same. My oldest daughter had children, so my girls got to help spin the magic of Santa. Wonderful, fun times, but things change, children and grandchildren grow up and begin their own traditions, as it should be. Life happens, deaths in the family, divorces, and of course Jennifer vanishing without a trace. The first few years she was missing, the holidays were so very painful. As bad as I tried to enjoy it with the rest of the family, I couldn’t. The lights weren’t as bright, no singing and dancing, no cookies being baked, I was just to tired and so consumed with grief and worry, all I could do was hope the season would soon be over. It was only a few seasons ago, that at my lowest, I realized the true meaning of Christmas again in my heart.
Thanksgiving and Christmas will never again be the same, but I can be thankful for the many blessings I do have in my life. Jack, my husband, is my rock and a very special blessing! Without him, I would be lost! We will love and remember when and hold tight to the hope that someday we will be able to celebrate this wonderful time of the year with our entire family.
To all of you, have a Merry Christmas and very happy New Year!