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Twins, 69, light up their Birmingham community during the holidays

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Twin Sisters Irma (left) and Norma Parks outside Norma's home in downtown Birmingham. (Reginald Allen, For the Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

While some were up early the day after Thanksgiving in search of Black Friday shopping sales and others rested during a day off, Norma Parks was busy at work putting up Christmas decorations in her yard, as well as for her unit in the Southtown Court Apartments downtown Birmingham.

Norma, 69, and her twin sister, Irma, who also decorates her yard, continued a tradition they started nearly 20 years ago—lighting up their Southtown community during the holidays.

Norma lives off University Boulevard, and Irma lives on 23rd Street South.

“We were just doing the same thing our mama did,” Norma said. “We’re following in her footsteps.”

“It was fun to watch [our] mama decorate and see how she put things together,” Irma said. “That’s when I knew it was Christmastime.”

Norma added, “When I was a child, just waking up, looking under the tree, and seeing what you got was my favorite part. Whatever you didn’t have, you still had to be thankful because you were still on this Earth. Sometimes you can’t always get what you want, but there’s no use in being sad because you’re still here. You might as well be joyful and cheerful for what you got.”

Family Get-togethers

There has never been a time when the Parks family didn’t spend Christmas together, though the get-togethers stood out more when their mother was alive. Two sisters and two brothers are living, and on Christmas morning they start the day with breakfast and then have dinner later.

The family grew up in North Birmingham and in the 1970s moved to Southtown, where both sisters raised their children. The sisters each have two boys and one girl, and both started decorating when their children were small.

“I did it for them because they liked it, and I liked to decorate. Back then, I just did it in the house,” said Norma, who started decorating the outside of her house in the 2300 block of University Boulevard about seven or eight years ago.

“I buy [decorations] every year, so I said, ‘Why not share it with somebody else who doesn’t have any?’ I just decorate … whether they have any or not. … I go and help other people like the elderly when they ask us,” she said. “Some of these folks won’t decorate, so I just go ahead and do the whole section because I have all these decorations.”

A lot of people admire the twins’ holiday decorations, Norma said: “The guy that owns the [gas station] across the street will come and look at the lights. Every year, the neighborhood children come down … to see some lights to just cheer them up and make them smile. They’ll say, ‘Oh, Ms. Twin, you’ve got it decorated nice.’”

“They Like Santa Claus”

It takes Norma about two or three days to get all the ornaments up because she does the whole block; it takes Irma maybe a day or two. The twins enjoy sprucing up the neighborhood because it makes them feel good and the children enjoy it.

Norma said, “Their little eyes glow when they [see it]. They get excited to see Christmas because that’s who it’s really for: children. I really like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I like Christmas best because the children wake up and see [their gifts] under the tree. I just like to see their faces. When children see Christmas, their faces light up.”

Irma said, “[When] I started about 20 years ago, … it was just something to do. I started doing the house first. Because the yard was so big, I decided I could put something out there, too. I started small and went up a little higher. I do it mostly for the kids’ sake.”

Irma has three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and Norma has 11 grandchildren.

Irma added, “[My grandchildren] are small and they like Santa Claus, like their grandmother does, so I just decided to keep on decorating as I get older and older, until I can’t do it anymore.”

Click here to read more stories about Birmingham residents decorating for Christmas.