With four children under the age of seven, Christmas is a fun time at the Mississippi State University President’s home.
Dr. Mark and Rhonda Keenum will be celebrating their second “real Mississippi Christmas” with their family at MSU this year.
The Keenums have been married 26 years, and Rhonda describes Christmas’ past as non-traditional on the path to a traditional Mississippi Christmas.
She said for the first 20 years, it was just the two of them, travelling home to Mississippi from Washington D.C., where Mark served as undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rhonda worked at the White House for President George W. Bush.
They would spend time with family, then Mark would go to a hunting camp in the Delta with his family, while she continued her Christmas vacation at home.
Then came the triplets.
The Keenums began dreaming of making their home in Mississippi. As they were starting to get used to the idea of triplets, they were delightfully surprised by the arrival of Torie.
Rhonda said the opportunity to come to their alma mater, Mississippi State University, was the opportunity to bring their family to live in Mississippi, and have a “traditional” Mississippi family Christmas.
One of Mark’s favorite room’s in their new home is the den where the “family” tree is located. Books and art line the shelves and the deep leather seats are a great place to relax. He is at home at a university that holds a meaningful place in his heart.
“The first thing every morning, I see Mississippi State University,” Mark said. “That’s special. It is hard to describe, but it is a very special feeling.”
Christmas of 2009 was the family’s first Christmas at MSU. Rhonda describes last Christmas as their first “real Mississippi” Christmas with their family.
“Last (Christmas,) every day was so special, more thoughtful,” Rhonda said. “But months of shopping and preparing was over in two minutes. With three five-year-olds and a three year old, it was a shocking display! They were like pirates going through loot! It was something! It’s a sugar high all day long! It was wonderful!”
This year, the house is buzzing with excitement! Santa’s coming soon and there’s lots to do! The “Elf on the Shelf” may show up in any room, and everyone is watching for him! And as far as any gifts arriving early ... everyone wants to know, can that present be opened NOW?!