Climbing amongst the hay bales where her mom and his dad once shared their first kiss, Emily Drake and her husband, Charlie, became childhood friends on the 130-acre farm their kids now roam.
“I know that barn was built when I was a small child, but I have a lot of memories there,” says Emily. “Not everyone can say that they got to grow up doing the same stuff as their mom did. But they’re not kissin’ boys!”
Having lived in this corner of Grayson County for most of her life, Emily’s family roots run deep.
“My dad’s parents bought the farm in 1955 before we moved there in 2007,” Emily says. “My kids have three sets of great-grandparents whose farms connect with each other. It goes back a long time.”
Being a mother of six means life can get hectic at times. There’s meal planning and clothing rotation to think about. Birthday parties, sleepovers and all the other activities that fill a child’s life.
“Finding time for all of us to be together, that’s the hard part,” Emily says. “But they’re everything to me.”
She says the key to having a large family is to be organized, clumping her kids’ events together helps maximize her time. Most days the family’s white passenger van is driving down the gravel road, around the corner to St. Paul’s Elementary School, where Emily has taught for the past 12 years. Five of her six children attend her school, making carpooling a breeze.
“I’ve been a teacher for many years, and I tell the kids, ‘You have no idea what’s inside you and what you can become. There’s so much you don’t know. Don’t ever give up on yourself.’ I was 19 before I ever even thought about singin’ in front of someone,” Emily says. “You just never know where it’ll take you.”
When she was in high school, Emily entered a karaoke contest. She didn’t win, but a fire grew inside of her, a longing to sing.
Over the years she performed with the Country Cookin’ Band before taking on the role of Loretta Lynn in a musical about the life of Conway Twitty, traveling in a bus from town to town. She loved the opportunity to embody one of her idols.
“Our lives parallel in so many ways. The way we talk. The way we think. We are connected,” says Emily. “She had six kids. Just like me.”
Emily would have several opportunities to meet Loretta before she passed, even sharing the stage with her once while singing in a tribute band. And while Emily has spent many nights embodying Loretta, she also learned something.
“The fact that I’ve been able to raise my kids and see them in school, Loretta didn’t have that, and she kinda missed that,” says Emily. “But I’ve learned through her life that it’s a blessing that I still get to spend time with my kids and still go out and sing. I still have a tight connection to home.”