My mom and dad have the classic high school sweetheart story. They met in Mr. Heil’s U.S. History class their junior year of high school (the same Mr. Heil I had for U.S. History exactly 21 years later) and started dating shortly thereafter. My dad was the self proclaimed high school band geek who worked long hours at his dad’s shop after school and my mom was the rebel with a motorcycle who waited tables on the weekends. They quickly fell in love and started to plan a future together.
My dad proposed with a chicken puppet (yes, a chicken puppet) the December before they graduated and, eleven months later, they became man and wife. My mom was just barely 18, having only celebrated her 18th birthday 2 months prior, and my dad just three months shy of his 20th birthday. They were young, incredibly young, and had the odds stacked against them.
Still, they pushed on. My dad worked full time at my grandfather’s business (bringing home only $600 a month), and my mom helped out when she could. In 1985, they welcomed a happy and healthy set of twins into their lives (my brother and I) and life got crazy. My dad continued to work long hours and my mom stayed home to be with us. Two years later my little sister was born, and two years after that (in 1989) another brother arrived.
Even with four kids and a very tight budget, my parents were smart. They scraped and saved and bought a house in 1987. My mom eventually went back to school and graduated with her nursing degree in 1992 (a degree she earned while juggling four kids thanks to a pell grant). I remember attending her graduation and beaming with pride as she earned her nurse’s pin.
We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid. The six of us lived in a 1400 sq ft house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but we were happy there. My parents wanted to give us everything they couldn’t have in their youth (dance lessons, team sports, music lessons, etc.) and sacrificed a lot so we could have those experiences. They made sure we never took anything for granted and that we never lost our kid spirit. My dad is still the biggest kid I know. He was only one of two or three dads that actually chased and played “tag” with their kids through the tunnels of Discovery Zone.
They also made sure we never felt left out. Instead of traveling without us, my parents took us on adventures with them, taking us on road trips all over the U.S. All six of us would spend weeks at a time driving up and down the east coast or we would fly out west and do two week road trips out there. I’m still not sure how we all survived that.
And, as embarrassing as it was, my parents were never ones to hide their PDA. Yes, I had those parents who were constantly kissing, hugging, and slow dancing to music only they could hear. They also made inappropriate jokes that caused me to turn beet red in front of my friends. To this day they are still embarrassingly cute together, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
While my parents do love each other (and aren’t afraid to share that with the world), that doesn’t mean they don’t have their fair share of bickering or fighting. Trust me, my parents can argue with the best of them. They taught me relationships aren’t easy and you have to work hard at them, that means not giving up after a fight and that it’s okay to speak up and let your other half know you’re not okay with something even if their not okay with that statement. No couple is perfect and the only way any relationship is going to work is admitting that up front.
My parents started with nothing and slowly built a family and life most people could only dream of. In 1999 they were able to purchase their dream house and a few years later my siblings and I were all very blessed to graduate from college debt-free thanks to my parents years of saving and sacrifice. They are proof that if you work hard, all of your hopes and dreams will come true. I didn’t have expensive designer jeans or “things” growing up, but I had a family that loved me, a warm bed to sleep in at night, and a mom and dad who never missed a soccer game, a cheerleading performance, or a play I was in.
Today is my parents’ thirtieth wedding anniversary and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for everything they’ve done for my siblings and I. Not only for raising us to be the adults we are today, but for setting an awesome example of what a happy marriage is. As I prepare for my own wedding in January, I’m thankful to have two parents who showed me what love really is: it’s staying by your partner’s side when things get tough, it’s never forgetting to say I love you, it’s dancing to that music that only the two of you can hear, and it’s looking all of the statistics in the face and saying screw them.
I love you, Mom and Dad. Thank you for always being YOU and reminding me it’s okay to be ME. You guys are the reason I’m the person I am today and I can’t wait to watch your love for each other to continue to grow and prosper over the next 30 years.