Happy 30th anniversary to my parents

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My mom moved to Eustis, Florida when she was 9 years old. Her father took her and her sister to Eustis Heights Elementary School for registration, where my other grandfather, Joe, was the current principal. Pa Joe went home later that day and told his wife, “I met two of the nicest Korean girls today. I wouldn’t mind if one of them grew up and married one of our boys.”

Rusty and Victoria said “I do” on July 18, 1987 at First United Methodist Church of Eustis – the same place where they met as children.

I’ve heard my grandfathers tell that story for years – it almost sounds too cute to be true, but it sure does make for a nice story.

Today my parents celebrate 30 years of marriage. Thirty years of love and laughter! As fairy-tale as the beginning might seem, the past 30 years obviously haven’t been perfect. That’s something I can really appreciate from my parents – they’ve never tried to pretend. They’ve shared almost 34 years together of real life partnership – the sweet and the sour. They’ve shown me a relationship that flourishes in times of joy and also one that weathers the storm.

As cliche as this might be, and in no particular order, here are 30 things I’ve learned from you, Momma and Daddy:

Always say “I love you” –  I think Momma got this from her Daddy first. Papa Buck raised her to say “I love you” before leaving the house or hanging up the phone because in truth, you never know what might happen. More than that, my parents taught me to always let your loved ones know that they are indeed loved. These words might seem to be used too often to some, but overall not enough. Find time to let others know how much you care.

“Boys are bad” – Ok, this one’s just for Daddy. And no, I didn’t grown up anti-man. This was, however, my first complete sentence, and continued to be what I am sure was an adorable trick between father and daughter. What it taught me was that in my Daddy’s eyes, I was precious. He would protect me, no matter what, for all my years to come. He never pulled out the shotgun, but his trust and approval will always need to be earned. He’s been a role model for me. “What are boys, Tori?” “Boys are bad.”

Forgiveness – If Jordan and I were ever fighting, Momma cruelly punished us with a brother/sister forgiveness ritual. After whatever punishment had been given, Jordan and I would have to apologize, ask each other for forgiveness, forgive each other, tell each other “I love you,” hug and rub noses. I kid you not. It was torture and horribly embarrassing, even in the confines of our own home. But by the end of the montage, we would often be smiling and giggling. We learned that more than saying sorry, forgiving someone was essential.

Faith – My family has always been devoted to the church. I grew up knowing a loving and merciful God, and my parents continue to live the best Christian lives they can. More than religion, my parents taught me that faith and core values were important. I learned to set high standards and to leave the world better than I found it. My beliefs define me, and I should always try to act in accordance with my own morality.

Sirs and Ma’ams – Southern politeness was engrained in me at an early age. There was no “yeah” response. There was “no sir” and “yes ma’am.” We were taught thank you, you’re welcome, hold the door, bless you. I was taught to respect authority and others in general.

Orange and blue – For their wedding, my parents received a sign that says, “We interrupt this wedding to bring you the Gator game!” And boy, did their blood bleed orange and blue … die-hard, but maybe without the crazy. Growing up in deep SEC country taught me traditions. It taught me to value the teamwork, skill and efforts that go into sports. It taught me about collective pride and what it means to have school spirit. I might be an Auburn fan now, but there will always be a little Gator in me.

Quitting is not an option – Playing off of that, my parents threw me into sports and other activities throughout childhood. Whether it was baseball, ballet, piano or band – I learned that once I started something, I needed to be dedicated. It was ok if I only participated for one year, but quitting was not an option. They also taught me to put everything I had into what I was doing. I learned to practice my trumpet often so I could become first chair, work harder at my second attempt to make the cheerleading squad, and take a couple softballs to the arm if it meant keeping a “good eye” on the ball.

Take a “no thank you” bite – I might need to give credit to Jordan for the inspiration, but my parents definitely get the credit for the installation. I did not like cooked carrots as a child, but it was polite for me to give them a try, and then if I did not care for them, to say “no thank you” for any more. This helped when visiting friends’ houses during dinner, but more than that it taught me to give things second chances.

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all – My mom’s interpretation of the golden rule. Simply put, speak out of love instead of venom. Love others, and treat them as you would want to be treated.

Let us believe in magic – I may have cried when I found out he wasn’t what I expected, but believing in Santa Clause added a little sparkle to my childhood. My parents encouraged our imaginations. Jordan had an entire imaginary school, and I developed endless stuffed animal stories. We grew up creatively and full of life. Thanks for letting us simply be children.

A little dirt don’t hurt – When I was a freshman in college I called my dad and said, “thanks for letting me play in the dirt,” because all of my friends were getting sick. I lived outside as a child: riding horses, running through the pasture, collecting earthworms… Thanks for encouraging the fresh air.

Music is a safe place –  Jordan and I loved to sing, and even though we often got annoying, my parents tolerated and encouraged this joyous way to pass time. We made up songs about our day and sang Veggie Tales opera-style in the car. Jordan was afraid of the car wash, so Momma and I made up a song to help him cope. We used to sing it together regularly, and it wasn’t so scary anymore. Songs helped us get through traffic and just made life a little more sunny.

Movie night – We also watched a lot of movies. To this day, it’s one of my favorite family activities. It’s a way for us to come together and share in something – whether it’s the 50th viewing of My Cousin Vinny or going to see a new film at the theater. I love our Christmas day movie marathons and the never-ending quotes from That Thing You Do and many more. Movies are our thing.

Friendly competition – More than sports, my family has always been really into games. We can be sometimes scary competitive, in a way that my cousins have rules about the four of us being on the same team at times. More than rules and winning, it was a fun way to bond. I loved the hours playing cribbage, using inside jokes to win and knowing that my mom should be the one to draw in Cranium over my dad. Word to the wise: I wouldn’t play against us in Taboo.

Education is important – My parents showed me this very young. I could read by age 3, and Jordan somehow managed to learn without my mom even knowing. Momma was stay-at-home for most of my life, and she tried to make everything an educational experience, whether we were at SeaWorld or Publix. My dresser back home is still filled with Math Superstar, All A’s and AR Reader awards. Neither one of my parents finished college, and Jordan and I are so lucky that they’ve been able to help us gain degrees. You taught me being a nerd was pretty cool.

Leadership must be earned and learned – My parents set early examples of good leadership. They continuously volunteered at church, school and work, and they tasked us to seek leadership opportunities throughout our lives. I learned that leadership wasn’t about being the best or being the boss, but about earning respect and taking responsibility. I learned that a good leader also knows how to serve.

Self-sacrifice – My parents have sacrificed a lot for me through the years – too many things to list. They taught me that sometimes you have to set aside your personal desires in order to provide for others. I have been immensely blessed because of their financial, social and personal sacrifices. All I can say is thank you for all that you’ve done for me.

Heal the sick, feed the hungry – Philanthropy was instilled in me very early. We volunteered at soup kitchens, raised money for the March of Dimes, donated packages for soldiers, and so many other things that emphasized love for others. My parents taught me that we were rich is blessings and that others weren’t always as lucky. I learned to lend a helping hand, to be the good samaritan and to make a difference in this world. Thank you for your huge hearts and for your compassion.

Family isn’t only blood – I had many “aunts and uncles” that weren’t related to me. My parents called my friends their “other children.” Close friends are loved ones that you cherish just as much. Thank you for opening our home to so many of my friends, and for being second parents to ones who needed you. Thanks for giving me so many pets to love on, and Daddy, thanks for not killing me when I brought home kittens two summers in a row.

Good food, good company – To my mother, the opposite of a minimalist when it comes to food, thank you for all the meals you provided: for the excuse to have a party because I had a giant celebratory ice cream cake – for taking us poor college students to dinner – for teaching me the skills of hospitality.

Creeping is caring – Again, to my mother, who frequently uses this phrase to validate her social media stalking of me and everyone I know… thank you for actually caring about my friends and for wanting to be a part of my life. I think it’s great that you care what my friends are doing. Thank you for teaching me how to invest in relationships.

Quality time is important – More than just spending time together, you both taught me the importance of quality time. Daddy, I used to love our trips to get ice cream after the orthodontist, and I love the way we scratch each others’ backs when we hug. Momma, I appreciate that you still call me to see how my day was – I’m sorry for the times when I get too preoccupied with life. I’m glad you still set aside time for each other in this busy world.

The little things matter – You taught me that sometimes the little things mean the most. Flowers, handwritten notes, saying thank you for something long past, picking up the phone out of the blue, surprise cake … these things and more I learned from you. Going beyond what is expected to brighten someone’s day – this helps keep relationships of all kinds alive and is another great way to say “I am thankful for you, you are loved.”

Find time for new adventures – I love that even after 30 years of marriage you still find time for new adventures: train rides, painting classes, new hiking trails … you know how to not get stale. You’re living life together, and I hope I’ll live like that too.

Trust the way you’ve raised them – You’ve both allowed me to grow into my own person – to make my own mistakes and adapt as life changes. Daddy once told me, “I have to believe that I raised you to the best of my abilities, and now you’ve got to be your own person.” Thank you for not forcing me to fit a mold and for accepting me as I continue to grow.

Agree to disagree – While it’s important to find common ground, you’ve shown me that it’s also important to respect a different viewpoint. As similar as we might be, at times we’re polar opposites. It’s nice to know that you love me all the same. Thank you for teaching me that people aren’t wrong just because they believe differently than I might, and for teaching me the importance of active listening and a willingness to bend.

Don’t be afraid to feel – You taught me to be strong, but you also taught me to be empathetic. Daddy, I love that you aren’t afraid to cry during the sad parts of the movies. You taught me early on that emotions don’t mean weakness, because you’re one of the strongest people I know. Thank you for having such big hearts, and for passing that along to me. It’s nice to feel supported when my heart feels heavy.

Relationships take work – I mentioned earlier that you’ve shown me the light and heavy parts of marriage. You’re going to argue, you’re going to disagree, sometimes it’ll get messy – sometimes it’s hard. Love is about making it through, together. You’ve shown me that honesty and communication are key to maintaining a healthy relationship. I can’t imagine how much a person might change in the span of 30 years – I am sure sometimes you’ve grown together and others you’ve grown apart. Thank you for growing, nonetheless.

Life is hard sometimes – I feel like I can’t talk about our family, or you as parents without bringing up my sweet sister. You lost a child, something no parent should ever have to face – but you made it. Alida Catherine is still with us, and I know it’s still as hard as ever knowing that our time was cut so short. I learned to value life, to cherish family and to find peace in memories. Thank you for singing her birthday song with me every year, and for the many years of planting flowers. I love you guys, and I envy your strength.

Marriage means commitment – Through the many highs and many lows, you’ve made it this far. Thank you for keeping your promise to each other. Thank you for being my parents. Thirty years..I think that says enough right there.


Happy anniversary.

mom and ded

3 Responses to “Happy 30th anniversary to my parents

  • JoAnn Greene
    6 years ago

    Happy Anniversary to your parents!!!
    You are one of their best achievements together!!

  • Beautiful. As always, you have a gift! Loved seeing you the other Sunday. You have grown up from a great little girl to a beautiful and gifted young woman.

  • Your parents are the best! My twin brother and I with our family moved to Eustis when we were 9yrs old (the same year as your mom), and I went to school with your mom through high school. We were friends and in classes together, band together and social gatherings and sleep overs. We still follow each other on social media. My older sister was in school with your dad and uncle. Your Mom missed our wedding 7-18-86 the year before your parent’s wedding because she was under anesthesia from having her wisdom teeth pulled. I was at your sister Alida’s funeral and mourned for your families loss and brokenness. You are blessed to be their daughter and your love for them shines through. What a beautiful tribute to them as you honor them with your kind words. You are a treasure as they raised you to be. Thank you for sharing your love to them in written word for all of us to enjoy and cheer them on. Happy 30th Anniversary!

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