It was September 1, 1973 when my parents married. Today is their 36th anniversary of their wedding day and I couldn’t be more proud! Instead of me being the first to call and wish my parents a “Happy Anniversary”, my mom beat me to it and called this morning to check on her little grand-girl, who’s been down-and-out the past few days fighting off some bug with a fever.
In a rough calculation, between Eric and myself, both our parents, and all our grandparents — that’s seven couples total — we have around 259 years of unbroken marriages and years of loving one another through life’s ups and downs, disappointments and joys, child rearing, financial difficulty and gain, sickness and health, life and death. Let me say that again — 259 YEARS!
The way I understand, my parents met on the ball fields at Boone’s Creek Baptist Bible Camp in Winchester, Kentucky. Mom was 17-years-old, dad was 22, almost 23-years-old. Mom had long hair, dad … well, he had hair! She caught the eye of an artist in the making, he found a young woman that his love and faith could shelter. It wasn’t long at all that their courtship among friends in public led to more serious talk, more love letters, dad’s hand-drawn images depicting a mutual fascination for one another, a proposal, and then marriage.
Their love produced children, I’m one of the two (and the baby, might I add). When my older brother and I were growing up, it was that same Bible camp that our youth group went to for years and years in the summertime. I remember walking down the hill across the cattail-rimmed pond, where the Chapel’s white reflection could be seen in the glassy water’s surface. The girls and I would link elbows and sing, “going to the chapel, and we’re gonna get mah-ah-ah-ried (married), going to the chapel of love.” Flanked to the side of the chapel were the aforementioned ball fields. Sometimes when we were in chapel service, we could hear church leagues outside playing softball. It was a pattern of clinking, when the aluminum ball bat connected with the softball, then cheering and jeering, the spectator’s immediate response. While it wasn’t in the chapel that my parents got “mah-ah-ah-ried”, it was on that neighboring ball field that their relationship’s seed got planted.
I don’t remember Watergate obviously, but it was among our Nation’s top government scandals to this date and it occurred in 1973. I bet my parents were tired of hearing about it. On the other hand, since they were busy falling in love, they may not have cared at all. I wouldn’t! (In 2000, when we got married, the U.S. was debating and going on and on about our presidential election, Florida’s involvement in the “hanging chad” controversy [FL — where we had just moved!] and still I can say in all honesty that I hardly cared!)
I imagine my parents received many nice gifts and they were but just months away from their first Holiday season as “old married folk”. Busy were the newlyweds figuring out how to split their time with families that year, settling into a tiny apartment, or the top floor of a house rather, that had been sub-divided into an apartment on quiet Pearl Street in Berea, Kentucky.
Among the gifts they might have received, or perhaps used money gifts to purchase, was a coffee percolator. I can still remember as a small child waking up to the gurgling and whirring sounds of that, now vintage, percolator. When I was tall enough to reach the kitchen countertops, I would fold my arms and rest my head on my hands, and just stare at that machine, watching through the clear knob as the coffee grounds were circulated to the top with hot water. It seemed like it took forever to produce coffee, years even!, but yet it was an established morning ritual for my parents happening without fail. By the way, my mom sups her coffee audibly, and dad drinks it in, finishing with “ahhs.” Neither one probably has a clue, but I notice!
Things were much different then in comparison to now. We can expect annual, if not bi-annual, postage stamp increases. When my parents mailed their shower and wedding invitations and thank-you cards, you want to know how much they paid per piece? A whopping 8¢! We now pay 44¢ per postage stamp, an increase of 450%.
When they were talking about future plans and how they would raise children and what type of people their children would marry, I bet they couldn’t see one daughter-in-law coming from the far reaches half-way around the globe in a post-communist and former Soviet Union country of Georgia. They probably knew enough about churches and pastor’s kids that they also might have established some reservations about their daughter meeting and marrying the son of a “preacher man.” But alas, she did. Wink, wink! (And they love him so fully, as their own!) They now have three precious grandchildren, hopefully more to come, that fill their daily thoughts and dreams and give them reason to giddy-up and go. God is filling their wells full to overflowing, their offspring a delight above any riches the world can offer.
By the time I was born, my grandfather (my dad’s dad) had just died from a sudden heart attack. By the time I was a freshman in high school, my grandmother (my mom’s mom) had lost her battle with heart disease and the effects of many surgeries she just couldn’t recover from. Yes, indeed there have been heartache and disappointment throughout the years of their marriage. Like myself, I’m sure there are things they would have done differently. However, these times of struggling and loving in the midst of such circumstances, life has been lived wonderfully by these two! Amid the backdrop of faith, forgiveness, happiness, growth, and joy — as well, the moments that caused them to dig their heels deeper into their relationship with one another and God — they have succeeded at so much and it deserves my respect and applause and most importantly, my gratitude.
As any parent might, they probably fear to this day that some of the more excruciating moments we lived would be the ones we often think about or base our knowledge of family on. But, I can assure them it’s not. I know that some of those moments came before, during, and after some really hard times for our family. However, I’m such a thankful recipient of times in my life when my parents modeled reasons why I should trust God and his faithfulness. In Joshua chapter 4, scripture teaches us how God instructed Joshua to build a memorial of 12 stones in the midst and to the side of the Jordan river.
“6 We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing … These stones will stand as a memorial among the people forever.”
I just want to thank my parents as well as my parents-in-law, my grandparents, and my grandparents-in-law for taking the time to build some “memorials” throughout their marriage. No doubt, some of the stones were hard to carry and put in place. At times, perhaps you didn’t think you had it in you, but you did. Because of that, it’s easier for me to look at your legacy — specifically, how you shouldered your burdens together and with Christ in the middle — and allows me to model something similar for my own children. I’m thankful for the memories and lessons those painful moments left you with, grateful for the joy you still hold in your hearts because of the times you overcame, and excited for the future I get to seize because of the legacy you have left us with.
Happy Anniversary, mom and dad! I know you’d appreciate my writing this much more than any gift money could buy. You’re heroes in my book and I love you all ways and always! — Juju