On this day in 1963, in Hendrina, South Africa, my mom and dad pledged to love one another. Fifty years later, they’re still keeping that promise, and they’ve said many, many a time that over the years, their love for one another has just grown deeper. Here are a few things I learned from my parents:
- They taught us to love well. To this day, I have never seen or heard them argue! It doesn’t mean they don’t disagree, but they never, ever do so in front of others—not even their kids.
- They taught us to worship the One who loved us first. My parents’ faith has always been important to them. They love God, and their love for one another, for us, and for others in their world truly flows from their love for God (and God’s love for them).
- They taught us to pray. I remember as a child walking into my parents’ bedroom with them kneeling together in prayer. They can no longer kneel to pray, but they love to pray together and they do so faithfully, including for each of their kids and grand kids.
- They taught us that who you are in private should be the same as who you are in public. Not once have I thought “Oh, if only people would know what really goes on behind the scenes.” Not as a child, nor as an adult. I remember my dad having to go to the UK for studies for months in 1981, and he shared how several of his colleagues on the same trip would visit strip clubs and more. “I could NEVER do that,” he told us. “How would I be able to look you in the eyes after doing something like that?”
- They taught us to make do with what you have. We never had a lot of money nor a lot of “stuff.” We couldn’t go on expensive vacations, but it didn’t mean we didn’t have adventures. Life was an adventure (and still is!)
- They taught us to have fun. So many times as a kid in Pretoria (1974-1976) we’d go to the drive-in theater and my mom would pack a picnic basket with boiled eggs and meatballs and we’d take a Thermos of coffee or a bottle of soda and we’d have a blast at the movies. To this day, they pack picnic baskets and go to the beach and just enjoy the moment.
- They taught us to appreciate nature. Some of my earliest memories are of camping in the Kruger National Park and hearing the lions roar outside. We lived very close to the Kruger Park, and we often went even just for a day to drive oh-so-slowly and look for the animals.
- They taught us to respect others. Though we grew up during the apartheid years, my parents never used disrespectful language when referring to other people groups, and they always treated others with respect.
- They taught us how to cook. Both my mom and my dad can cook and bake like no-one’s business. 🙂 We rarely ate out when I was a kid, and my folks still rarely do. But eating at their home is often better than eating out in any case!
- They taught us to adapt well. As a kid, we moved almost every two years due to my dad’s job (except for a seven-year stint in Richards Bay). Along with us, they had to make new friends, shoot new roots. I don’t remember there ever being complaining about having to move again. It simply was a part of life.
- They taught us how to fix things. My dad insisted that we all had to be able to change a tyre on the car, and know how to do simple things like fix basic electric wiring etc. My mom taught us how to sew (though I cannot remember my brother getting those lessons—she did teach him how to iron his clothes, sew on buttons etc, though.)
- They taught us to save. Each of us had a savings book since we were born, and we put our pocket money, birthday money etc in our own savings accounts.
- They taught us to travel light. Due to moving so often, we weren’t going to lug old stuff around. We had to go through and throw away/give away things we weren’t using.
- They taught us to pack well. Despite being a family of six, we never had a van or a large car, so going on vacation (to see my grandparents) meant we had to pack light, and then packing the trunk was a science, too!
- They taught us to say sorry. My parents don’t hesitate to admit when they are wrong and set an example of seeking forgiveness for wrongs done.
- They taught us to enjoy the simple things. Whether simply stopping by the lookout point in Richards Bay before church on Sunday nights to enjoy a container of milk or juice each and look at the ocean, or by paying attention to the sights and sounds around us, my parents taught us to enjoy the little things in life.
- They taught us that they matter to one another. When we were little and wanted to sit between mom and dad in church, they’d always say we can sit on either side of them, but not between them.
- They taught us to be positive about life. Stuff happens, but you don’t dwell on it. Our house was never a place of complaining.
- They taught us to enjoy music. Some of my favorite memories are of singalong nights with dear neighbors around our old piano. My mom still plays the keyboard, despite having advanced arthritis in her hands. It keeps her hands moving and both their spirits up!
- They taught us that cultural differences are to be celebrated. My dad’s from an English-speaking background, my mom, Afrikaans. Fifty years ago, there were still ill feelings from the Afrikaans toward the English for the pains of the Anglo-Boer War. My parents went against the flow and chose to love one another despite their different cultural backgrounds, and though our home language was Afrikaans, my dad did all kinds of things to encourage us to speak English, too. It worked, clearly.
- They taught us to navigate well, even without looking. My dad would sometimes play a game with us where he’d put one or two of us in the trunk of the car (I know, I know, not something we’d do today), and we’d drive around till he’d stop and ask us where we thought we were. The prize for guessing right was simply the sense of accomplishment. 🙂
- They taught us to tidy up well. Our house was definitely well lived in, but never messy. Despite having someone who came to help clean the house, we always, always had to make our own beds and tidy up our own rooms. To this day, I cannot walk out my bedroom without making my bed–for no other reason than that it simply feels better to walk into a tidy room! Dishes were never left till the next morning simply because it felt better to walk into a clean kitchen…
- They taught us good manners. When we were kids and would go for sleepovers, my mom would always ask, “Have you packed your manners?” Of course we had.
- They taught us that their are consequences for not getting along. On long road trips, when we’d get feisty in the back seat, they’d drop us off and make us walk off some of our frustrations… Things were usually very peaceful in the car after a walk. 🙂
- They taught us to express appreciation.Whether writing a thank-you note, or calling to say thank you, we knew to not take acts of kindness for granted, nor take one another for granted. My dad still refers to my mom as his bride, and when were kids, my mom would put little love notes in my dad’s lunch boxes!
So, mom and dad, in that spirit, thank you once again for loving one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, for better for worse…
Love you dearly, and I look forward to celebrating with you soon!