Today is my birthday. My 27th, plus a few anniversaries of my 27th! Each year on this day I like to reflect about where I am, what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with. This year is one of the best so far. I am married to a man I adore. My kids have all grown into exceptional people. Our family has grown with the addition of Trey, Liz, Nicole, Nicole, Joey, and our grandchildren, Lorelei, Carter, Lillian and Avery four of the best grandkids ever! I am at a place in my life where I am happy, retired, and living abroad, just like Alan and I had planned. Life is good!
But as with all the years before, this one I find myself wondering how I got so lucky. Many of you who know me may not know my secret: I had amazing parents.
Not just great parents, but amazing parents. I’m not saying that they didn’t ground us when we got out of line, or spank us when we were bad, but they loved us enough to get mad at us when we got out of line and to expect us to be better people.
I remember my Mom telling me recently that a friend of hers mentioned that we never talk much about our childhood when we’re together. I told her that as an adult I realized that many people didn’t have the same childhood and so after a while it almost feels like bragging to say that you’re family had no dysfunction and that you had an ideal childhood.
But today is different, because it’s my time to reflect and I owe a large part of my success to my parents. They were not the kind of parents who sat on the sidelines watching their children practice baseball, they coached the team. I remember growing up in Redding, California when the summers would get up to 120 degrees. We had a swimming pool in the backyard, but neither of my parents swam. So to ensure that their children didn’t drown in the pool they signed us up for swim lessons, every single summer. I remember my mother sitting on a hot metal bench for hours and hours every day while the four of us girls were in the water. She never complained, not once, not ever.
My mother was completely selfless. She literally was the world’s greatest Mom. Not because the living was full of presents at Christmas (although it was), or that birthdays were not a huge to do (they were — I got a BB gun and a horse [Libertee] for my 12th birthday). It was because she cooked us breakfast every single morning regardless of what her day was like or whether or not she had to go to work, not cold cereal, but bacon, eggs, pancakes, waffles, or omelets. Every. Single. Day.
She and my father put is in private school so that we would get a good education. They drove us round trip nearly 25 miles a day through the school year. Twice a day if one of us had practice since we played softball, volleyball, basketball and did cheerleading.
However, I don’t recall either of them spending money for new cars, new clothes, new shoes for themselves, but us girls never wanted for anything. And we didn’t have to suffer through a parent ranting about all the luxuries they got for us, not once in my entire life did either of my parents make us feel bad for the things that they did for us or didn’t do for themselves. Completely selfless.
They taught us the value of family, those people in your life that drive you crazy, but love and support you, regardless of what dumbass thing you’ve just done. That’s not to say they won’t tease you about it for the remainder of your life, but to the world in general they show complete and total solidarity. At least that’s what I grew up believing to be true according to Mom and Dad.
I remember in high school complaining to a friend about one of my sisters with whom I had recently had a fight when a boy who had overheard said something nasty about her. My wrath was immediate and I swung around and punched him in the face telling him “Don’t you dare speak about my sister like that.” I didn’t break his nose but he was bleeding pretty badly, I nearly got suspended from school, until my Dad asked why I had hit him. I told him why and my Dad told the principal, he probably shouldn’t have said that about her sister. In my Dad’s mind, I was in the right and the boy was in the wrong, he defended me to the principal and I promised the principal that I wouldn’t hit him again as long as he didn’t talk crap about my sister. Family, blood thicker than water, et. al. They always had our backs.
My parents taught us so many lessons about family, faith, persistence, happiness, and work ethic. My biggest fear in life has always been to disappoint these two amazing people. Their lessons have all stuck with me and to this day I still base many of my decisions on whether or not they would be proud of the results.
They are in fact my secret weapon for a simple, happy life. The arsenal: work hard, play hard, love easily, live life to the fullest. Never settle for second-best, when first place is achievable. Hard work will get you all the luck you need, good choices will complete the process. The lessons were many, I cherish them all. Dad had a saying for everything. Some of my dearly loved favorites are:
“Consider it done.” This was a response to anything asked of him, ever.
“If you look under rocks, you’re bound to find snakes.” When boy trouble occurred in a house full of girls.
“Do you want it hard enough to work for it?” When asked about borrowing cash, cars, clothes from either parent.
“Everything is fine when done in moderation.” A response to “there’s a party this weekend, Dad, can I go?”
They were quirky and funny and I love them both so much for taking the time to put thought into childrearing. Every single lesson has made me the person I am today and I am eternally grateful for each and every one of them.
They didn’t chastise often, but let you know that they were onto your fun and games behind their backs. Cruising was very popular when I was a teenager. How else does one find a party on the weekend, right? My parents would let us get ready, leave the house and usually within the hour we would see them “cruising” as well. Kind of puts a damper on the whole idea when your parents are driving by and waving at you.
When I used to go to this one particular dive bar with a borrowed ID, my Dad would often show up outside the bar at 2 am to give me a lift home, nothing was ever said, just a safe ride home for his errant daughter and her friends.
I snuck out of the house a couple of times as a kid, the first night I tried my Dad had fallen asleep on the couch watching the news. As I tiptoed by him, he said to me “Do you have enough money?” I responded, “Yea Dad, I’m good.” He said, “Be home before 5, you know your Mom gets up early.” “Okay Dad, Love you.” I told him before leaving the house. This became a ritual we repeated many, many times. I hadn’t even realized until I was telling that story about a year after he passed away, that he never told my mother, not even after I was grown and gone, but kept that confidence the rest of his life.
These two people are completely and totally responsible for the person I am today. And, since it’s my birthday, I’d just like to say Thanks Mom and Dad, you guys are awesome!!
My Mom and Dad, Doug and Etta White, circa 1963
Mom, Dad and Me, circa 1964
Mom and Me the day I married Alan, Dad was there in spirit