Celebrating Mom and Dad – A 50 Year Tribute

Fifty years ago today, my parents got married in a small town in Holland. It was a genuine celebration. They were surrounded by their family and friends, some who came from distant places like the Isles of Scilly, where my father had spent so many childhood holidays. Both their families were in the flower trade and my grandfather had arranged for magnificent Proteas from South Africa to be flown in for the occasion. At the reception there were skits and songs—often depicting life in South Africa, where the young couple would head right after their honeymoon. The photos and slides that I’ve seen are all filled with much laughter and merriment.

So started my parents’ life together.

In the era before Skype and email, it was not the easiest of things to move to the other side of the world, into a small company house on a flower-bulb farm. My mom was homesick. She lived for the letters from her mother, which fortunately came like clockwork (the SAPS was obviously a little more organised back then). The birth of my sister in ’68 eased the homesickness and when I arrived three years later their little family was complete.

Ours was a rather idyllic childhood. We roamed the flower farm, swam at the huge ‘Little Falls’ pool throughout summer and revelled in the alternating visits from grandparents. We were a close little family unit. Our friends were largely drawn from other Dutch immigrant families on the farm. But my father wanted to own his own property and so we moved to the house where my parents still live today, shifting away from those close farm circles.

And there we did what all kids do—we grew up. We got married, moved out and had children of our own. My parents extended all the love they’d always poured into Yvonne and my life into the lives of their grandchildren (although, with somewhat less discipline). Love like that is always reciprocated. Even now that the grandchildren are almost all young adults, they still Skype Oma (with Opa usually hovering in the background) and genuinely enjoy visiting and spending time with them.

Fifty years of marriage is something truly remarkable and on Saturday our family is going to celebrate with good old Dutch Indonesian food. Yet, I sense that such milestones are not always easy. They cause one to stop and remember, to reflect on who was there to celebrate the marriage, but is now no longer around. To look back on the years that are now condensed to memories and photos. Nostalgia is a strange emotion, often laced more with sorrow than joy.

But today I want to celebrate my parents. I was brought up secure in their love. Even though they’re not particularly demonstrative (I think my father and I have probably hugged about forty times in the course of my lifetime—mainly on my birthday), I never doubted their love.

I also value their steadiness. I think this is a severely underrated characteristic. Our society often values only outstanding achievements. My father worked at the same job all his life. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, always around to make us a sandwich when we got home from school. Even though the world might not have noticed them, I think their lives are amongst the most successful I’ve ever known. Working steadily, parenting steadily, being a loyal friend steadily—over the course of fifty years such stability is a gift to your children, grandchildren and friends. There’s no doubt that faithfulness and steadiness leave a valuable legacy.

Fifty years ago there was a large wedding celebration with loved ones. Saturday there will be a much smaller anniversary celebration with me and Yvonne, our husbands and children, who love them just as dearly–I’d hazard to say even more dearly–as those who were there when their marriage started. I’m chilling the champagne as we speak.

Thank you Mom and Dad for your love and steadiness. Congratulations on 50 years together! I love you (consider yourself hugged, Dad!)

Read the story I wrote based on their courtship (it’s a particularly cute story!) Surnames were changed, but read Zandbergen and Barnhoorn in all the right places.

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  1. Wow Joan thank you for this beautiful piece about our lives. You have summed up how blessed we are. Congratulations mom and dad. We are so lucky to have you as parents and to be able to celebrate this amazing milestone with you.

  2. Thank you for sharing with us. What a beautiful tribute!

  3. Lovely words Joan! My folks also celebrate their 50th this year so this is even more special to read! Congratulations to them!!

  4. So special, Joan! This tribute to your parents will be such a gift to them. x

  5. Joop en Suus

    That was a wonderful tribute to your Mam and Dad! You write beautifully Joan! It was a lot of fun for me to read too because our families sound so much alike! My home sickness was ( a little ) less after Rita was born too! I can so relate to your story!
    Love you all and have a wonderful celebration on Saturday.
    Love, tante Suus en oom Joop

  6. Thanks Joan. I recognise a lot of things that I didn’t know you had picked up over the years, the homesickness, my mothers letters AND my fathers letters – they both wrote every week on different days and the letters arrived like clockwork. My father’s letters arrived on Thursdays and my mother’s letters arrived on Tuesdays. I don’t know if I deserve all the praise though. Dad is probably the one who has been the most deserving of it. He doesn’t get crossed easily and family to him is the most important thing to him, although indeed he is not a demonstrative person.

    • Joan Campbell

      Ah, I forgot Opa also sent letters – that is so sweet.

      • My father’s letters he usually typed in duplo. They were very long letters always. But there was always something special about My mother’s letters, more personal I think. I still have lots of them.

    • Our dad wrote us every Sunday and our mam wrote every Thursday. They may have had different days for you Adries. Ours came on Monday and Thursday! I sent the blog to our kids too and said……does it sound familiair?:-)

      • Indeed, our Dad typed the letters in duplo. My Mom wrote those e mail letters (Daniella is talking about them). Later when Anneke ALSO emigrated, she felt it was too much to write 3 letters a week to 3 daughters overseas, and started to weekly skip one of us (rotating). So every 3rd week, we had to wait 14 days! It is difficult to understand when you think that nowadays, everything is instant, immediate replies etc.

  7. Wonderful tribute Joan and all so very true. I was lucky to be able to share with your family many years in South Africa and still have fond memories of the many Sundays Hope and I spent with your mom and dad. Your dad never objected to the two sisters chatting away all afternoon, he just sat happily reading his Time Magazine.

  8. Elly stalenberg

    Heel mooi om te lezen Joan! Ik kreeg het via Suus. Het is precies zoals je beschrijft, zo belangrijk een liefdevol vast thuis!
    Geniet zaterdag met zijn allen, kinderen en kleinkinderen, het is een bijzondere gelegenheid!

  9. WOW Joan! What a wonderful tribute to your parents. They are indeed an amazing couple. I have memories of how welcome they made me feel every time I visited their house. I too was a young immigrant to SA – They understood what it meant to leave family and loved ones in another country. Thank you Mr and Mrs Zandbergen for sharing your love and kindness with me through the years. You are both an inspiration to me!
    CONGRATULATIONS on your 50th wedding anniversary! xx Karen

    • Joan Campbell

      Thank you for sharing your own memories of my folks, Karen. I love that insight you have of them being able to relate to your own loss in leaving your country.

    • Thanks Karen, much appreciated and gladly done.

  10. Such a lovely tribute Joan. Family is a very special gift, and there just isn’t a substitute for a Mom or Dad’s advice and love when the chips are down. Have a wonderful get together on Saturday.

  11. Wat mooi geschreven Joan! Ik weet me dan nog weer goed te herinneren dat al die brieven werden geschreven! In mijn tienerjaren mocht er altijd de adressen op typen. Ik nam dat altijd heel serieus! Fontainebleau, ik weet het nóg!
    Ik maakte een voorraadje luchtpostvellen met de adressen van de gezinnen in Zuid-Afrika en Amerika. En natuurlijk heb ik heel veel van die brieven samen met jouw opa gepost. Hij deed dat altijd op een heel bijzondere wijze. Hij stak zijn hand zo ver als mogelijk in de gleuf als om te checken dat ze er goed in waren gevallen.
    50 jaar getrouwd zijn is heel bijzonder. Ik feliciteer Adri en Adrie van harte met hun gouden bruiloft!

    • Joan Campbell

      Hi Daniella. That is such a sweet memory of you, as a fairly young girl, typing the addresses and then posting the letters. Love it – thanks for sharing it. xxx

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