A True Legacy Isn’t Found. It’s Built.

Senior year 1977 - school bus trip, 30 years later - still married!

I cannot remember when I initially saw this photo years ago, but it’s lived with me, holding it’s own small plot of real estate in my mind. It’s a simple black and white photo, but it feels iconic to me. Maybe it’s the shaggy bowl cut—the style has come full circle thanks to Bieber, or the black converse shoes—my own daughter wears almost everyday in 2015. This is where you’re thinking how old is this photo, and the people in it?

Well…the photo is 38 years young, and the people, um…I can’t—no, I refuse to answer that. Let’s say they are 38 years young too. (If you keep up with my blog, yes, I had Trav do the math for me. Pray for me and my terrible math skills.)

Those people in the photo, my peeps, are my precious in-laws.

Circa 1977.

(Pretend you’re not trying to do the math. There is no mystery if you solve the riddle. Live for the mystery.)

It’s their senior year of high school, sharing a seat on a school bus (this was back in the land when there was no law against pda at school yet, hello 70’s!) completely unaware as someone snaps their photo. This photo would make the yearbook, washing them in black and white, preserving pixels that would enamor their daughter-in-law in several decades years to come.

I think part of my fascination with this photo rests in the time frame. I’ve only known my in-laws as my in-laws, father and mother to my husband, grandparents to my beauties—who they were in 1977 infinitely escapes me, strictly because I wasn’t born yet.

Or maybe it’s hope that sits atop my fascination’s shoulders when I look at this photo. Hope that they look no different than Travis and I, sitting together on a school bus, and proving our love can also endure 38 years later.

In Sarah style, you are probably wondering where I’m going with this…

Let me start with this…it is my belief to celebrate those you love. Yep, it’s my love language—words of affirmation. And in today’s society, words of affirmation are quickly becoming a long lost art, nearly facing extinction—okay, that was a little dramatic, but think about it.

When you observe, witness, or even read anything it’s almost standard to find the flaw, or shove yourself to the front of the line in protection of your own pride (I wouldn’t wear that, do that, act like that, are they serious, they can’t be serious!).

It’s why speaking love and simple acts of kindness leave the biggest impact, several going viral—because we don’t expect it, it’s endearing because we expect hate versus love first.

I’ve been there, you’ve been there…choosing hate over love.

But as a mother, it would be my biggest regret to raise my daughter’s under that brand, falling victim to the belief of enmity. I want my daughters to rise above, choosing to show others love above hate, pride, hurt, doubt, resentment, and animosity.

For. The. Love.

Choices define our lives, they can make or break a legacy. It’s a simple statement, but true.

Maybe it’s the stoic unknown engrained in the photo of my in-laws that captivates me, threaded with the kismet of being in their future. The photo above was taken the same year they were married, the beginning of their journey as adults together, the first beat of their legacy, both as individuals and their reflection as a pair.

I smile upon this photo that screams young love, untarnished by the impending stress of being catapulted into the land of tumultuous living, better known as being an adult. Adulting is the worst. This photo correlates back to a time when you feel invincible and your love infinite, before you realize life is all a choice.

I grin while taking in this photo, feeling like I got the cheat sheet at what they chose, seeing the future.

This is where I celebrate who they are, because they deserve to be celebrated.

To truly know my in-laws, Steve and Melanie, is to be loved by them.

Long ago, I mean that with the sweetest sentiment, they chose to honor love through their roles as a husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, in-law, gramma, and pawpaw.

I was fourteen when Trav and I went mad for one another, literally mad for one another. Like we couldn’t breathe without each other—okay, that sounds unhealthy. We might have coined the tag line, crazy in love. Beyonce may have even wrote a song about us. I mean, we brought out the OBSESS in obsession. Not really, but really. We were in the love boat, sailing around the world.

Now that we’ve established that—gag, I know—it means that I’ve been apart of their lives for fifteen years, nearly half my lifespan to date. I can still remember going to their house for the very first time, making rice crispies with Travis, and then nervously washing the pan (Melanie told me I missed a spot—okay, that’s a complete lie.).

Truly, I was so nervous to really spend time with his family. What if my future husband’s family hated me? And believe me, come hell or high water, I was going to marry the man. (got me looking so crazy right now, your love’s, got me looking so crazy right now (in love)—sing it Beyonce!)

I would love to say that my love affair with my in-laws has always been a fairytale, ripped straight from the pages of happily ever after, but we all know better. No relationship is perfect.

At fourteen, I’d come from a recently divorced home. My mother was trying to restructure the lives of three children, go to college, and work full-time to support us. And I was the oldest of three children trying to test the limits of love in the face of my parents divorce. Needless to say, I was not an easy child to love. I was wild and we’ve already established I air a tidbit on the dramatic side. Loving me was no easy feat.

In the beginning…middle, even right now, Trav and I’ve faced many trials, highs and lows—we all are getting sucker punched by life and trying to make the best of it, sometimes we win, sometimes we have to eat our emotions by binge eating chocolate cake. But back then, I was a mess (and I still am).

The kind of mess that might have turned her future husband into the principal for stealing her m&m’s out of her locker when they were going through a spat. And said future husband might have been suspended, or chosen spankens (yep, spankens—here’s where I tell you I got spankens too from our principal, most humiliating moment of my life. Sixty-something year old man hitting me with a paddle on the butt. Brings demeaning to a whole new level. It still stings—literally.)

In our young dating life, I pulled many a stunts, pushing Travis to the edge, wanting him to prove that love breaks, regardless of how much you love someone. I was in constant flight or fight mode. Feeling secure felt insecure.

In the midst of me trying to break a sheltered, loving boy, his parents loved me when I was trying to prove I was unlovable. They gave me compassion, even when I resented it. They fed me, cheered me on from the stands at basketball games, included me in holidays, stood up for me against those they loved, because they loved me too. They bought me countless items, even after we were married they let Travis and I steal their toilet paper and restock our pantry with their pantry items, they prayed for us, let me tell them how horrible their son was, and gave him a talking to, sure I got some talking to’s too, but my halo is way brighter than Travis’ so not as many, but still, they gave us wisdom, advice, held our hands when we were terrified, cried with us, for us…they chose to love me without judgment, without resentment for the hurts I hurled at them, they chose to call me family and mean it.

The gave me grace and asked for nothing in return—this is the part where I do the ugly cry. It’s who Steve and Melanie are—they are equal parts forgiveness, grace, compassion, and love. (and they are probably so completely embarrassed to be called out right now and this is where I say, sorry, but I’m not sorry. You have to celebrate those you love, it just is.)

Over the course of my marriage to their son to date, together we have loved, fought, and forgiven. Sometimes those hurts took longer than others, and forgiveness was the last thing on anyone’s mind, but I have tried to make them stop loving me, but they just won’t stop. Pray for them, I’m kidding.

As individuals, they each have many strong points, but together they are serendipity, and their legacy is one for the books. They are givers—of time, support, values, and loyalty. True gifts are the time you take to teach your child core values, to invest as a pillar of support when life pulls the rug out from them, to guarding their heart from the black hole of insecurities that live to steal their dreams.

Their character has served, saved, sheltered, and blessed us more than Travis and I deserve. I know that I have reaped so much of the benefits of their hard work and dedication and their will to be lifelong parents.

Better, the way they love my daughters, they way they care for them, honor them—be still my heart—it’s profound.

In truth, they changed my life, who they are, the way they love, how they believe in the true essence of family.  They have shown me that love doesn’t break, it may bleed–heavily, but it will not break.  Love is infinite.

In all roles of who they are, they inspire me.  

Their legacy was built, not found.  

To Steve and Melanie—you are greatness. Period. One of my greatest joys has been being loved by you. Thank you from all four corners of who I am. I love you both, endlessly.



p.s. Let it be known, if Trav ever leaves me, I’m taking his parents. It’s part of the custody battle.  You heard it here first.

p.p.s. And a word to the wise, just never fart in front of them, they will never forget it. Or fall, or just plain embarrass yourself because they will never let it go, but as long as you can laugh at yourself—you’ll be fine.

p.p.p.p.p.s. Are you still there?  If you are…whoever inspires you, tell them right now.  Currently there is an ice storm in Oklahoma–if you live here, don’t run out to tell them, you’ll slip and die break your hip.  Seriously, celebrate those you love–words, a hug, a phone call, just praise them.  We all live with hurts, disappointments, but choosing to seek light instead of darkness will define your life.  Be the light.

Author: Sarah Black

I'm a self-professed 'Drama Mama'...of four daughters, I blog to (over)share my stories on learning to maintain my sanity by strictly eating laughter in the emotional land of motherhood while trying to keep my husband from running away from the sheer amount of estrogen flooding our house.

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