Dear Mom and Dad AND Pam and Dave,

When I was very little, you whistled Winnie the Pooh to me so I could fall asleep. We went on play dates to the zoo, watched movies downtown on Tuesdays and got lost in the ball pits of McDonald's play area.

We played Buzz Lightyear: all three kids got on Daddy's back and buzzed around the house, only to be thrown onto your fluffy bed. Mommy always followed close behind, making sure we didn't fall off.

Every night we had family dinner at our circle table, followed by the standard family walk with the pups and then story time with at least three or four books – "Hippos Go Berserk," "All Dogs Go to Heaven," "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" ... your inflections and rhythms echo in my mind.

You would wave to me as I got on the bus and sat down with my mommy-made lunch box by my side; you would be there to greet me as soon as I got home, ready to inquire about my day. If it had been a bad one, we would make cookies.

I grew older and you became the bane of my life. I could only watch an hour of TV if I read for 30 minutes and I couldn't even watch Rugrats or SpongeBob like all the other kids. I had a "never-ending" chore list, and couldn't have dessert unless I finished dinner.

I wasn't allowed to stay out late or wear Abercrombie or makeup. You forced me to finish things I had started, like dance class and homework.

As I grew up, you became less lame – I realized these things were actually in my best interest. So, we still made cookies.

In high school, you started allowing me my independence, while simultaneously reminding me that I was dependent. I was the daughter that danced rebelliously on the boundary lines; you were the parents that put your foot down and kept your arms open.

During my first relationships, you supported me and taught more by example than lecturing (although you've always had a nice voice). Always going on date nights and working through arguments with mild manners helped you maintain a sincere interest in each other and your relationship. On weeknights, the garage door would sound; Dad would walk in yelling "Doogies!" and then ritualistically kiss his gal ... every time.

You balance each other out in harmonious hum: traditionalist vs. modernist, Ice Man vs. Wonder Woman, calm vs. electric, beer vs. wine. Sometimes, I would walk into the kitchen late at night and find you two slow dancing with all the lights off.

Because I am naturally bad with money, you were a reference for living frugally within your means. I learned to always be a producer before a consumer.

You also taught me how to lead an active lifestyle, again, by modeling; seriously, you guys could be models. I have both a hot mom and a "silver fox" dad, who jointly run about a marathon a week. And that healthy lifestyle extended into our spiritual lives – church every Sunday, hosting Bible study and reminding me the word was more than just a religious façade.

When I told you with possessive freedom and vigor that I was moving to California for my freshman year of college, you cried. But I insisted, not yet realizing you would both come to my rescue in my greatest time of need as an adult.

I watch the relationships of my "adult" friends and their parents take strange turns. Their parents seem to be either a source of suffering or shame; money banks or worrisome watchdogs; smothering or distant.

When I hear, "I have to call my mom, I told her I would do that days ago," I feel guilty, because we talk almost every other day. Not because we have to – because we want to. It's natural to talk about books, beer and the buffoons I hang with.

Over the years, I've realized you have become more than Mom and Dad to me. You've become my dearest comrades in life: Pam and Dave.

If I lined up all the moms and dads in the world — I'd choose you, every time.

I complain sometimes because I want to be a writer and you've given me nothing to write about. But just to prove myself wrong — you've given me lots to say.

I love you,

Your dance of Joy.

Julie Mrozinski is a junior in English. She can be reached at jmrozins@utk.edu.