Home Town, Season Six: The Li House & the American Dream
In this week's episode, Erin and Ben were able to extend hospitality to a family that deserves all the hospitality in the world. Tiffany and Justin McElroy live in Laurel, Mississippi, with their two children, Henry and Claire. They moved from Olive Branch to work as professional optometrists in Laurel and have enjoyed their new hometown. The most challenging part was moving away from her parents and grandparents.
Tiffany Li McElroy is exceptionally close to her parents and grandparents and follows their resilient, hardworking example in her own work and family.
Tony, 36, and Monica, 28, decided to leave Hong Kong, China, to chase the American Dream in 1984. They left one of the world's most fashionable places to settle in the humble, rural city of Rosedale, Mississippi.
Tiffany says, "They were searching for the American dream, and it was so important to them that they had to give up to have it. In Hong Kong, my mom worked as a banker, and my dad worked as an engineer. They both spoke English, but it wasn't strong. They couldn't go into a completely new country with their old jobs, so they knew the best thing was to start their own business. That's why they bought a small grocery store in Rosedale, Mississippi."
The grocery store would become more successful under their ownership and management over the next few years. Still, Tony and Monica were far more concerned that their children be afforded every opportunity possible.
Tiffany says, "My parents always talked about the American dream because they knew how other countries were. They would tell us we're so lucky to be born in America. They worked hard for that freedom and to find success in America. My parents' dream wasn't to strike it rich. All of this heartache and hardship of moving to a new country was for the next generation to be better. I would not be where I am today without their sacrifice."
The Li Family at Monica's Naturalization, the Oath of Citizenship Ceremony.
For Tiffany, Justin, and their family, moving from Clarksdale to Laurel was an emotional transition. Still, she found solace and encouragement in her parents' move across the world in the hard times.
Tiffany says, "I was terrified to move because I had one child. What courage my parents had when to move across the world with just a hope and a dream and very little financial stability."
In the past few years, Monica and Tony retired and took to caring for their parents and Tiffany's grandparents. They decided to move to Laurel to have more family around to care for them as a unit, and the McElroys were excited to be closer to them once again.
With the Napier's help, Tiffany and Justin wanted a space designed for their parents' every need. After a lifetime of sacrificing all of their time and home to raise their children, their new home would provide a respite and intentionally personal living spaces.
"My parents always provided shelter. We always had food, and we always had a home. Our homes weren't always nice, but it was always practical. My parents always gave my siblings and me nice rooms and a nice bathroom. My parents always said We work all day! We don't need a nice room, a nice bathroom. We'll take whatever's left; we don't care. That's why I want this house to be a place that they enjoy fully."
Tiffany's mother, Monica, found the hydrangea pottery to be an emotional surprise, as it evoked profound memories of her mother's passing years ago. Small details honor their familial traditions and Chinese culture that revolves around family throughout the home.
"Chinese culture is about caring for the generation before you. In other cultures, it's more like the third or fourth generation, but in Asian cultures, the kids come back and help the parents. My grandma lived with her husband's mother and took care of her before her death, and now my dad and mom are taking care of my grandma."
The Li family's hard work has paid off to watch their children thrive and be successful in their fields. It's simply a delight to help raise their grandchildren as well.
Though their home is beautiful and their lives together will be much of a reward, their children's success is the greatest reward for their hard work all these years. Recently, Tiffany was named the "Young Optometrist of the South," and her parents were emotional about the award.
Tiffany says, "When my dad convinced my mom to move from Hong Kong to the delta, my mom had a hard time. She was super successful and fashionable in the 80s. She was a city girl, and then her husband told her you're moving to Rosedale, Mississippi. He just told her to trust him; it would be worth it one day. She waited for that day for years, and she said it was all worth it when I brought home that award. All the tears, all the pain led to this. It was all worth it because of this."
We're so excited for the Li and McElroy family to enjoy their new space and be together again. Welcome home!
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