Dedication to family and the desire to be together summarize the relationship between a Lebanon mother and her daughter that has conquered the highs and lows of life together without forgetting what means the most to them.
Denise Brewington and her daughter, Tori, are the owners of The Butter Churn Antiques and Collectibles located on the Lebanon Square. They said their current roles with the store were shaped by several different components of their relationship.
The pair became the primary operators of the store, while maintaining other full-time jobs, after Denise’s husband of more than 30 years, Johnny, died in 2019.
“This was his dream. My whole life this was always his niche. This is always what he wanted to do and he finally got it and it’s become something awesome. I just feel like we’re keeping his legacy going by keeping it going,” Tori said. “I love this. I love doing it. It just reminds me of my daddy and I feel close to my daddy here.”
“My plans when I got to retire was us doing it together, so I plan on doing it whenever I retire,” Denise said. “Then, I can do it full-time and she can do it part-time with me.”
Togetherness has characterized their relationship for as long as Tori Brewington can remember, she said.
“Everything in my life that I ever had (Denise) was always there,” she said, pointing to middle school when she participated in band, choir, drama, volleyball, basketball, softball and cheerleading. “Her loyalty to her family is beyond this world. She puts us above everything and always has.”
Denise said she’s always enjoyed spending time with Tori and her older sister, Brittney, who was also involved in travel team sports growing up. She said the family often takes trips and never leave a person out the plans, no matter how long or short the trip is.
“Every trip it was all of us,” Tori said.
The car trips typically featured the family singing songs from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and listening to Bill Engvall and Jeff Foxworthy comedy albums.
“We just had fun and laughed. We just enjoyed family time,” Denise said, who said the couple attempted to take a kid-free vacation to Gatlinburg when Brittney was 2, but returned two days later to pick her up and finish the trip with her.
Tori said her mother’s family love extended to people who were not related to her.
“Our house was always a safe zone for everybody. There was never any drugs or alcohol, no arguing or cussing. It still today for everyone around. It’s always been a safe zone and I feel like that’s ingrained in me to spread that safe zone to everyone,” she said. “We don’t look down upon anyone for the choices they’ve made. We just love them where they’re at.”
“I have so many kids that are not my kids,” Denise said.
Today, Denise shares her home with Tori and Brittney, as well as Brittney’s husband and their two daughters.
“God set it up the way it needed to be — both my girls are with me. Now I have a son-in-law that takes care of the manly stuff that needs done, and they’re just all there,” said Denise, who said the loss of her husband in 2019 made the current arrangement more welcoming.
Denise said her daughter has natural maternal instincts, which shows as she takes on the boss role of the two when it comes to managing the store.
“I used to think she was a little brat but I learned she’s really like a soft-hearted brat. She has a very kind heart for people,” she said. “She’s soft-hearted and sweet and everything else, but she’s also very competitive. So, if you played sports against her, you didn’t think she was soft-hearted and kind because she’d knock her best friend down on the basketball court if she had to.”
The duo said Mother’s Day isn’t overlooked in the family, but it doesn’t typically venture away from their usual Sundays, which are reserved for family.
“Every Sunday is Mama’s Day,” Tori said.
Denise said she became a part of the tradition as a young girl when her mother would always take the family to spend time with her grandmother on Sundays. She said the tradition continued through her mother until her death and now has shifted to her household.
“Everybody was at Mama’s every Sunday. She’d always have something cooked, and when she got a little older, we’d pick up stuff, but we always went and ate dinner after church at Mama’s. My grandmother was that way when I was little. It just what you did — every Sunday was family day,” she said.
“So now, every Sunday is with her,” Tori said.
Denise said the only gift she wants for Mother’s Day is time together with her family.
“I don’t want anything. I don’t feel the need for them to get me something. They normally get me something, but I just want them there. I don’t care if they ever bring anything,” she said.