Mama said the reason she tossed Daddy to the curb was because he’d been living in a Georgia prison for getting lassoed into a counterfeiting scheme. I must’ve given her a puzzled look because she said, “Jail. He’s been in jail.” I knew what prison and jail were from cartoons. Men wore striped clothes and stood behind locked, iron bars. It was the word “counterfeiting” that had confused me. Unlike my mother’s boyfriend Roger, Daddy was soft-spoken. He always smiled, told stories, sang songs, recited poetry. He’d never throw a fit over a counter, though he’d once left me on one in a bank and had to drive back to get me.
What did make sense was my mother’s explanation of why she had to take a second job to put food on the table and shoes on our feet. She was a secretary for a doctor during the day and worked at The Circle Inn at night. Roger couldn’t help with the bills because he had his own family to support. And he had suffered a terrible tragedy when a car struck and killed his youngest son on a motor scooter while delivering newspapers early one morning.
Summer passed with no sign of Daddy. Mama couldn’t stay home with me during the day, so she used the doctor’s typewriter to change the date on my birth certificate to enroll me in first grade at Wilson Elementary in McAllen, Texas. She had socked me in kindergarten early too, but they didn’t require an ID. “You turn six years old twenty-eight days after the first of September deadline,” she explained. “So if anyone asks, you were born in 1954 not 1955.”
School terrified me with its nuclear bomb and fire drills. My teacher seemed nice enough, and I liked the colorful alphabet train that surrounded the huge blackboard. But my classmates called me Baby and Freckle Face, so I spent recess trailing my big sister Jeanne’s every move and grasping the hem of her poodle skirt.
Spring brought Easter and a dyed-blue chick that grew into a red rooster and attacked everyone but me. So I had to lug the trash into the backyard because no one else could step foot on the path to the garbage bin. Mama hated that rooster, but I loved him. So she gave me scraps to feed Red since she couldn’t stand to see man, beast, or fowl go hungry. Janie had to jump rope and teach cartwheels and backbends to me in the front yard while Jeanne lounged inside with her nose in a magazine.
One evening Roger visited my mother, and before their nap he said oilfield jobs were plentiful in a place called Louisiana. He then announced that he and Mama would marry after he divorced his ball and chain. My mother never cried or gave hugs but did both the next day when she shared the news with her best friend, Billie Burnside.
When the school year ended, Mama and Roger packed and toted a U-Haul behind a Chevy and puffed Phillip Morris and Raleighs to our new home in Lafayette, Louisiana, with my sisters and me, a puppy, and an orange tomcat in the back seat. We had to leave Red with Izzybel, a kind Mexican woman who fried melt-in-your-mouth tortillas when she’d come over to babysit and clean. My only wishes when we crossed the border were that my beloved rooster wouldn’t end up like the crazy, headless hen I’d once seen running circles in Izzy’s backyard.
And that Daddy would be able to find me.
I love the deep child POV here and the evocative details – I can feel this world. Great work, Darrelyn.
Thank you so much, Richard. So glad you enjoyed.
Darrelyn, you are truly one of the most evocative writers I’ve ever read. I am so proud to have grown up with you and to still know you, girlfriend!
Thank you, Sally. That means the world to me. We had some great fun at your parents’ house. They always made me feel welcome. And we were not always behaving. Love you, too, girlfriend.
Congratulations. It’s a wonderful piece.
Thank you, Jayne. I’m so glad you enjoyed.
Powerful. Brimming with heart. Gorgeously written. Damn…
Thanks, Dave. 🙂
Wow. This is a fantastic piece, Darrelyn! I loved it!
Thank you, Cathy. I’m so glad you enjoyed.
Oh my gosh, I LOVE this, Darrelyn!
Thanks, Cynthia. I’m so glad you enjoyed.
Loved this: counterfeit, Red, and Daddy. So glad you are heading in the direction of memoir. What powerful stories you will tell with just the right touch of yearning. Great child voice. I was absolutely there with you.
Thank you so much, Shirley. High time I join you and Richard on the shelf. Hope things are going weil with your book. When things slow down (after my middle son’s wedding later this month), we need to catch up.
That will be great. All best with the wedding!
I love this! It was like a movie in my mind. Complete visualization of the moment! I want more!! 🙂
Thank you, Krista. That’s so nice to hear.
OK, you win. You’re childhood was officially crazier than mine. Maybe it’s a requirement that all writers seem to have had dysfunctional families. Glad you’re back at the keyboard again. Missed you.
Hey Barbara, Yep, my childhood was crazy but so full of great characters. There were times when I’d wish for normal. But then I grew up and realized there’s no such thing. 🙂 I’ve missed you, too.
Beautifully written, Mrs. Darrelyn. Thank you for sharing your story.
My pleasure, Charlotte. Thank you for reading.
Poignant, tender and funny. I love the way it’s written with the simplicity of a child’s world view. Well done Darrelyn.
Thanks for stopping by, Sally. So glad you enjoyed.
Very nice, Darrelyn. I enjoyed reading this. You’ve expressed so much with so much heart in so few words, it leaves the reader with a compulsion for more.
Thanks, Cyd. I’m glad to hear it because I’m writing more.
What a brilliant piece of creative nonfiction. I hope your Daddy found you, Darrelyn. And we will get to read about your reunion.
Thanks, Jenny. That’s so kind of you to say.
Fantastic. I was hooked immediately by the humor delivered through your childhood point of view. Difficult and impressive work.
It’s been quite a journey to discover that little girl’s words. Now she won’t stop talking. Please know we are both thrilled you enjoyed. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
Sweet short! I love reading from your perspective as a little girl.