but never had the benefits as his child. I never once ate a meal, received a good night kiss, awoke to him being ‘home’ with me in the morning, or even shared a bathroom under the same roof. I can count the items my father personally bought me on one hand and still have one digit left. One blue bicycle with training wheels, a wooden skateboard with an inlay of red writing, a brown coat and matching pair of shoes. The bike and skateboard were for my birthday, the coat and shoes for school.

I remember standing in line when he purchased the latter items and having this terrible sense of embarrassment. Although not understanding why  I felt this,  I called, ‘Daddy, Daddy’, to tell him he didn’t have to buy them. I did not feel right, his spending money on me. Unable to get his attention with my soft child voice, the items laid on the counter and were soon in the Magic Mart sack.

When he took me to Sears and Roebuck for my bike and skateboard there was no shame or guilt, as I was younger say, six or seven. The purchase of the coat and shoes, I was probably eight or nine.

There were no family pictures, no holidays, no weekend excursions with my father. An occasional drive to the local dairy bar for a chilidog, malt, and dip cone was usually it. I do remember one time me, my brother, mother, and father going to an eat- in hamburger place. It was the only time all four of us were together out in public. I still hold that in my mind to this day. I was so overjoyed I didn’t know  what to do.

He was a distant figure who showed up at various times and would stare down at me through the screen door with a smile and a low voice. The last time I saw my father was when I was in high school. He came by and I showed him the console stereo my youngest aunt had bought me for my high school graduation. I remember we talked a bit, maybe about after high school…I don’t really remember the exact conversation. I do seem to recall him telling me something I had heard him say when I was younger, “Always remember that you are just as good as anybody else.” I didn’t fully realize what impact those words held coming from him at the time. I now do.

My next contact with my father was seeing his name in the obituary section of the local paper. I know he thought about me, because three or four months before he died he was strong on my mind. At age twenty-six I hadn’t thought to look up an out of town telephone number.

Even in death, my name was nowhere mentioned as being his daughter.

My father was gone. I never really knew him, yet I had worn his name. I have a few memories, I carry his blood, and I had none of the benefits of being his child.

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This was what we always called it. The formal name of Byrd Manufacturing very seldom crossed our lips. Twenty-six miles one way from our house, my mother made her way to the plant in “Twinkle Town” for around two or three years. She didn’t drive, so she carpooled and in that fifty-two mile round trip she made our living.

Although a manufacturer of men’s shirts, I remember her also talking about ladies blouses, pajamas, and short sets. The beehive of mostly women workers earned their paychecks to live their daily lives in whatever custom their lot in life afforded them. Mama had worked there before and when she and her younger sister went to apply, the people already knew them. My mother was over the age they were looking for, but she looked years younger. The hiring manager was a man and he actually told her this. He put her back to work.

She didn’t sew, but inspected garments for package readiness. She learned to break a collar, and look for sewing flaws like extra buttonholes, or if the garment didn’t hang correctly. This was knowledge she stored away and brought out with every future clothing purchase. Once, she was tying blouse bows and her supervisor brought over one of the big bosses from up North. Mama thought she was in trouble, but they wanted to see how she made her bows. They gave her a blouse and she flipped it around opposite from how she received it, thereby solving the mystery of how she was able to tie such a pretty bow. Afterwards, it was standard procedure. Such a simple concept and Mama had managed to grasp what no one else had.

She would talk about how at lunch she would take her Dr. Pepper and pour  a package of peanuts into the bottle. How the supervisors would make a lot of the women cry and that some of their nerves were shot. Her own words were something in the neighborhood of, “They’ll never make me/ see me shed a tear.” and to my knowledge, she never did.

Her hands began to take offense at the fabric dyes. They would crack and bleed and she would put ointment on them prescribed by the doctor. I remember sitting in her lap scratching the parched skin in her palms with my tiny fingers and she would say how good it felt. Years later when I was grown, we talked about her days there. She said my Nanny (her mother) told her, “You said you would work for them until your hands bled and now you have.” She did exactly that. She loved us and bled for us at the Shirt Factory.