Not that we are grown, we all know how influential our parents are to our lives and success — the good and the bad! As a child, my father influenced my life. He was the first to criticize and punish me when I misbehaved — and there were many times I misbehaved. I was a bit ‘too independent for my own britches…’ I asked too many questions. I danced to my own music, and wanted to do things, “My Way!”
I suppose you get the picture. Whenever my grandfather said that women belonged in the home, and I might as well give up on my dreams to sing, because I would grow up to marry a mill kid, since I lived in a mill village and that was what all the girls in Bibb City did. My reply, “I think not…I’ll never marry a mill kid!”
Heck – I would not date a mill kid, or a high school boy! Living in a mill village I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I would break away from Bibb City. And I did. Yes, I was a feminist as a child!
But — this isn’t a story about breaking away from Bibb City, or my life as a feminist. Today is a reflection on Father’s Day and how my dad guided my way. I was eight-years-old when I recall writing my first story. A teacher assigned the students to write a story about science fiction. Since we were studying the planets, I chose to write about Saturn. The title was “My Visit to Saturn.”
Never did I realize I had a talent for writing until my dad went to the PTA meeting. The science teacher approached my dad about my story, telling my Dad I made an A+. “No big deal,” I said…”I always make an A.”
Months later, I came home from school. My dad greeted me at the door, carrying a magazine. “Barbara,” he said, his voice stern, his eyes bright. “Look at this magazine. Your story is in it! At the age of eight-years-old, you are a published writer!”
I glanced at the magazine, saw my story, and tossed the magazine on the couch, cluttered with laundry for me to fold. Till this day, I do not recall what magazine published the story. I was a child…it didn’t matter to me that I was a published writer at such a young age. I had bigger dreams. I wanted to sing on stage!
Years later, when my dad was frail and wasting away from his battle with esophageal cancer, his eyes opened as I sat next to his bed in the nursing home. “Barbara,” he said, his once boisterous voice barely a whisper. “Do you remember your first published story – “My Visit to Saturn?”
I laughed. “Oh Dad, that was such a long time ago.”
“Yes, it was. Do you remember it? I still have it.”
“Yes…that was such a stupid story!”
Dad smiled. I touched his freezing cold hand. My mind was elsewhere, as Father Time slowly ticked away for my precious father.
A few days later, my dad died. Losing him felt as if someone had pulled my heart out of my body. How could I live? How could I breathe? How could I enjoy the sunset, and the robins without my dad?
Somehow my life continued. In September, 1999, I decided it was time to sort through my dad’s belongings. The many scrapbooks. Diaries. Picture books. Sorting through the many pages, I opened a section that appeared to be a bit thicker than the other booklets.
Folded in half was a stack of notebook paper. I opened it, noticing the handwriting of a child. “My Visit to Saturn,” I read. Oh my goodness. This is my story. My handwritten story. How did Dad get this? Why did he save it? Oh my goodness. Tears streamed down my face as I read the story, Dad had treasured it. He saved it — all these years later, and I had the first story I had written, all to the credit of my father.
I still have that story. Friends have said I should preserve it, maybe frame it. My first story – published!
All of this is to the credit of my father – Walter Perkins. He believed in me when no one else did, and throughout his life, he still believed in me. Happy Father’s Day to a man who lead me down the path to become a writer.
Happy Father’s Day in Heaven, Dad — thank you for saving and preserving my first published story, “My Visit to Saturn!”
“Stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit…
It’s when things seem worse — you mustn’t quit!”