Excerpt from the book “They Call Me Orange Juice” by Audrey McDonald Atkins
I am Daddy’s little girl. The firstborn. The only daughter.
While everyone says I look like Mama, I am infinitely more like Daddy in temperament and personality. Daddy and I are people people. We like to talk to strangers. We like to joke. We have both been known to dance spontaneously if the right song comes on.
But what I am not is the bat-your-eyes-Daddy-buy-me-a-mink-and-a-Mercedes type of Daddy’s little girl. Not hardly.
Daddy would not stand for that.
You see, Daddy didn’t buy me everything I wanted. He instilled in me the value of hard work. From mowing the lawn (all gazillion acres of it with a push mower) to scrubbing toilets, no job was too menial, no task too common for his darling daughter. Daddy made sure I understood that everyone has to pitch in, no matter how laborious the task, no matter how dull, and no matter whether you just polished your nails because, as the poet John Donne would say, I was “a part of the main” and that requires pulling your own weight. As well it should have been.
And Daddy didn’t let me slide through school on my good looks and charm. He made sure I learned. From the first books he read to me, trailing the sentences with his finger so I could follow along, through declining nouns and conjugating verbs on past algebra and chemistry until the day I graduated from college, Daddy always recognized my potential, even when I doubted it. Daddy made sure I understood the value of an education, even when I was ready to quit. Daddy always encouraged me, even when I failed.
And Daddy didn’t come to my rescue every time I tried to play damsel in distress. Daddy taught me how to change my own tires, how to balance my own checkbook, how to shoot a gun. I learned how to be self-sufficient, to rely on me and only me. I learned that some hurts are too big for Daddy to make better with a Band-Aid and some Mercurochrome, no matter how much he might want to. Daddy does, however, kill roaches and snakes, because that’s what daddies do — just so you don’t have to, even though you could.
And Daddy was adamant about good manners. Good posture. Elbows off the table. No talking with your mouth full. Speak when spoken to. Be respectful. Why? Well, first and foremost so Brother and I didn’t act like we were raised by wolves. But also because “good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” Clarence Thomas gets credit for that quote, but Daddy drove it home, every day.
If Daddy had cooperated with my grand life plan, by all accounts I should be driving the coastal highway through Orange Beach in a red Mercedes convertible, with perfectly manicured nails and coiffed locks, on my way to ride my thoroughbred onto a yacht while eating caviar from a silver spoon. But I am not, thank goodness.
I am far richer than that girl. I have been given gifts that will never lose their sparkle, will never wither and fade – invaluable, intangible gifts. That is why I proudly call myself my daddy’s little girl.
Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog folkwaysnowadays.com.