Shared Stories: Oops, It's a Girl

Barbara Sparks was an only child who was very much loved by her parents. Her father was the best father he could be, sharing all of his talents and enjoyments with Barbara even though she was not a son. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Barbara Sparks

My father was raised without a father. When you have no model to follow, you invent the ideal father and you play the role. Even though I was a daughter and not a son, he taught me all of the skills that he knew.

First he decided that a father had to be hard working, and he was. After World War II he came to Los Angeles to give his little family a better life than they would have had in Oklahoma.  There were many opportunities in Los Angeles.

Initially he worked as a longshoreman as he looked for a more secure job. He found a position with the U.S. Rubber Plant making tires. He held this job until the plant closed down, and then he retired at that time.

During the time that he work there, he had such pride in his work and did such a great job that he moved to higher paying positions in the plant and he earned a pin for his great service to the company. He gave the pin to me, and I still have it.

He took pride in showing me off at the company Christmas parties. I have wonderful memories of this annual event. There was not only great food, but there was also a toy for each child.  
My father believed that fathers needed to shower their children with gifts during Christmas and on their birthdays. There were always several gifts for both me and my mother’s younger sister, who he was raising. He had exquisite taste in clothing and purchased only the most stylish items. When I went off to college he bought me my first car.

Playing cards and dominoes was fun for my father, so I was taught to play cards and dominoes as well. This was okay, but I can’t say the same thing about hunting and fishing. My father was an avid fisherman who subsidized his income by selling fish.  So I was taught to fish and hunt as well. Sometimes I think he forgot that I was a dainty little girl.

My father believed that fathers should take their children places – like wrestling and boxing matches, football games, and baseball games. I guess this was a good thing because I did play football with my cousins. Most of my cousins were boys, and that was what we played whenever they came to my house.

My father shared his cooking with me too. He did strange things, like covering the pan with cornmeal before putting in the cornbread batter, and forgetting the beans in the pressure cooker until there was a loud explosion causing beans to land on the ceiling and floor.

My father believed that fathers should take their children on trips during the summer. He took me to Oklahoma, Mexico, and every year we went to the Colorado River to fish. He drove so fast that I often thought we would not reach our destination in one piece. I decided that sleeping on the journey was a good thing to do since I didn’t want to see when we had an accident, or when the car landed at the bottom of a mountain as we drove around the sharp curves.

Even today, I go to sleep as soon as I get on an airplane so I won’t see any accident that might occur on our flight. Another thing about my trips with my father was that we never stopped to visit sites along the way or stopped to eat or even go to the restroom.

I know that my father tried really hard to be a good father. He was the best father he knew how to be. I appreciate all that he did for me.