The Parker-Strong Family Vine

How I Met ‘Ya Daddy’ — A Love Story in Honor of Jodie and Johnnie and Our Heritage

Whenever I went home to visit, there was nothing I enjoyed more than sitting at the kitchen table and listening to Mama tell stories of her past life. She knew that I enjoyed hearing them no matter how often she told them! There were scary snake stories, the first Thanksgiving and Christmas poems that she learned in school stories and working-in -the-field stories. I would ask her a question just to get her started. One morning last summer after she finished her breakfast I asked, “Mama, how did you meet Daddy?” The beautiful smile of a young lady in love came over her face, as she began:

“Ya Daddy’ was a sporty man. Lots of girls liked him because he was sporty.

That means he dressed nice and worked hard and he kept a car. It was unusual for a young colored man in them days to have a car. The church was the center of our lives and the community. Each little settlement had its own church and its own school that had been built by the community. We started out at Rising Star Settlement and went to Rising Star Church and School. When we moved, we started going to Shiloh Church. This must’a been around 1925 or so.”

“I didn’t know it, but ‘Ya Daddy’ used to notice me at Shiloh Church where we went to Sunday School, revival meetings, funerals, baptisings and Sunday meetings. One of my best ‘mates’ at the time was Ruth Parker. One day we were sitting in Church and this boy kept looking back and grinning at us. I said, “Ruth, who is that boy that keeps on grinning at you.” Ruth started laughing and said, “He’s not grinning at me, he’s grinning at you. That’s my brother and he likes you.” I didn’t pay him no mind.”

“Anyway, one Sunday me and some of my mates and my sisters were walking from Real Town Church where we used to go sometime. This car pulled up beside us and the driver asked me if I wanted to ride. It was ‘Ya Daddy’. I told him “no”! I really wanted to ride, but I didn’t want him to know. He was angry so he put his foot on the gas pedal and sped off real fast, making the car kick up dust. He drove up to the next group of girls and they got in.”

With a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes, Mama looked me straight in my eyes, and said, “You better believe the next time he asked me if I wanted to ride, me and my sisters got into the car.” She laughed so hard that her small frail body shook with glee. My heart filled with happiness imagining the site of this beautiful young girl and this sporty young man falling in love on a warm summer Sunday. She finished the story by saying proudly, “And ‘Ya Daddy’ and I kept on riding together for over 50 years. ‘Ya Daddy’ was sweet to me and I was sweet to him. We loved each other and tried to make a good home for you children.”

We all witnessed this love. Before I left home and even when I would go home to visit, I would wake up very early in the morning (usually around 5:30) and hear Mama and Daddy talking while still in bed, making decisions together about the farm, their children or whatever the major issue was for the day. I will always believe that those early dawn “together talk times” (along with the grace of God) provided the glue that kept them strongly united in love during the poverty, the racism and the challenges that came with raising their children and grandchildren.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, let all of us, especially the young people of our family, remember this beautiful love story of compassion, kindness, and commitment. Let us thank God that we do not have to go searching for role models on
how to be a good husband, wife, mother or father. We knew two people who loved each other and who built a solid foundation for a family. And they loved each of us in spite of and because of our differences. They always had a loving, funny story to tell about each of us. For instance, when Daddy met Greg, her told him, “You have a good one. She is so smart, but she ‘sho’ is slow!

Mama and Daddy were not perfect. I am sure like all of us who are parents and husbands and wives, they made their mistakes. The wonderful thing is that they taught us the basics–

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you Love and take care of each other, forgive when necessary Use your talents to help others in the community Remember that education is important

Keep yourself clean, physically and spiritually
Be careful about the friends that you choose

Set a good example for the young people
Keep God at the center of your lives

Own something; a business, a home, a nonprofit and
Honor your father and your mother

Mama and Daddy would be proud of all of us. We love and support each other. We are good citizens in our communities. Nearly all of their children owned businesses in the areas of cosmetics, rental properties, built churches, community missionary outreach, a trucking business, and grocery stores. While Daddy only went to the 3rd grade before having to drop out to help with the farm and Mama only went to the 6th grade because there was no high school nearby, most of their descendants have graduated from high school, and many of us have gone to college and graduated with bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. This web site is dedicated to Mama and Daddy who gave us such a wonderful start in life, despite their meager financial circumstances.