The marriage must have been going well enough because three years later I was born, making the Barrino family five. Grandma Addie was a strong supporter of my parents, sometimes financially, but mostly helping when my mama didn't have enough food for her kids. Most importantly, Addie will go down in history as the woman who crowned me with the crazy name, Fantasia. My grandmother got the name from the Princess House line of fine crystal and gifts. The Fantasia line was supposed to be one of the fancier lines of the gifts. Perhaps my grandmother knew something that I didn't know about how I would turn out.
My parent's marriage was still going strong because nine years later, the Barrino family became six when my mother had my little brother, Xavier. When we kids were small, my mother worked several odd jobs trying to pay the family's seventy-dollar-a-month rent. She worked at hospitals, daycare centers, and sang for anyone in the church who would ask her to sing at their family weddings and funerals.
My father was a truck driver and was away a lot of the time, also tryin' to make ends meet. They struggled along to pay the utility bill, asking for help from whoever had it that month. Even though my father was not at home much, he had a presence in our house. I loved my father because he stayed. Most of the kids who lived around us didn't have daddies. The daddies had left, were in jail, or dead. My father seemed to have so much power in anything he did. I will never forget the sound of his boots walking down the hall in the morning. That sound always made me feel secure and that we were better off than the other kids because we had a daddy. I remember secretly watching him from the crack of the bathroom door, which he left open as he shaved. He was always wearing jeans and an undershirt. I thought my daddy was the most handsome man in the world, and I remember watching him worry about every wavy black hair, making sure they were perfect. My father always smelled good, and the strong smell of his aftershave would linger long after he had left the house. His smell just put fear and discipline into my heart and kept me on my best behavior until he came back. All he had to do to discipline me was to look at me. When he was coming home from off the road, we just all knew that the king had arrived.
High Point, North Carolina, is about an hour and a half north of Charlotte. We moved several times to Charlotte and Winston-Salem, neighboring cities that sometimes had better opportunities for my father. We always came back to High Point, though. High Point is actually a very small city with less than 100,000 residents. It is most famous for the furniture outlets where both rich and middle-class people come to buy furniture at wholesale prices. High Point's downtown area is sprinkled with furniture strip malls, and in between the small wood-frame and shingled houses throughout the city, there are churches with names that I will never forget, like Charity Baptist Church, Living Water Baptist Church, Church of Christ, and Galilean Missionary Church. Faith and furniture are the main resources in High Point, North Carolina.
People from High Point are not usually rich. It is a city of workin' folks, and the only money that comes into the city is the money from the bargain hunters looking for furniture. Most people in High Point don't have a lot to be proud of, but they do take pride in being from the furniture capital.