My great-grandpa, Papa, was my hero. I used to sit at the kitchen table with him, listening to his stories about being a Navy Frogman in WWII, and think, “this is what a hero looks like.” It wasn’t just his time as a Frogman, which entailed dismantling and clearing underwater mines in a time of war, it was his rescue of me and my sisters. My father was in jail and my mom’s live-in boyfriend was abusing us — unbeknownst to our family — while mom was working.
I hated most men, despised them and wished them extinct or disposed of. Yet here I had this amazing man in my life (in addition to my grandpas), with a warm smile and deep, comforting voice who could make me forget about everything, if only for my weekend visit. Every visit, he would take us to the candy store and let us get whatever we wanted – and since we always stole his Wintergreen Tic-Tacs, he would throw a pack of those in, too. We played cards while listening to Patsy Cline and Nat King Cole, and when we played hide and seek, I always hid in his closet and he always pretended not to know where I was. We played outside during the day, doing somersaults and picking citrus from the trees, or sitting on the dock and watching manatee swim by. When I forgot my beloved stuffed panda (Snowball), he made the near hour long drive, just to bring her to me.
Some of my fondest memories are of our time at Moe and Papa’s house on the water, in Fort Lauderdale. It was the house that Papa designed and built himself, and I knew every inch of it. I’ve always said that if I ever come into a lot of money, that will be the first purchase I make. I’d knock on the owner’s door and write them a check for whatever amount they required.
The prompting for this collection of memories, oddly enough, came in the form of a coat. While in a thrift store in Florida, I spotted this vintage, red velvet coat. The moment I picked it up, I thought of Papa and felt my face get hot and my eyes well up. Papa’s room was decorated in deep reds, with velvet details here and there and silver knights on the wall. It wasn’t the sight of, however, that brought me back; it was the scent – that faint but recognizable scent of stiff velvet, that only gets stronger with age. I was afraid to wash it, for fear that the scent would go away and my memories with it. I let it sit, untouched, for a couple of weeks and finally relented, the day before my trip back home. Luckily, the scent is still there, only fainter and less musty. Whenever I wear it, I will think of Papa and how he saved my little heart, countless times.
vintage velvet coat – thrifted
belt and hat – from my mom
buffalo plaid button down (underneath) – thrifted and reconstructed
grey deep v (underneath) – american apparel
jeans – 4 Stroke
shoes – payless
bag – nine west
Taken later in the day, with makeup. Concealer, L’Oreal Beauty Tubes mascara, MAC paint in bare canvas (to keep liner from creasing), MAC fluidline in blitz and glitz, blush and Estee Lauder lipstick in Fig.