Daddy's clothes

I was in high school when I first started raiding my father’s closet.

It was the 1970s and, thanks to “Annie Hall,” dressing up in men’s clothing was all the rage.

I found my daddy’s clip-on bow ties from the 1950s and wore them proudly — usually paired with his patterned suspenders.

Hey, don’t judge. It was the 1970s. We were all walking fashion mistakes.

I also confiscated his old olive green Army jacket.

My daddy was a pharmacist and had dozens of white coats. I used one of them as a painting smock in art class.

And then my daddy died five months before I graduated high school, and I put away his clothes for a long time.

Until one day I had kids of my own.

In second grade, my son had to dress as first-class passenger for the school’s annual “Titanic” history luncheon. I dug out my daddy’s black bow tie for him to wear.

That inspired me to dig out my daddy’s old felt fedora for Halloween. I stuck my old high school “PRESS” card in the hatband and went trick-or-treating as a journalist.

My daddy was a Shriner, and I have his sparkly ceremonial fez in a box somewhere. I’m waiting for the right occasion to break that one out.

When going through old boxes one year, I was shocked to discover an elegantly pressed tuxedo shirt that belonged to my father. I have seen photos of him and my mother, before I was born, dressed to the nines, gathered at a restaurant in a circle of friends.

But when I think of my daddy, he’s wearing coveralls and a straw fedora. And he’s got a hammer in his hand. And he’s teaching me how to drive a nail.

I still have my daddy’s jewelry box, too. It contains a couple of pocket knives, tie clasps, lapel pins and a navigational pocket watch that my daddy acquired during World War II, when he served with the U.S. Army Air Corps in Europe.

For our wedding, my husband wore my daddy’s ruby red studs and cufflinks.

For his first prom, my son wore my daddy’s ivory cufflinks.

For years, I kept two of my daddy’s shirts in my closet.

One was a plaid wool shirt in muted forest colors. I didn’t wear it often, because wool makes me itch.

My daughter claimed it when she was in high school.

The other shirt is a uniform shirt from my daddy’s days as a volunteer fireman. Embroidered over the front pocket is “Kestler.”

My daddy was Leland Pearson Kestler. He signed his name “L.P. Kestler.” From high school through World War II, his nickname was “Red.” By the time I was born, everybody just called him “Kes.” Only his mother was allowed to call him “Leland.”

Not too long ago, I tried on that shirt for the first time in a long time. I couldn’t even get the buttons to button. I checked the tag. It was a men’s medium.

“Wait a minute,” I wondered. “Was my daddy a small man?”

He never looked small from where I was standing.

Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or ldavis@annistonstar.com.

Features Editor Lisa Davis: 256-235-3555.

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