I used to get excited by the alligator on the left side of my father’s jacket when I was a girl. We lived in the country—in Lehighton, Pennsylvania—and there weren’t too many alligators out there. As a country girl, I knew little about fashion and upscale designers. I had no idea that this alligator was just a symbol for a brand. If someone had said the word Lacoste to me, I think it would have sounded like Chinese.
But there was a lot I didn’t know back then. I didn’t know that my father would have a fatal heart attack before I turned 4 years old. I didn’t know that I would grow up without the smell of red spaghetti sauce constantly emanating from my father. I didn’t know that we would have to sell the beautiful Old Victorian home that my father had wanted to make into a perfect bed and breakfast. All I knew was that the little green alligator on my father’s beige jacket made me happy for some reason.
I’ve never worn this jacket and it no longer smells like my dad or like red spaghetti sauce, if it ever did. But I’ve kept the jacket in my possession, storing it in my basement, using it to help stitch together pieces of my father’s life. Now I know what Lacoste is but I don’t think the brand represents who my father was. My dad was born in Ukraine and in the 70s he was a typical bearded, glasses-clad transplant from abroad, living the American hippie life. I remember him in striped shirts and bright colors. But the jacket is one of the only things I have of his—so I keep it safe and maybe soon I will even wear it out to dinner.
This story was written for Emily Spivack’s workshop at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia on May 6th, 2015.