After all this time, this one thing of my father’s is still my naked obsession. Only now, it belongs to me.
If you’re offended by naked photos, go ahead and click elsewhere now.
You were warned.
For much of the time I was small, my father smoked. I think it was a carry-over from his days in the Army, where almost every photo of him contained a cigarette stuck somewhere. I ogled photos of my young, fit father as a little girl, asking my mom why he had all these cigarettes everywhere. “He was just posing with them,” she replied. “It’s fake.”
By the time I came along, he smoked pipes and cigars but had given up cigarettes entirely. I still walk into tobacco shops sometimes just to relive sticking my whole face in his stash of pipe tobacco and inhaling as deeply as my little lungs could. I adored the smell of his smoking supplies – before he lit them.
He had several pipes, but my favorite was the Naked Lady Pipe. He inherited it from his great uncle, Thomas Jefferson DeFriese, who had it hand carved especially for his smoking (and other) pleasure. Mostly, my dad left the Naked Lady Pipe mounted on the wall as a conversation piece when people came over. He would laugh his distinctive brand of mirthful emission, and he would watch people, inevitably from church, squirm and yet try to act blandly polite as he rhapsodized about the origins of the pipe. To this day, I think it was a way for him to reconnect, fleetingly, with who he had been when he was young and carefree.
My favorite memory, though, is of him actually smoking the thing. I don’t remember who dared him to do it, but he couldn’t resist the challenge. He took Naked Lady down off the wall, removed her from her moorings, loaded her to the brim and lit up. He was laughing so hard he almost choked on the smoke, like pulling from the Naked Lady had to be one of the most filthy things he’d ever done. I’ve seen my father laugh a lot in my life, but I will never forget the glee I witnessed on his face that day.
That was the sole reason I had to possess the Naked Lady. Dad’s fumblings with her when I was pre-kindergarten are part of him, something I will be able to conjure every time I glimpse her displayed prominently in my own home. He gave her to me this weekend. Yes, I am obsessed with mounting her somewhere in the house and continuing the tradition of telling her story to victims, I mean guests, who come to call. I hope, in some twisted way, he sees my behavior as an honor to him.
I love you, Dad.