I am feeling rather old-world these days. Not OLD, mind you, but old world. My twenty-seven-month-old grandson Felix has taken to calling me ‘Papa.’ He calls his other grandpa ‘Papa’ as well, though he does differentiate between the two of us by referring to my wife and I as “Papa and Gigi’ – Gigi being the sobriquet that she has gone by since Felix was just a little guy.
I don’t mind the moniker; it just is not one I ever envisioned for myself.
‘Papa’ seems very old-world, European to me – which, considering my ancestral mix of Russian Jews and Norwegians, makes sense. Felix is, apparently, an old soul.
This Papa thing came about purely by accident, after I had posted the picture of myself (left) on Facebook, following a full day of New Orleans Mardi Gras parade festivities. My daughter got the notification, showed Felix the picture, then posted his response: ‘To which Felix exclaimed…”Its PAPA!…..and HAT!!!”
The first time I had heard/seen the ‘Papa’ designation from him.
I don’t – or at least, I didn’t – see myself as a ‘Papa.’ Grandpa is great; Gramps would be fine, as that’s what my I called mine – the only grandfather I ever knew, my mother’s father. Granddad was always a possibility as well. But ‘Papa’ had never entered my solo, silent deliberations on the topic.
But once I started to think about it…
Of the old world Papas I could think of, the first two images that sprang to mine fit our (Felix and I) shared heritage. First there is Tevye, of Fiddler on the Roof fame, and also Leif Ericson, the famous Norwegian explorer. Tevya, Leif and I all spring from hearty stock, and are known for rugged hirsute-centered handsome natures. (Okay, Tevye is a fictional character. But Topol, the actor who portrayed him the most, is still going strong and is still a bit old world.)
“And hat!” Mazel Tov.
Yes, of the Papas I could come up with, all were exciting, dynamic guys with well-known facial hair…and very prominent hats. I get where Felix is coming from.
While both Tevye and Leif are definitely ‘old world’ Papa-types, their respective headgear translates differently. I could, in today’s world wear Tevye’s milkman hat and not look at all out-of-place. Not as jauntily as Topol, perhaps, but I could pull it off. Leif’s battle helmet would be another matter. Although, I do live in New Orleans. Metal headgear would not be the strangest sight seen around these parts.
Interestingly, the other Papas I conjured up I also share top-and-bottom-of-head similarities with. Famed novelist Ernest ‘Papa’ Hemingway, for one.
Interestingly, I recently completed one of those online ‘discover your writing soulmate’ quizzes on Facebook…and got Hemingway as my ‘writing soulmate.’ Interesting, no? Though Hemingway did have a strange thing for weird, cowl-neck sweaters. I couldn’t pull that off…but berets, wide-brimmed Panamas and pith helmets? Hell yeah!
Then there was Papa Noel and Papa Smurf – both noted for what resides at the opposite poles of their skulls, both red on top, white on bottom. Not my style, really. Those two may be pushing it a bit anyway. FYI: Papa Bear and Papa John Phillips did not make the list for various reasons.
Felix had seen my Mardi Gras jester’s hat before, a week or so before Mardi Gras. During a Skype session in which he was goofily showing off his array of winter hats, I told him I had a hat as well, grabbing mine and modeling it. His response at the time was a vigorous head shake and a concerned, plaintive, drawn-out “Nooooo…”
It was obvious he didn’t much care for the hatting of our Skype session. Or maybe he just didn’t like the hat competition, me – me horning in on his hat spotlight. Either way, it’s okay. Felix likes his hats, winter and otherwise, including a straw fedora. He is one hip dude.
The more I roll it over in my head, I’m liking ‘Papa’ more and more, especially since I have plenty of hat-wearing papas in whose footsteps I can follow. I think we can work with this, Felix. I really do.
I’ll talk to you soon and we can discuss further, compare chapeaus.