Vineyard Memories: Me & Dad
Vineyard Memories: Me & Dad
by Gina Parker Collins
Howard University Grad, Parent Advocate, School Advisor, Social Entrepreneur
If there was ever a man
Who was generous, gracious and good
That was my Dad
A human being so true
He could live like a king
'Cause he knew
The real pleasure in life
To be devoted to
And always stand by me
So I'd be unafraid and free
-Horace Silver, Song for My Father
One of the most grounding gifts my father gave me was a strong sense of security. The fact that he was a New York City Police Officer confirmed his super-hero status in my eyes. He was a community cop with many of the necessary character traits like empathy, patience, and fairness. A man of few yet transformative words. The youngest of six children, my Dad grew up in Harlem. His parents arrived at Ellis Island from Antigua at the turn of the 20th century.
Among the archived correspondence letters between my grandmother, Josephine and aunt, Evelyn there was always mention of how 'good and responsible' Ted was as a child. My brother, Ted Jr., and I never questioned our Dad's love for us. His was consistent, unconditional, and memorable.
One of my first super-hero memories of Dad was me slumbering over his shoulder while he carried me to our car to join my brother and my mom as we began our very early morning journey from the Bronx to catch the ferry to Martha's Vineyard.
Another vivid memory is of the cottage's creaky porch door slamming shut behind me as I ran to my parents shouting, "Oooh,Teddy-Boo is cursin' on the porch!" My younger brother was entertaining a captive audience of uproarious older black men with his toddler set of a Richard Pryor skit. He says his punishment was no ice-cream that night from Circuit Ave. But I don't remember that part!
My Dad found the twenty miles long stretch of Martha's Vineyard while on leave from Camp Edwards. We are thankful that he decided to build a legacy for us on this exquisite triangle of an island.
The next generation of Ted's descendants, his grandchildren, also enjoy growing up with the Vineyard being a part of it. On the island, our familial tree expands with other folks of African descent. You feel it in our spoken or unspoken yet customary acknowledgment of community with a greeting, "the nod" or a smile.
We strike up informal conversations with strangers only to learn the gap between us narrows to less than six degrees separation. I believe it is our ancestral roots that attract us to one another here on the island. The ferry journey together is where it can and often starts. Getting there together, free and happy.
This concentration of us, experiencing the same magic together, encourages many return trips. Martha's Vineyard is a ritual full of intentional and unexpected reunions.
One beautiful day in April, we celebrated my father's 72nd birthday strolling along Circuit Ave., (yes, a lot happens on Circuit!) when someone yelled from across the street, "Officer Parker! Officer Parker!" The recall of this man, from across the street, was remarkable. He told us that when Officer Parker walked the beat at Crotona Pool in the Bronx, he too felt safe when my Dad was around recounting those summer days some fifty years earlier.
What a birthday gift!