Edward Collins. That was the name of my grandfather, “Poppy.” He was born in Ireland, but migrated to America with his mother and two-year-old sister when he was five years old, after his father had abandoned them. They migrated to Depression-Era Chicago, and as jobs were scary-scarce across the nation, his mother was forced to make a heart-breaking decision. She had found a good job as a cook for the wealthy DuPont family, but they would only allow one child to live in-house with her. So, she kept her toddler daughter, Margaret (lied that she was her only child), and put my grandfather in a nearby boardinghouse, so she could get the job. For the first week or two, my Poppy ran away several times to the home where his mother lived and worked, and would bang on the back door, crying for his mama. She pretended not to know him, and shooed him away with a broom, each time. He soon gave up, and spent his youth in boardinghouses, until he came of age, and then joined the army as a paratrooper in WWII. He met my Grammy, a 17-year-old Ruth Vincent, at a canteen in Atlanta, Georgia where she, along with her family and friends, did her patriotic bit, boosting the morale of incoming soldiers, by dancing with them, and helping serve food. Poppy fell in love with her the first time he saw her, but she wasn’t interested. At all. Ha! Poor Poppy. He was Irishly stubborn and determined to win her over, though, and eventually did, and they were married soon after the war was over. They moved to Chicago where my father, Vincent Edward, was born, but ultimately settled back in Georgia after a few years (Ruth hated Chicago, and was very homesick for her family).
My personal, overall impression of Poppy, was that he was always jovial. He drank beer, and smoked a lot, and was always secretly giving us “tickets” – twenty dollar bills. He’d sidle up to one of us kids, and talk quietly, sideways out of his mouth, and say, “Hey. Hey, wanna ticket?” And our eyes would bulge out seeing the twenty dollar bill (a fortune to a 6-year-old!!), and his face would turn red with embarrassed pleasure as he’d laugh, and then wink at us and say, “Don’t tell anyone, ‘k? Our secret.” A secret we were, of course, never good at keeping. 😉 Looking back, I know this was his way of showing love – a way of love I’m sure he craved as a child in an insecure, unstable, depression-era America, largely removed from the only family he knew.
My father was a singing evangelist missionary, so we didn’t have a lot of money growing up. I loved horses more than liiiiife, and my parents let me take riding lessons when I turned eight (after years of begging). We couldn’t afford actual riding clothes, so I wore my jeans and sneakers for my hunt-seat lessons, but I didn’t care – I was on cloud nine, just getting to ride a horse!! Well, my Poppy somehow heard about this, and he found a tack shop in town, and asked the lady that worked there, what an eight-year-old girl would need to wear for English riding lessons? And then he had my Grammy call my mom to ask me to come over, because I think he was too shy. It’s quite possibly the dearest memory I have of my childhood. I remember walking up, and Poppy was standing way back, kind of embarrassed. Grammy did all the talking, and I remember becoming overwhelmed at the unexpected sight of brand-new riding boots, riding jodhpurs, helmet, gloves, and even a riding crop – all for me! Just me. I couldn’t believe it. No one had ever done anything like that for me. It wasn’t my birthday, or Christmas – he had taken the time to go shop for things he knew I needed and would love, just because…. I was his granddaughter. I had never felt so special (and still get teary when I think about it). Grammy told me later all that Poppy had done, because she said he was too embarrassed to say it. All for a shy, skinny, quiet, little eight-year-old girl who loved horses.
And this shy, horse-loving girl is so very proud of her Irish heritage, and still loves her grandfather, her Poppy, so very much. He died of cancer when I was ten, and prayed to receive Christ with my father, the day before he died, both men crying. I’m eternally grateful for that day, because I know I’ll see him, again.
Sometimes I get randomly wordy on here. I don’t know why, but when I wore this, I kept thinking about my Poppy, his story, my memories, and I just wanted to share some of that with you, today.
This Irish lass is happy to partner with Daniel Wellington for this post. Such a handsomely gorgeous watch, that somehow feels like it already has a rich history, a good story behind it. I absolutely adore pieces like this. Enter the code CALLHERSMITH for 15% off your purchase, now through December 31st.
Stylist + Mum x 4