When I first received the handwritten letter from my father, I didn’t quite understand its meaning. Matter of fact, it would be years before I actually did. Nonetheless, I studied the envelope carefully, which had come wrapped in a clear Ziploc bag and then cautiously opened it, unfolding the piece of paper that would change my life forever.
A few weeks earlier, my dad had left on a business trip; he traveled a lot for work but as of late, he was always gone and my mother seemed especially despondent and sad about his latest absence. She, too, along with my brother and I, also received a letter. For whatever reason, perhaps instinct, I knew the situation wasn’t a good one.
The three articles of mail, which came in a larger tattered manila envelope were hand-delivered to our front door on a lazy Sunday afternoon. A family friend, who was one of my father’s co-workers, seemed reluctant to hand them over, but eventually he did and then left us to our day and our letters. The thing is…
When I was growing-up, I never really knew exactly “what” my dad did for a living. So, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what his co-worker did, either. I did think it was odd, though; he’d made the house call without my father there. It may sound strange, but all the mystery surrounding my dad’s job and his co-workers made perfect sense to me at the time. Mainly, because whenever I inquired, there were always a myriad of answers provided without hesitation.
The adults around me would say things like “He’s a handyman” or “He’s a jack of all trades” or “He fixes things” or “He helps people that are in trouble.” Eventually, though, the job title that ended up sticking was: “He’s a roofer.” That’s because…
After one of his many business trips, my dad returned home pretty worse for wear. He was limping, his left arm was in a cast and he was beyond tired, sleeping and resting more than I had ever see him do. When I asked what was wrong, I was told that my dad had fallen off one of the roofs he was working on and he needed time to heal. And…
That was that. Twelve-year olds have a tendency to believe what you tell them. After his fall, his trips grew less frequent and my mother grew more content, but alas, business always needed to be tended to and my dad packed his things and took off. This time, during his longer than usual absence, the letters came…
To this day, that hand-written note was and is one of the most amazing, beautiful, special things I’ve ever received. Sure, my dad told me how much he loved me in the letter, but he also told me the things that made me unique and interesting to him. He recounted moments we had spent together as father and daughter; telling me how much he cared for and believed in me.
He urged me to watch after my mother while he was gone, he instructed me to always be brave and to promise him that I would take care of the cat he had gifted me to help combat my long bout with childhood insomnia. While I loved the letter, rereading it dozens of times, I couldn’t help but think of it as a goodbye of sorts.
When I quizzed my mother about its nature, she quickly shooed me away teary-eyed and unable to make eye contact. Although life oddly went on as usual, two things did change dramatically. The first: me. My dad’s note touched me so profoundly, it unlocked the budding journalist in me. I realized for the first time just how powerful the written word could be. I became keen on creative writing and started journaling my thoughts, experiences and dreams.
The second: I found out my father wasn’t really a roofer. He was the Command Sergeant Major of Delta Force (which is a U.S Army component of Joint Special Operations Command.) Matter of fact, he was one of its founding members: Delta Force was created back in the 70’s as a full-time elite covert counter terrorism unit. He not only helped save the hostages in Iran (Operation Eagle Claw,) he was involved in the “Invasion of Grenada, and the American “Invasion of Panama,” amongst other very dangerous and extremely top-secret (at the time) missions.
When my dad left for work, he left his family safely behind and for the most part, ignorant to the extreme sacrifices he was making for our country. The letters my mother, brother and I received that fateful day in North Carolina (we lived just off the military base of Fort Bragg,) were surely because my dad thought he would never return home again. In the military, they call it a soldier’s “Last Letter.”
He thought that he would never see us again and he thought that whatever mission/event/war that he was waging at the time was bound to take his life and his letters were a parting gift to us, expressing his love, devotion and constant loyalty. It doesn’t get much more powerful than that. At least for me. It wasn’t over, though, not for my dad.
Whatever he had to do, whatever he had to overcome and whatever he had to fight through to make it home – HE DID. We never talked about it. Ever. It was just a silent understanding among the four of us. I did sense that he was different after his last mission, though, something inside of him changed. As an adult thinking back on it now, my heart breaks. I can’t imagine what that moment must have been like.
Where was he, what was he doing and how he bravely wrapped those three precious letters in plastic to keep the writing, in which he poured his heart and soul into, from getting wet and then another envelope to keep them together, a symbolic family gesture. Keeping them together, keeping US together, just like he always did back home.
In the meantime, I’ve read about my dad in books like, “Delta Force a memoir by Charlie A. Beckwith’ and I’ve seen what he’s been through in movies like “Black Hawk Down,” but those are his stories and he’s a very private man. He shares when I ask, but never too much. I hope one day he’ll let me write his memoirs. Maybe I can start “The Desk Diaries” with where he was and what he was doing the moment he wrote my “Last Letter.”
Despite my dad’s hard won journey he made his way home and I’m so, so glad he ignited my passion for writing and motivated me to record my own stories. The spirit of “The Desk Diaries” is about creating the most inspirational and comfortable spaces/atmosphere possible to do what you love most and for me that’s writing.
To find out what’s best for the fashionista who lives behind her desk: emailing, researching, blogging and social media’ing, I headed to one of my favorite stores in Miami, “The Scarlet Letter.” It’s not just a stylish boutique filled with one-of-a-kind desk-ware goodies, it’s a place where you can find the best reflection of your personal inner creativity.
Shireen Sandoval:What is the concept of The Scarlet Letter?
Jessica Bazan: The Scarlet Letter stationery store lies nestled in the tree-lined neighborhood of Surfside. Whether looking for a housewarming gift, baby announcements, bar mitzvah or wedding invitations, The Scarlet Letter should be your first stop. The shop moved to Surfside after a decade in Miami Beach in 2008, however customers continue to stay loyal. The store maintained its high standards for impeccable service and personalized assistance for custom invitations every step of the way. The store is a Pandora’s Box with plenty of entertaining supplies like pens, agendas and a vast array of beautiful gift items and upscale desk accessories.
SS: Why did you name your store The Scarlet Letter?
JB: The store was named after the well-known American novel, “The Scarlet Letter.” It is reminiscent of old-fashioned times where our clients can identify with their childhood memories when computers and cell phones didn’t exist and writing a letter was common and considered an expressive form of communication.
SS: Tell me about how your store came to be?
JB: The Scarlet Letter has been a Miami Beach staple for 20 years and the baton was passed from owner to employee, Jessica Bazan, in 2008.
SS: You’re not just a store, you’re representing a lifestyle.
JB: Get inspired! With elegant accessories for your desk, you might not dread going to work so much. You spend a good portion of your weekday sitting at your desk, so you might as well decorate to fit your fashionista personality. Space is limited, so you have to find desk accessories that are cute and functional. The Scarlet Letter carries a great selection of modern and elegant pieces like leather paper organizers, desk notepads, pencil cups, cool paperclips, acrylic staplers, personalized stationery, photo frames, distinctive writing instruments and desk clocks for your home or office space. That is where these necessary accessories for your desk come in. Besides looking fashionable and put together, by adding these to your work space, you might even see an improvement in your work!
SS: What is the must-have accessory for a fashionista’s desk?
JB: A fabulous, smooth writing roller ball pen, a chunky notepad for jotting your things-to-do, a great scented candle, a leather waste basket, and a great-looking desk tray to keep your papers organized.
SS: What are the latest trends in office fashions?
JB: Leather Desk Accessories. They are available in Lizard, Alligator, and Smooth leather skins. You can also provide your own fabrics and get a custom piece made. It’s like getting a leather handbag or shoe. They automatically complete and complement the look of you and your space.
SS: When styling the blog desk looks, what did you want to convey?
JB: I wanted to show that being organized and productive doesn’t have to be boring. Adding pops of color and elegant desk accessories can be fun and fashionable.
SS: It seems no one stops to write a letter or card anymore, but your concept is to not only do that, but also to make it special.
JB: Owning a great note card with your name or monogram on it makes a wow statement, especially nowadays where everything is email or text. You can choose a block font to show off your modern/sleek style or choose a flourishy script to show off your fancy ways.
SS: Calligraphy is such a beautiful art. What do you offer calligraphy-wise?
JB: We use several calligraphers to address our client’s party and wedding invitations. One of our favorites is Pamela Cerami. She’s constantly looking for ways to update her calligraphy style. Every calligraphied piece is one-of-a-kind. Besides addressing envelopes, you can calligraphy your name on a couple of pieces of stationary for that special letter you need to write.
SS: You love old Hollywood glamour, with pictures of Audrey Hepburn peppered about your store. How has her style influenced you?
JB: Audrey Hepburn is a true inspiration on so many levels. She is beautiful, a classic, and timeless. She is a constant representation of the products that we sell. A time where there was no text messages and computers. Besides being an Audrey Hepburn fan, our clients just love seeing her photos scattered thoughout our store. Her photos evoke feelings of old-time glamour and happiness!
SS: What’s the most precious hand-written item you’ve ever received?
JB: A hand-calligraphied thank you note sealed with a wax seal!
SS: What is the most unusual product you have available at The Scarlet Letter?
JB: All of our products are unique. Twice a year, when I shop at the international stationery and gift shows, I look for products that are not available at other Miami shops. I’m always looking for items that are unique so that my store stands out from the rest.
SS: Tell me about your custom-made invitations and announcements.
JB: Whether you wander in on a whim or seek us out in pursuit of unique personalized stationery or invitations or an exceptional writing instrument (and trust us, we know the seductive appeal of the perfect pen,) you’ll find what you’ve been looking for and items you’ve never dreamed of. Leaf through our wide-ranging collection of sumptuous papers from around the world. Browse our extensive selection of artisan-printed cards that range from the whimsical to the lavishly elegant. Enjoy the weighty feel of a time-honored wax seal in your hand. We invite you to lose yourself at The Scarlet Letter. In our cozy, cloud-hugged boutique, our designers happily wear multiple hats (all of them beautiful, of course) as they dream up designs for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, special occasions, as well as social stationery and calling cards.
SS: Why should people write more and text less?
JB: Writing a letter these days makes a powerful and thoughtful statement. It says a lot about a person when they take the time out to sit down a write a note or letter. It makes the receiver feel special.
SS: Handwriting says a lot about a person. How would you describe yours?
JB: I like to think that my handwriting is great! Usually, when I write a note, I like to take my time so that is easy to read. I make sure I have good lighting, a great leather desk pad to write on and my pen is usually a rollerball.
SS: What’s that one thing on your desk (fashionably speaking) you can’t live without?
JB: My fashionable chunky note pad, a fab pen in a leather pencil cup, a great stapler, a candle by Lafco, a crocodile wastebasket, oversized gold paperclips, and my Audrey Hepburn coffee cup.
Styling “The Desk Diaries” was easy with vintage goodies from L.A. Boudoir Miami. We wanted each look to reflect the charm of “The Scarlet Letter” and because Jessica loves glamour and old Hollywood, we chose the 40’s to complement her desk settings (not that they needed any help.) It’s a time period not only known for it’s lady like, delightfully feminine styles, it’s also an era in which people still wrote letters and mailed notes and did so with class and style.
The yellow with a pop of red setting is sophisticated yet fun. The black and white is all about glamour and elegance and the light beige is a streamlined timeless look. For me, fabulous pens and pencils are a must, an amazing frame or two showcasing special moments and I love, love, love a bedazzled magnifying glass.
Whether sprucing up your desk or just taking time to write a handwritten note to a friend, the power of words and where you choose to write them should never be underestimated. Sharing thoughts and self-reflection aren’t just a gift for the receiver, but also for the person who writes them. It’s therapy for the mind, body and soul.
By the way, my dad finally retired after his last “roofing” job; my mother made him. Actually, she gave him the following ultimatum: “Delta or us.” I proudly watched him retire, decorated with two Purple Hearts and other medals you only read about in books or see in the movies. My family and I then headed west to New Mexico, where my dad became a security specialist for Los Alamos National Lab, otherwise known as LANL.
It’s where the first atomic bomb was built by famed physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and where classified nuclear weapons were built during the Cold War. As you can imagine, a set of crazy new adventures awaited us there and I can’t wait to share them with you from behind a fashionable, newly decorated desk and that’s why “The Desk Diaries” will always be one of my favorite things.
The Scarlet Letter
FB: The Scarlet Letter / Shopping & Retail
Wardrobe Provided by: La Boudoir Miami
FB: La Boudoir / Vintage Store
Photographer: James Woodley
Hair & Make-up: Odette Hernandez
Styling & Assist: Jackie Kay
blog ideas: Jackiekay211@yahoo.com
Editor: Matthew Auerbach