The King Abides

The whole thing started when my husband and I took a day trip to Tijuana. We were in San Diego for the weekend, and spur of the moment decided to cross the border for a few hours. We inched our way through the checkpoint, and found a marketplace to explore. We hadn’t gone far when we spied a real treasure: a  black velvet painting of Elvis in a pink wooden frame.

We knew we had to have it, but my husband insisted on doing a little bargaining anyway. I think we haggled our way down to four bucks. It’s an investment, right?

He left the building…or did he?

(Some background: Our daughter Caitlin was born in December of 1977, the year that Elvis passed on. Coincidence? We always suspected otherwise. This portrait of a late-career, lounge-version King was destined to be hers.)  

That year, 1990, we buried the painting deep inside a huge TV box and presented it to her on her birthday. At first, her eyes popped–she couldn’t imagine that we’d give her a TV for her 13th birthday. She tore open the box, dug into the crumpled newspapers and pulled out the velvet painting of Elvis. We gave her some real presents too, but Elvis took the cake gift-wise.

The following June, she re-gifted Elvis–returning  the painting to my husband for his birthday.
He had the precious work of art hanging in his office in San Francisco, which is the only reason it survived the October 1991 fire that destroyed our home and thousands of others in the Oakland and Berkeley hills.

I think Caitlin would say her favorite birthday gift  that year was the safe return of the King.

And thus began the back-and-forth father-daughter tradition of the Traveling Elvis. It was the one sure thing they could count on as a birthday gift from one another. Six months he lived with us, six months he lived with our daughter. Like Persephone, sort of.

A few years later, Caitlin went away to college in Pennsylvania.  Buried  in an email containing the details of one of her fun-filled weekends, she mentioned that she and a friend had gone into Philadelphia and had their noses pierced.

I read on, waiting for the “just kidding” follow-up. There wasn’t one.  A nose ring?? Gah. But there wasn’t anything I could do or say about it…or was there?

That December, Elvis arrived at her dorm with a small stud in his nose.

And that’s when things began to escalate.

  • The year my husband turned fifty, Elvis sported White-Out on his rather substantial sideburns.

  •  When Caitlin became a nurse several years later, I fashioned a little white origami nurse’s hat and attached it to his head.

  • Over the last few years, Elvis has gone completely white-out.

  • For my husband’s  sixtieth birthday, I advised the kids to send their birthday greetings to the hotel in Hawai’i where we were celebrating the big event. Elvis returned to the Islands rocking an aloha shirt over his spangly jumpsuit.

  • And this year, in honor of our World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants, the King has some new bling.

Happy birthday, Caitlin!  And long live the King!

4 Responses to The King Abides

  1. Janie Emaus says:

    I hope he travels with you forever!

  2. Ellen Dolgen says:

    Loved this story – so Elvis!

  3. ~Kc Waddell says:

    That was awesome! I love those kind of family traditions! The fun, silly ones!

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