I’ve never really been comfortable with my brand name being the same as my name. I’ve always wanted to differentiate between me, the person, and my brand, which is deeply connected to my history and my values. I went back and forth with different ideas, making lists, googling words in other languages, but nothing really resonated with me. Then, last spring, out of the blue, J. Aubrey popped into my head.
James Aubrey was my grandfather's name. My family called him "Big Daddy," and he was my favourite person on the planet. My father passed away when I was only 5 years old, so Big Daddy played a big role in my life. Big Daddy was truly a self-made man; he was a businessman who owned a car dealership called Mitchell Buick, in small town Mississippi. As a child, I spent a lot of time at the dealership, and I can still remember the smells and sounds of that place. I remember how special it made me feel to be able to hang out in his office, doodling on Mitchell Buick notepads, sitting in his big recliner in the showroom, or just having a nosey in the new cars, pressing all the buttons and honking the horns. One of his salesmen even helped teach me to drive a stick shift.
Some of my fondest memories with Big Daddy were the weekend football trips. When travelling with him, getting to the destination was the most important thing, but that meant no chewing gum, and no toilet breaks. No, seriously! He wouldn’t stop unless there was an impending flood on the backseat! He had a Citizens Band (CB) radio in the car, and sometimes he even let me talk on it. He gave me my ‘handles’, which included Motor Mouth, Ratchet Jaw, and Cool-it Cucumber (are you getting a picture of me as a child?). Big Daddy’s car dealership used to loan cars to the football coaches at the University of Mississippi. In return, they gave him passes for football games, so we always had great parking places and even better seats! I would always beg him to honk his horn that played the university’s football song, and occasionally he would appease me.
Big Daddy had an interesting life. He was artistic, and there were drawings framed in the house that he had done when he was younger, and I thought they were wonderful. Uniquely, he had 9 fingers and 9 toes. He lost a toe to gangrene later in life, and while cleaning his gun as a teen, he shot off the end of one of his thumbs. Back then, living in rural Alabama, there were no close medical centres, so he had to be taken to hospital by train. That injury kept him from active service in WWII, but it was a constant source of entertainment among the grandkids as we were growing up.
He was tall man that cast an imposing figure, and was sometimes a little gruff, but that would disappear when he spent time with his grandchildren. He would fart in the living room and holler "who stepped on a frog?" and it never got old. I idolised him, and when he passed away when I was 18, I was crushed. I had always planned to use the name Aubrey, but somehow never had the chance or just never found the right way to use it. It feels right now to remember, and importantly honour him in this way; after all without his influence, who would I be?
The photo above is of Big Daddy and Grandma Ruth’s wedding. He’s the tallest person in the photo, obviously…… <3
P.S. My Grandma Ruth was super cool too. She was a college graduate, which in the 1930s was a pretty big deal for a woman! And, largely because of her legacy, I got into her sorority in Uni…