In Melanie Schwapp’s ‘Grip’!

Danik Frazer

December 16, 2019

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The Schwapp home is beautiful. If you’d never heard that before, you can say you heard it here. Upon arrival, we’re shown inside where they already have their tree set up for the holidays, and greeted by a small white shih-tzu, who is bent on asserting her dominance. With deference, we allow her to do her requisite sniffing, and though it appeases her, she doesn’t want us there, but it’s too late. We’re there to see what author, landscaper and supermom Melanie Schwapp totes around in her bag. “Do you need tea or water or anything?” Melanie offers with a kind smile after a brief greeting. “Please have a seat.” She re-enters in a beautiful, long, airy dress with a complementary, oversized blue flower at her hip. She’s as welcoming as her home, and when we sit to turn out her bag, or her ‘grip’, as she calls it, she offers a wide smile. “So how do we do this?”

The first thing out of her marine ‘Artsy MM’ Louis Vuitton bag is a pocket Bible gifted to her by her father when she was still a teenager going to Montego Bay High School. “I’ve had this since 1980.” It’s since been re-sleeved of course, but it’s never left her side. Melanie keeps it totally analogue, taking around with her both a notebook and a diary, where she uses the former to jot down her ideas since, as an author, she’s always observing. The latter she uses as her datebook, where she organises her life. Curiously, she uses a pencil rather than a pen to make her notes and attached at the end is her trusty eraser. “When I get up from a chair I’m covered in eraser dust,” she chuckled.

Mindful of the plastic ban, Melanie totes around a canvas, well, tote! The tote itself was given to her by the Jamaican artist Krystle Sabdul, whose art she’s happy to support. The tote isn’t the only extra bag she carries around but it’s definitely the one she holds close for those random trips to the store. Speaking of Jamaican artist, Melanie is one herself. Author of the next book she pulls from the bag, ‘Lest We Find Gold’, a book she’s never without since people are always asking for a copy.

From her bag come three pairs of glasses, each with their own case. Two are her tested glasses, one of which is her alternate, just in case she loses the other, and the third is her sunglasses, necessary for her other job as a landscaper. What’s a landscaper without a tape measure? Dead in the water is what. From her ‘grip’ comes her most important tool, or at least one of them. “I always have to measure for soil, sand, sod, gravel, whatever!” The next necessary tool is her sunblock and the third her lip balm. Another curious thing that comes out of her bag is her tinted powder sunblock, SPF50 at that! For her hands, Melanie takes around a nail file because, in her work, she prefers to use her hands. “My nails are always breaking.” To Melanie, it’s obviously worth it.

“Oh my God!” She pulls out something small and thin. “This is embarrassing.” She whips it and out pops a fan she got from jumping carnival in Trinidad, “But at this stage of my life, I need my fan!” Oh, we understand. Finally, something we’re super intrigued by, a wine card from Uncorked! She pulled out her purse where she keeps all her important stuff and was happy to show off this little number. “On Friday I can go over to Uncorked, put this in the machine and get any glass of wine I’d like.” May we all be as prepared for life as Melanie Schwapp!

Then came the challenging part, picking her must-haves. “It always seems like so much, this is it?!” And here are her must-haves:

  • Bible
  • Notebook, pencil and sharpener (we’ll count this as one!)
  • Tape measure
  • Tote
  • Lest We Find Gold (by Melanie Schwapp)
  • And snuck in was her wine card

Story by Danik Frazer

Photos by Ian Allen


Danik Frazer


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