Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy 90th Birthday!

Dear Tyler and Molly,

Today would have been my Pépère Charpentier’s 90th birthday. I am so sorry that you guys and daddy never had the chance to meet him. He was a very special man, someone that I always looked up to.

He grew up in a very large French Canadian family in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Believe it or not, he had 16 brothers and sisters. That is most likely where he got the motto that there is always room for one more. He was raised during the depression and in order to help the family financially, he and his siblings started the Charpentier Family band and played at showers and parties. Pépère played the drums. He actually met by Mémère while playing at a wedding shower. I really believe that it was true love at first sight that continued to grow for 50 years.

Pépère was a very generous man. He would give you the shirt off of his back if you asked or needed it. He was a barber and a carpenter, making him very unique. He made my first dresser for me (the one that you have both used) and gave me my first haircut. He also loved ice cream and ate it every night, just a scoop. He said it helped him digest his food. I think it did. I know it helped me digest my food whenever I was there! We would have to sit on a special little rug so that we didn’t drip on the furniture. There is one other thing Pépère did every night. When he took his teeth out at night (he had false teeth), he would eat a tootsie roll to get the sticky stuff off of his gums. It would make us giggle until we fell over.

Me, my siblings and cousins giggled a lot when we were with Pépère. He was so silly. He would pretend to walk into the door, fall up the stairs and chase us around the yard whenever we arrived at his house. He would let us watch him shave and we would say: “Shave your tongue, shave your tongue, Pépère.” You got it; he would then pretend to shave his tongue.

You know how I sometimes take a bite of your dinner or a sip of your drink and say, I just needed to make sure it is good before you have it? I got that from Pépère. He did that all the time to us. I will let you in on a secret. I know the food and drink is good enough for you, just like he knew it was good enough for me. We just wanted a bite or a sip and a great big grin in return.

Pépère had a great imagination. He would have loved playing angry dragon with you Tyler and tea parties with you Molly. When we were driving in the car with him and hit traffic, he would tell us that if he pressed a certain button, the car would get wings and we could fly home. We never asked him to press the button, but we also never doubted that the car could fly.

Pépère would also always say, “So I decided.” Sometimes he would decide it was time for us to go swimming (he lived on a lake) and sometimes he would decide it was time to have a little snack. When he would decide to have a cup of coffee, he would let us mix the milk and sugar in. He would take a sip and say: “Yumm – this is the best coffee I have ever had.”

Basically, Pépère was a man who loved me unconditionally. He was someone I could always talk to about anything. This is why I decided to tell you about him on what would be his 90th birthday. It was so hard when we lost him to cancer 15 years ago. However, my memories of him will stay with me forever and will always bring a smile to my face. I promise to share some more stories with you soon. But for now, I hope this has given you a glimpse of the fun I had growing up with my Pépère. I am certain that he is smiling down on all of us from heaven.



True confession of the night: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear Pépère Charpentier, Happy Birthday to you!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Tastes Good and Not so Good

Molly has been eating table food for quite a few months now. She knows what she likes and is certain about what she doesn’t like. There are even a few things that she tolerates, depending on her mood, of course. It is to early to tell if Molly will grow up to be a food critic, but I do know that at 17 months, she already has a rating scale for food.

Yumm, Yumm = this is great and yes, I will have some more please

Nutri-Grain bars (blueberry, strawberry and apple)
Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal without milk
chicken fingers
hot dogs
mac ‘n cheese
Fish crackers
spaghetti with sauce

Yumm = this is good, I will finish what is on my plate

chicken and rice
black beans
Fiber One brownies (got to get fiber in)

Spitting it out = this is not so good, please don’t serve this again until I am an adult

pulled pork

Feeding it to Tobi (our dog) = you shouldn’t have bothered to put this on my plate, I am not even going to try it

cheese sticks

True confession of the night: There are a few foods I would like to feed to Tobi too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Spring Lake 4th of July's

The 4th of July was by far one of my favorite holidays growing up. We would drive to my grandparent’s house on Spring Lake in Glendale, Rhode Island for the long weekend. It was an hour and a half drive from Springfield, Mass., which could feel like forever back then. I knew we were just about there when I saw the handcrafted speed limit signs on Spring Lake Road, also know as the bumpy road, that my grandfather made.

While the whole weekend was fun, America’s Birthday truly stands out. My siblings and I always slept in sleeping bags on the living room floor. I would try to position my sleeping bag under the skylight. We would wake up to the sounds of my grandmother bustling around the kitchen. After breakfast, we would follow my grandfather, who was dressed in his knee-length shorts and dark knee socks, to the front yard. It wasn’t time to jump in the water yet. Instead, we poked small holes into the ground and lined up small American flags, which could be see from the water, across the retaining wall. As a World War II veteran, this ritual was extremely important to my grandfather.

By mid-morning, it was time for the first swim of the day. Then my cousins would arrive and the fun would really begin. We would only get out of the water for lunch. My grandmother would make a large batch of Dynamite (a French Canadian version of a sloppy joe), which was always paired with chips, and corn on the cob. After lunch, we would jump back in the lake. Before long, my grandfather would take out the wrinkled, worn paper bag that we had all come to love because….it was filled with colorful Nerf balls. The Nerf wars would begin in the water and nobody was safe. Then we would get called out of the water for our afternoon snack – watermelon slices with salt. We were so careful with the seeds because we knew if we swallowed even one, there was a good possibility we would grow a watermelon in our bellies. Years later I realized this wasn’t true. I also know now there is no real reason to wait half an hour after eating to go swimming!

In the late afternoon, more extended family would arrive, including great aunts and uncles and second and third cousins. After dinner, which was usually hamburgers or ham sandwiches, we would play outside until dark. Then we would gather on the dock to watch fireworks over the lake. This is where I perfected my “oohs” and “aahs.” This signaled the end to my perfect 4th of July celebrations.

True confession of the day: In honor of those days, I am making Dynamite today. Happy Birthday America and thanks for the memories Mémère and Pépère Charpentier!