DL: Today May 26 is my maternal grandfather’s birthday. Born in 1898, Joseph Cyrille Verreault would be 116 in 2014. The following is an excerpt from my mother’s memoir, We Were Not Spoiled. In these two excerpts, my mother shares her memory of her father’s playful side. The excerpts begin in 1925. [I, too, remember how my grandfather loved to tell a story.]
My father loved to tell a story. He would sit three or four of us on his lap and ask us what kind of story we wanted to hear. “Perhaps un petit rien tout nu (a little naked nothing)?” he’d suggest. Not knowing what that was, we would nod our heads eagerly. “Do you want your petit rien tout nu to be red or blue?” Then, he’d tell a story. I loved sitting on his lap hearing his stories.
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Réginald came into our family on December 3, 1926, when Gertrude was twenty-one months old. He was the first of the children to be born on Jefferson Street. He was followed eleven months later by Normand on November 17, 1927. When these new babies grew big enough to sit on my father’s lap, I was moved to a little chair next to him. That was not the same thing at all, and I didn’t like it, but I was told I was “a big girl.” Being the oldest of a large family, I was often made to be the big girl before I was ready.
At night, if any of us complained about not wanting to go to bed, my father would say, “That’s not a problem. You don’t have to go to bed. We’ll get you a pole, and you can sleep perched like a chicken (juquer comme une poule).”
Of course, we laughed but we preferred to sleep in our own beds.
After Sunday dinner, my father liked to lie on the living room couch to take a nap. How he ever thought a houseful of kids could be quiet enough for him to sleep in the middle of the afternoon, I don’t know, but he would try, just the same, to nap on the couch. After a while, when we thought our father was asleep, with Robert and me as instigators, we kids would stuff toilet paper under his glass lenses. (How could he have slept through that!) Then when we were through, he’d “wake” up.
“I’m going blind,” he’d shout to my mother who was perhaps in the kitchen, beyond the dining room. We were waiting for this response, of course, and it would make us laugh. This happened many Sunday afternoons, and as children, we did not realize that he was on to us. It is hard for me to imagine that at this time my playful father was only about 28 or 29 years old. (The youngest in my family probably didn’t experience him as playful. But by the time they were born, my father had become more the rule setter than the playful father. I suppose that was a result of getting older—and having more children.)
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