Sunday, December 27, 2009

Buckwheat Pancakes

For my birthday celebration with my mom, we went to the Orignal Pancake House in Southfield, MI.  They only use 93 score butter, fresh grade AA eggs and pure whipping cream.  Everything I have eaten there has been fantastic, which is reason enough to go there to celebrate my birthday.  Except I was really missing Gumpy and one of his favorite breakfast foods, buckwheat pancakes.  And this is the best place in town to get buckwheat pancakes!

I can only recall one time Gumpy tried cooking.  His mother use to say that if you could read, you could cook.  As much as I loved my Great-Grandmother, she could hardly be more wrong.  Gumpy could read, he was the general secretary for the Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks.  That talent never translated into the kitchen.

One random morning, he tried making buckwheat pancakes for the family.  I was pretty young, so my memory of the event is not the sharpest.  However, I do recall that a lot of laughter and smoke was involved.  I bellied up to the table expecting the best and quickly realized that pure maple syrup can forgive many cooking sins.  For the uninitiated, the taste of burnt buckwheat pancakes is HORRIBLE.

Fast forward about 25 years to when I started going to the Original Pancake House.  I tried the buckwheat pancakes and discovered exactly why Gumpy liked them.  The texture, the flavor and the way they soaked up the syrup was incredible.  When I told him about my experience, we determined that I needed to take him there when he visited me again.

Thus began our brief traditon of the Original Pancake House before going to our annual Tiger Baseball game.  He would get the buckwheat pancakes with nice, thick, crispy bacon and a cup of black coffee.  I ordered mine with the corned beef hash.  Only after our plates where clear of food would we entertain the idea of leaving for the game.

One year, his friend Denny Smith went to the game with us because Gumpy could no longer make the drive safely from Detroit.  Denny protested that they had pancakes for breakfast before they left Vermontville.  Gumpy pointed out that you could never have enough good pancakes as we drove to the resturant.

My 36 birthday (otherwise known as Davemas) was a bittersweet celebration.  It was my first since Gumpy passed away.  To be able to go back to a place we both enjoyed so much let me know that he will always live on in my memories and in my heart.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Baby

I arrived on the farm for the first time 36 years ago. I was just three days old when my mom dressed me in a Santa suit, wrapped me in a red blanket and put me under the tree as a gift for her dad. While I do not remember that first Christmas, there were many others with Gumpy that I remember well.

Today is a sad day for me because this is my first Christmas without Gumpy. As a kid, I remember Ema and Gumpy's house being full with family and assorted family friends. We would be munching on fruit passing the time between "rip and tear" (gift opening) and dinner. Christmas would always be one of just three meals each year we would eat in the dining room. The view from the dining room was not as impressive as the view from the kitchen, so Gumpy would sit facing the north. He would start the meal with the traditional Carpenter family grace, "For these and all other blessings, the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen."

I think those were the times Gumpy was in his glory. Most of our family was at home, sharing the season together. Even after Uncle Jim moved, he would call later in the day on Christmas which was good enough for Gumpy. His concern was always that our family stay together.

The tradition died after Gumpy, then Ema retired and started wintering in Florida. Anniversaries, weddings and birthdays served as the impetus for family gatherings instead of Christian holidays. Even pancake breakfast at the fire barn in Vermontville during the Maple Syrup Festival served as a time for us to be together.

The Santa suit no longer fits. I now only get underneath the tree to turn the lights on. New traditions are starting as we all learn how to get along without his big smile. Even now that I am forced to move on with my life without him, this is one Christmas gift that still enjoys time together with my family.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Close friends

Gump had a ton of aquaintences.  For that matter, both of my grandparents seemed to know someone everywhere they went.  You could be in a Publix in Port Charlotte, Fl with them and someone my grandmother taught in high school 30 years ago would stop her to chat.  Gump and I were walking Warwick Hills during the Buick Open and someone from the Grand Trunk Railroad stopped us to chat.  He remembered Gump from his early days in the union.

I say acquaintences for a reason.  While he knew a ton of people, he kept just a few very close friends.  Growing up there was Leonard Lester Peck, who will always have a place in our family history from the legondary stories Gump use to tell about Leonard.  Those stories often involved Harold "Tink" Farnum, his cousin and life-long friend.  When I was a kid, his best friend was Kenyon Peabody.  I remember Kenyon well, mostly for teaching me a the little diddy;

I went up on the stage,
My heart when pitter-pat,
When someone in the crowd yelled,
That's Lingholm's little brat!

Without realizing it, I became one of his best friends too.  There is no seminal moment I can point back to as the moment I realized my grandfather and I were best friends.  It just happened.  One of Dale Carnegie's timeless principle is giving someone a good reputation to live up to.  Gump gave me the title Best Buddy and Number One Farm Hand when I was a surley teenager and I finally began living into that title.

While having coffee this week with a good friend, I realized just how much Gump impacted the way I view friends.  He was always genial with everyone and really enjoyed the company of several different people, as do I.  There was an inner circle of friends, people he trusted without many questions.  People who's counsel he would accept and appreciate.  People you could admire.  I find myself doing the same thing.

He was the best friend a guy could have and I am proud to have been in his company.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Way to Remember My Grandfather

Elbert Dalen Carpenter was pretty special.  My Grandfather, affectionately renamed Gumpy by my cousin Katie, was a family man.  He was humble, he worked hard and he loved to laugh.  If he liked you, then you were a friend for life.  Fortunately he liked just about everyone.  

Most of my significant memories of him come from my teenage years because he retired about the same time my dad left my mom.  Gumpy decided to step in and show me the way a man is suppose to treat his family.  I will always remember him for his patience with me and for the unconditional love he showed me.  When he passed away May 30, 2009; I tweeted that I had lost my best friend and hero.  I still mean that.  This blog is a way for me to remember him.  It is a way to honor him.  I hope you enjoy this blog and the stories of his life.

I named this blog Life with a Waldron Boy after his hometown because he always loved the little town he grew up in.  I hear tales from my mom and aunt that he would occationally stop on at the county line leading to Waldron and implore the kids to get out of the car so they could experience good clean air.  It's a story I hope one of them will tell soon.

And if you have a story about Gumpy, feel free to send me an e-mail so I can share it with the rest of the world.