Monday, March 18, 2013

In memory of Pierrette

Pierrette with the boys as babies
Pierrette passed away today.  I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that she is truly gone.  I took Charlotte to see her on Tuesday and on Saturday and of course she wasn't well, but now she is gone.

Pierrette was my 3rd grandmother.  She came to our family 65 years ago, to be a nanny to my aunt Jane.  But she became so much more. She devoted her entire adult life to our family.  She never married, or had children of her own. She helped to raise my mom, aunt, and uncle, and she loved all of their children as if they were her own grandchildren.  She wasn't a nanny, she was a family member, and my grandmother's best friend.  I can remember a few times over the years where P would say she wanted to move out of my grandparents' house (she had a small apartment of her own on the 3rd floor of their house) and my grandparents never wanted her to.  She helped take care of them, and of us, her whole life.  It wouldn't have been home without her there.  When they sold their home, they bought an apartment with a room and bathroom for her, and when they left their apartment to come here, she came with them.

She loved cats, and leaves behind her beloved kitty Otto.  Poor Otto, no matter whose home he goes to, he won't be eating like he did with P.  She was always getting him extra special treats and sneaking him lunch meat from the dining room.  Every cat she ever had got the royal treatment.

We always said that P was a witch- the good kind.  She had excellent intuition about people, and was always right about their character.  Eric spent a summer at my grandparents' house in Cambridge after we were engaged, and I told him that if I got a bad report from P, the engagement was off.  And I meant it.  Fortunately for Eric, the only complaint I got was that he threw out part of a chicken carcass that still had some meat on it.  P just had a good eye.  Sometimes people ignored her or treated her like she was "help," and no one in the family had any patience for that.

There is so much that our family owes to P. She was born in Brittany, and brought some French flair to our family and our eating habits. She passed on the idea that butter and garlic makes every vegetable better, which has promoted vegetable eating for generations in this family.  She made the world's best crepes.  She was ahead of her time with the idea that simple food was the best, and the most delicious.  I can't remember ever eating something she cooked that wasn't delicious, and we probably all owe our passion for food and cooking to her.

She had a green thumb.  She was careful with her belongings, and others'.  I think, in some way, despite the fact that we considered her a family member, she always remembered that she had come to our family as an employee and tried to be mindful of everyone's needs.  My uncle Ed even remarked tonight how considerate she had been to die today- yesterday was my cousin's birthday, tomorrow is my grandparents' anniversary, and Wednesday is my dad's birthday.

She was also famous for her complaints and criticisms.  She and my grandfather often butted heads and he would yell at her!  But they loved each other.  Sometimes she was impossible to please- just tonight we were reminiscing about nights my uncle Richard used to go to my grandparents' for Shabbat, and P would complain that he brought too much food.  But I can assure you that if he hadn't brought too much food, she would have complained that he had come empty-handed and expected her to come up with something.  As my grandparents' health declined, she would complain about them, but never for a second stopped taking care of them or worrying about them.

P had such a big personality.  We're all in shock that she's gone- I told my mom that her parents have been fading for a long time now, but that P was P up til the end.  It feels sudden, even though we knew she was sick.  Such a powerful force in our lives, and now she's not with us.  In a way I'm sad that she never had children of her own.  I'm not sure why, what happened to her as a child or what her life was like that she chose never to have her own children, but she has left her mark on the world, and her legacy, with us.

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