The Story: I was named after my dad so I’m the closest thing we’ve got to a “junior” in our family. My dad is Stephen Francis and I’m Stephanie Frances. To say that I’m a daddy’s girl is an understatement of absurd proportions.
My favorite story my dad tells about me as a kid is from when I was four or five. We were up at my grandparent’s camp at Rocky Pond on a summer day and someone pulled out a can of Pringles. Apparently, my response was: “Pringles?! I haven’t had those in years!” As I mentioned in the story about my mom, I was precocious as a child, a little grownup in a toddler’s body.
I’ve always gotten along really well with my dad and he’s always been my biggest fan. I’m undoubtedly his biggest fan, too. My dad is a funny guy – always with a joke, turn of phrase or well-placed movie quote. My mom always joked that he paid my way through college because I always laughed at his jokes. To that, I say: thanks for college education but I sincerely think he’s a funny guy!
On my 16th birthday, my parents took me to dinner at Anthony’s Pier 4 in Boston. My mom’s mother, Memere, joined us, too. I had loved Boston since I was a kid, so this was a real treat. The even bigger treat was, when we walked out of the restaurant he asked me if I wanted to drive home. I was in driver’s ed at the time, but didn’t have a license yet.
Anyone who remembers where Pier 4 was knows that you pull out of the driveway, take a right onto Seaport Boulevard, drive to about 1,500 feet to Atlantic Ave, take a right and take the first on-ramp to 93 North. All in all it was about half a mile, not what you’d really call “driving in Boston.” As a 16-year-old who loved everything Boston, though, it counted. I was pretty psyched.
The person who was least psyched about that surprise was my Memere, who apparently white-knuckled it the entire hour-long drive home while my dad educated me on the finer points of highway driving from the passenger’s seat: “you don’t want to drift from lane to lane; put your blinker on and move into the lane quickly.”
I’ve always liked to do things with my dad. When I was really little, I can remember walking down the street to a field where we would look at constellations. I was always a worthy assistant when he was fixing this or that and a flashlight needed to be held. In fact, I’m pretty handy fixing things around the house and I think it’s thanks to all the time I spent working on projects with him.
When I was in my 20’s we took on a really fun project together and made a set of bookcases for one of my apartments. At six feet tall and maybe three feet wide, they’re a stately pair. For their original installation, they were set in a corner, so we made one without a side panel to maximize that corner space. Thinking ahead, my dad suggested we make the side panel for the day when they didn’t sit in a corner together. One of the bookcases has triangle cutouts in the inside corner of each shelf so I can run cords down the height of it and plug things into the power strip we mounted to the underside of the bottom shelf – an elegant design element, I think.
I’m still using the bookcases but now they live in different rooms, so we pulled that old extra side panel out of storage and it attached reasonably well for having sat in storage for about a dozen years.
We’ve built other things, too – mostly storage solutions for my condo in recent years: rolling caddies and rolling under-bed boxes and rolling crates to maximize storage in the small space. I’ve already got ideas for our next project, a triangular-shaped bookcase to fit under the loft eaves. I’m waiting for just the right moment to spring it on him, though.
The Drink: When I was a kid, my dad was a road warrior, traveling – mostly driving – throughout the Northeast selling digital oscilloscopes to Nobel-prize-winning physicists at MIT as well as research departments at colleges and organizations throughout the region.
One time when I was 13, he came home from a trip on a Wednesday night after dinner. It was probably 7 or 8 and he asked me if I wanted to go get some potato skins with him at a local restaurant named Chestnuts. I jumped at the chance.
The old Chestnuts was a local restaurant something like a Bennigan’s. The restaurant had memorabilia hung throughout – including at least the front half of an antique car, as I remember. It was somewhere I had been a few times – with my mom for lunch or with the family for a special dinner out.
That night dad and I ordered our potato skins, he ordered a beer and I asked for a Creamsicle, an ice cream and sherbet monstrosity served in a hurricane glass that I had gotten with my mom once. When the drinks came, mine tasted funny – and I said so much. My dad tasted it and called the waitress over and the conversation went something like this:
My dad: “Um, excuse me, you made the alcoholic version of this drink.”
Waitress: “Is there a problem?”
My dad: “Yeah, she’s thirteen.”
Waitress: “Oh. … Let me go make another one.”
My dad: “That’s probably a good idea.”
So, when thinking about what to drink with my dad, this was one of the easiest drinks to choose. We went to TGI Friday’s for a bit of the old Chestnut’s vibe and ordered a Creamsicle, which tasted quite good to me this time.