Saturday, January 16, 2010

What I MEANT To Say Was...

Here is the text of what I was trying to say at the service today. I did a little on-the-fly editing so it's not exact but most of it is there and some stuff I left out.

I'll let Rachel post her own. Thank you all for coming and being a part of our CJ Celebration.

There Was Just Something About Her

Can’t say it much differently than that. Charlotte Jennie Reynolds was an amazing presence, and continues to be even now. She touched so many people from all over the world whether you knew her personally and got to spend time with her or just met her once or even those who merely saw her picture and heard about her only after she got sick.

We’re not talking a Nobel laureate, world leader, or some guy who did something to get into a history book. We’re talking a 4_ year old kid. One who was no more precious to her parents than these kids down front are to their parents (Maybe our experience has helped them to be more so). There was just something about her.

We all wanted to pour ourselves into her one way or another and one that seemed very popular was her name. Or “names” shall I say.

Charlotte was named after the spider in the classic book, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. It’s one of Rachel’s favorite books and one of the first movies I ever remember seeing as a child. Jennie came from the grandmothers. My grandma’s name is Jenny, Rachel’s great-grandma’s name was Jennie and it is her middle name as well. I remember being so proud to tell my Gramses (My nickname for Grandma Jenny) Charlotte’s name.

Even before she was born, she had names.

Once we discovered we were pregnant, we decided we didn’t want to learn the sex so most of what we called “it” was gender neutral or at least both masculine and feminine were given equal time.

I’m sure Rachel will correct me if I’m wrong (and of course I’m wrong, I’m the husband), but I think our first name for her was “Peanut” for multiple reasons. Ya know when you open the peanut shell and sometimes you get three instead of two? That third peanut is an unexpected bonus and we liked using that as kind of an inside joke when something good would happen, like finding a five dollar bill, like finding out we’re gonna’ have a baby. “That’s a third peanut!” It also described kind of what she looked like in the first ultrasound. Others have used it as a name for her independent of our journey.

Next was the “Little Jumping Bean” because as this thing grew inside Rachel’s belly, it became pretty active even before I could feel anything from the outside. As time went by, she would sometimes react pretty strongly to various types of music. (More about that later)

We wanted to reveal the baby news via our annual Christmas letter so we were going to have to keep it quiet for a little bit. Not something at which I excel. I wanted to at least let Grandma Jenny know so I called her up one night to tell her. Well Jaybird (which is another one of her nicknames) was in bed recovering from a recent stroke and I guess I should have waited when there weren’t so many people hanging around her bedside. I told her I had something to tell her and that she couldn’t tell anyone else yet. She said “OK” but when I let her know, she let out such a whoop and a holler that just about spilled the bean right there. Everyone present guessed what I had told Gramses but we still didn’t want to ruin the surprise. So “Zazou” was born.

I went out to Farmington, NM for an early Christmas that year and started weaving a deception for which I’m still proud! I slowly began leaking the news that I had auditioned for The Lion King – The Musical and had won the part of Zazou in the European touring company and we would be moving there for three years starting in the spring. I don’t even know if there IS a European touring company! I have just enough credibility with the few connections I have in the music and theater world that with repetition, I think I got most of the family off the baby track.
Then of course I went and confirmed everyone’s original suspicions the night before I left. After that, CJ was often referred to as ”Zazou.”

Still not knowing what sex Charlotte was, we came up with “The Creature”. That was actually a term of endearment we had for a monstrous tomato plant we had back in Boone, NC when we lived there but that’s another story. What’s important is that the name moved with us and stuck to CJ in utero.

Charlotte LOVED music before she was born. Surprising? J We played Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue for her (among other things) and often went to concerts where she would boogie in Rachel’s belly like she was dancing the Can-Can. For example: Once at a choral concert at Randolph-Macon College, Zazou was quiet throughout the Chamber Singers and Concert Choir sections of the performance but once the Jazz Vocal Ensemble started up, she started jumping around in there making mommy’s life very interesting! Not sure if she liked the music or not.

So we started calling her the “Can-Can Dancing Creature” which somehow morphed into “Zazou, the Amazing Can-Can Dancing Creature.”

“Mater” was a gift from our friend, Dr. Anna Madland. Charlotte was due around July 25th but due to complications, the docs at St. Marys induced Rachel with Pitocin on Friday, July 8th. I was at WHAN the radio station getting ready for our live broadcast at the Tomato Festival the next day, when Rachel called me and said, “Guess what? We’re having a baby! Today!!!” So I never did that broadcast and Charlotte was born the next day around 1:30pm. Right in the middle of the "Mater Festival!” So that’s where that came from. If you would ask her what ‘Mater was afraid of, she would shout out, “THE GHOSTLIGHT!!!” in her best ‘Mater voice.

And speaking of WHAN, I used to do an afternoon show every weekday and I would often take Charlotte with me. Most of the time, she was very quiet and well behaved. Then again, sometimes, she would just be the wonderful wild and crazy girl that she was and I couldn’t help but put her on the air. Sometimes, she got on accidentally like the time I forgot to turn off the microphone and she went over the airwaves right along with the latest version of Whisky For Breakfast. A gentleman named Charlie I Cry Taylor would come into the station every once in a while to visit and promote one of the many events with which he was involved and, fell in love with CJ. It was he who came up with “CJ The DJ.” Definitely one of my favorites.

Rachel sometimes called her “Doodle Bug”. No real reason that I can tell except that it’s really cute. Just like CJ!

Her preschool friends had a few nicknames for her like, “Char-char” or just “Char” for short and “Custard” which is Strawberry Shortcake’s cat!

She was “Princess Charlotte” and “The Drama Queen” to everyone at Romp n’ Roll

“My Baby Girl” had various permutations but it’s probably the one I used the most. “I love my Baby Girl” or “Yes, my sweet Baby Girl?”

Then there’s “Monkey Butt” which, I must admit, came by much less organically. I think it was the host of Survivor (or was it American Idol? Not sure) who was on The Ellen DeGeneres Show one day and he mentioned that he called his daughter “Chicken Butt.” I thought, “That’s cool! If I ever have a kid, I want to call him/her that!” Unfortunately, Chicken Butt never really seemed right once Charlotte came around and it evolved into “Monkey Butt” somehow. No idea. But “Monkey Butt” it was and she would tell you proudly that that was what I called her. And now I understand the Ululating Mummies have a song called “Monkey Butt.” How exciting!

The last two are known to most of you and probably how she will be remembered forever: “The Caterpillar” and “The Butterfly” The story was simple and thought up while negotiating a rough spot during CJ’s Make A Wish trip to Disney World. We had stopped at a playground in the Magic Kingdom where dozens of kids were running around, playing, climbing, etc... I know Charlotte wanted to go play but she knew she couldn’t do most of what all the other kids were doing and I could feel a very deep sense of frustration coming from her. I felt helpless and kind of just pulled the infamous “Butterfly Analogy” out of my shoe on the spot. I made sure she knew what happened with caterpillars and butterflies and then told her that she was like a caterpillar and that soon she would be changing into a beautiful butterfly but first a cocoon had to close around her. It was already starting to close around her and one day she would go to sleep and when she woke up, she would be a beautiful butterfly. I told her most of us won’t get to be a butterfly for a very long time but she gets to do it before almost everyone.

That must have done the trick because she was fine with just about everything for the rest of the trip. Whatever muse touched me on the shoulder and put that analogy into my head deserves a beermosa. (HA!)

We talked many times after that day about how she was changing. She even occasionally substituted her ongoing Dora, Diego, etc… video plot-point recaps with the announcement that she was a caterpillar and would soon change into a beautiful butterfly. Always preceded by, “Daddy?” Then me: “Charlotte…”

While she could still answer me, I would ask her, “Are you my caterpillar?” and she would nod.

“Are you excited about becoming a beautiful butterfly?”


“It’s hard changing into a butterfly isn’t it?”


“I’ll bet you’re going to be the most beautiful butterfly that ever was.”


“We probably won’t be able to see you, but will you come visit us when you’re a beautiful butterfly?”


“Want a boot to the head?”

Shake head

That’s about the gist of it.

There are probably many others I have left out or never knew. I’m sure I’ll be hearing of other people’s special, secret CJ nicknames for some time to come.

Gives me something else to look forward to.


  1. Roger and Rachel,
    The words you shared with us today were incredible. Charlotte was an amazing little girl with two outstanding parents.

    Kathy and Rob Suydam

  2. Charlotte will always be "Care Bear" to me, because I will never forget her two little fingers shooting up to let me know that she was wearing TWO Care Bear socks!

    Such a beautiful little girl.

    Much love,
    Rebecca (Katie's mom)

  3. She will continue to "nibble at my soul" for all the days I live! Thank you for sharing your sweet girl, your family with us. I am forever thankful to have crossed paths with the Reynolds family. She was watching you with such pride and love today!

  4. Roger, this was amazing. I don't know how you did it, but thank you for sharing.


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