Liz: My modern grandmother- #atozchallenge

Liz: My modern grandmother. Twelfth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck!

My maternal grandmother — Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence — lived at Whispering Chimneys with us when I was little. Gramps called her Lisbeth and her friends called her Liz.

But I came up with her family nickname — Boom — when I mispronounced Grandma as Booma. The shortened version stuck and seemed to capture her assertive no-nonsense personality.

Boom and me in Gloversville, N.Y., shortly before we moved to Whispering Chimneys. My maternal grandmother Liz was always fashionably dressed and accessorized, with every hair in place. Scan: Molly Charboneau

She was young as grandmothers went — only 45 when I was born — and always kept up with the latest fashions, footwear and accessories. She was modern in other ways, too.

While Grandma Charboneau (my dad’s mother) never learned to drive — Boom loved to get behind the wheel. She wasn’t shy about hitting the gas pedal, either.

Boom even drove cross-country once with my Aunt Rita — Mom’s younger sister. And after we moved to the farm, she wasted no time setting up her business.

Boom’s antique shop

While Gramps got his shop going out in the barn, Boom cleared a building down by the road and opened an antique shop specializing in country and early American antiques and collectibles.

“She absolutely loved that shop,” my mom told me. And I did, too.

I remember the faint smell of powdered ginger when I opened some of the tins — and the old rocking butter churn from the shop that she used as a decoration up by the house.

Whispering Chimneys Antiques, my maternal grandmother’s antiques and collectibles shop at the farm. Scan: Molly Charboneau

Boom named her business Whispering Chimneys Antiques and took full advantage of its location along Route 20 — a major thoroughfare before the New York State Thruway was built.

To stock the shop, Boom and Gramps went to local auctions — and made some fast friends there. They also belonged to the Grange up the road, which helped her network in the local farming community.

Besides all of that, Boom was like a second mother to me. According to my baby book, she was right there alongside my mom for the big events in my young life — like my first word or when I walked for the first time.

A well-matched couple

I didn’t know it then, but my grandmother eloped at 18 to marry my grandfather against her mother’s wishes — which I wrote about in A Valentine’s Day love story: My grandmother elopes.

Strong-willed and determined, Boom applied that same spirit to her antiques business — and at the farm she and Gramps appeared to be a well matched couple.

When she had ideas, Gramps had the practical skills to assist — building this and that as needed, like a sign for the shop or a bank of windows to let light in.

Together they made a good team. And they were a beloved part of my family team for my first seven years.

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© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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16 thoughts on “Liz: My modern grandmother- #atozchallenge”

    1. They were both interesting in their own way, and different from my parents, too. Looking back, I’m glad I had all these adult role models to learn from.

  1. A modern enterprising woman for her time. How lucky they were part of your lives in the early years. I’m enjoying a moment to catch up on all your great stories.

  2. Using Sunday to catch up on posts I’ve missed during the week. Another great read.
    Dropping by from the A to Z Challenge.
    [ A to Z Challenge – M is for Mortuary Photo]
    Sandra, Aspiring family historian, fellow participant in the #AtoZchallenge
    [ “Sandra’s Ancestral Research Journal”]

  3. I love family stories. Last summer my mom received some items that had belonged to her mother when my uncle died. My maternal grandmother died before I was born. Among the items was my grandmother’s baby book. It was an interesting look into history, but mom also shared stories that she remembered stories I had never heard. Girl Who Reads

    1. Like you, I never knew my paternal grandmother who died when I was 4 — until I inherited her diary. Your grandmother’s baby book is a precious inheritance. You should consider writing something on your grandmother’s life from the book and stories.

    1. Yes, she was quite something. I only found out about her cross-country trip as an adult when I found photos of her and my Aunt Rita in Chicago and asked my mom about them.

    1. Thanks, Courtney. I was even luckier that she and my grandfather lived with us until I was seven — giving me an additional role model to learn from.

    1. She was so different from my friends’ grandmothers, who wore cotton house dresses and seemed so much older. In retrospect I’m glad she was young, because we got to do so much together!

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