B is for Brothers and Boondoggle: Second of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!
Genealogists are always thinking about those ancestors who came before us, but family history is also about those who come after — and for me, the first two additions to my family were my younger brothers Mark and Jeff.
My brothers arrived two years apart, Mark when I was four and Jeff when I was six — during the years when my family lived on a farm with my maternal grandparents.
Then we moved together to Endwell, west of Binghamton, N.Y., and became the three new kids on a block that had 52 children at the height of the Baby Boom.
Many of our Endwell neighbors had local roots and extended family who lived nearby. But my brothers and I had only one another and our parents — with our nearest extended family living several hours drive away. So we were thrown together at home and at play — and that helped mold my personality in positive ways.
For one thing, I was not a girly girl — partly because I had brothers. I could catch toads and garter snakes or skewer a worm onto a fish hook without flinching — unlike some of my sisters-only playmates who screamed at the mere idea.
Growing up with brothers, I saw their tough and tender sides, which helped me relate to male classmates and colleagues throughout life. Something my sisters-only friends never seemed to grasp.
But most of all, my brothers were fun! They were endlessly amusing and great team players when it came to working around our parents for this and that — or helping me survive long car trips to visit relatives or vacation on Cape Cod. (Never mind the fights we had over our lone TV set because the Walt Disney and Ed Sullivan shows aired at exactly the same time on Sunday nights!)
One diversion available to my brothers and me was summer day camp at Hooper Elementary School. The school was a 1930s brick structure with a flat, cement playground — which was fun during the school year but broiling hot in the summer.
Nevertheless, it was walking distance from our house. So to give our moms a summer break, the kids from our street were trundled off to Hooper School to do arts and crafts at long tables set up in what little shade the school building offered.
At Hooper School summer camp I learned to make boondoggle whistle chains, weaving contrasting plastic into intricate patterns that presaged my later interest in knitting and crochet.
Do children still do this, I wonder? It certainly was relaxing — and a great way to pass summer days and evenings when we weren’t busy running around the street, riding our bikes, catching fireflies in mayonnaise jars or wandering down to the creek that trickled past our street’s dead end.
Up next: C is for Christ the King Church. Please stop back!
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