Sepia Saturday 516. P is for Peg: My thirtysomething mom. Sixteenth 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!
When my family moved in 1957 to Endwell, N.Y., my mom Peg had been out of the work world for a few years — raising me and my brothers and carrying out the usual motherly duties.
But Mom had a bachelor’s in music education from SUNY Potsdam and taught high school music and chorus before marrying my dad, who she met in college. So during my elementary years — as we kids reached school age — she set her sights on resuming her paused career.
During my elementary years, Mom reentered the workforce as a substitute teacher in the Endwell public schools — which created some embarrassing moments. I actually had her as a Hooper School substitute a couple of times — and the awkward dilemma was what to call her.
Certainly not Mom — although my tittering classmates would whisper, “Isn’t that your mother?” So I learned an early lesson in professional demeanor and called her Mrs. Charboneau just like the other kids.
During Mom’s time at Hooper School she got to know Mr. Pierce — the same school principal who changed my fifth grade class — and he encouraged her to go to grad school.
“He was younger than me and convinced me to get my masters degree,” Mom told me years later. “He said it would really be worth it for my career.” But how to do it with three young children?
Ithaca College Masters
Mom stepped up to the challenge, researched nearby schools and settled on Ithaca College — which offered a masters program in music education and was a one-hour drive each way from Endwell.
I remember her school years. Dad came home from work and took over childcare duties — and Mom headed out for the drive to Ithaca, not returning home until late at night. Amazing to think of it now — but she was clearly determined.
Mom’s plan went pretty well — except on one of her class nights when I told Dad that I had my sixth grade photo the following day and he had no idea how to fix my curly hair. Yikes! So I struggled with bobby pins as best I could — and posed the next day for my worst school photo ever. (And no, I will not be posting it here!)
Mom completed her masters in 1962, with her proud family standing with her at graduation. Then she resumed teaching at St. Ambrose, a Catholic parochial school in nearby Endicott — many of her former students still remembering her all these years later.
Mom at home
My bad hair day notwithstanding, Mom did a good job of balancing school, work and home life — possibly because she was a teacher who was trained in handling dozens of children.
She was a unique, no-nonsense mom who some neighbor kids, and even grownups, found intimidating. When one of the boys up the block hit my hip with a shot from his BB gun, Mom marched up to his yard, snatched the air rifle out of his hands and said, “If you want it back, send your mother for it.” That gun sat in our closet for years.
Also, instead of yelling from the porch like the other moms, she used to whistle for me and my brothers to call us home for dinner or homework or whatever — a habit she started on the farm. “Hey, your mom’s whistling for you,” became our playmates’ catchphrase as they adjusted to this odd behavior.
Unsurprisingly, Mom was also big on education — poring over our report cards, filling in the parent comment lines, giving us a talking to if we fell behind in school and even grounding me once for bad grades! A tough taskmaster at the time, Mom became an inspiration as I grew into adulthood.
She was also big on family. Mom kept us connected with our maternal grandparents. And she pulled out all the stops for the holidays — making her famous turkey stuffing in November, preparing bouillabaisse on meatless Christmas Eve, and best of all braiding colored eggs into her famous Easter Bread, which my sister Carol still bakes every year.
Up next – Quaker State Motor Oil and the alphabet game. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of the other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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