M is for Margot, Moose and ancestral connections. Thirteenth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
During my early teens (1963-65), I ended up with a couple of nicknames that followed me through high school.
One was assigned, the other was an embarrassing accident — but both had a ancestral connection I didn’t fully appreciate at the time.
Margot: My French alter ego
My school taught us French from the 4th grade — so by Junior High, I was in a dedicated French immersion class with it’s own teacher.
With my French surname, the language appealed to me — hearkening back to my Quebecois ancestors. And I was even more thrilled when the teacher told us we would have to choose a French first name to use in class to connect us with Francophone culture.
My first name, Molly, was from my paternal Welsh-Irish grandmother (a version Mary). But there were already Mary’s and Maria’s in the class — so one of them got the French name Marie.
After some trial and error I settled on Margot (the French version of Margaret, my Mom’s name) — and I have to say, the teacher had a point. Sweeping into French class as Margot, I felt a certain sense of panache — and it helped that my classmates had French names, too.
Thus during our French hour, we teens were transported to another world where we were cooler, more sophisticated versions of our Junior High selves.
Dewey see a moose?
Alas, my other teen nickname, Moose, was more unfortunate. By age 13, I was already bigger and taller than many of my classmates — and being associated, even in jest, with a huge, lumbering animal did not help!
Yet there was also an ancestral connection to this embarrassing moniker — the blame falling on my father’s Uncle Dewey Charboneau from Dolgeville, N.Y.
A gym teacher’s innocent question
One day in Junior High gym class, we had a new instructor — and after our exercise period, she was reviewing the roll and getting to know our names.
When she got to me, she asked, “Are you related to Dewey Charboneau?” Imagine my surprise!
So I replied, “Yes, he’s my dad’s uncle.” It turned out she was from Dolgeville and she knew Uncle Dewey well.
“A really nice man,” she summed up, which is what everyone said about him. And that should have been the end of it.
The locker room ribbing
The problem was, the other teen girls thought the name Dewey was hilarious. Add to that the fact that I’d been the focus of attention in gym class — and the ribbing started as soon as we got into the locker room.
“Dewey! Dewey! Dewey see a duck? Dewey see a squirrel? Do we see a horse? Dewey see a moose?” they called out — laughing away while I stood there red-faced. Again, that should have been the end of it.
But alas, one of the girls told Frank and Tom — a couple of the boys in my crowd — and they started to call me Moose out loud in the hallway in front of everyone. And they continued to do so, as a private joke, until we parted ways after High School (as evidenced by Frank’s message in my senior yearbook above).
Uncle Dewey forgiven
Eventually, I realized my dad’s Uncle Dewey was innocent of sticking me with the Moose nickname — which I happily left behind when I went off to college.
Fast forward 50 years, and I was pleased to discover a painting of Uncle Dewey in his Dolgeville Masons Hall when my sister Amy and I visited during the 2015 Violet Festival.
Yet when I looked up at his portrait, I had to chuckle. Because the first thing I thought of was, “Dewey see a moose?” — that fateful Junior High mantra from my early teen years.
Up next, N is for Norm: My forty-something dad. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!
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