The holiday season brings to mind memorable family dinners, with generations of relatives gathered around the table sharing a meal and (if all went well) enjoying one another’s company.
My childhood holiday meals featured my maternal relatives — my grandparents Liz (Stoutner) and Tony Laurence and, before she moved to California, my mom’s only sibling Aunt Rita. The dinners were held either at our house in Endwell, N.Y., or my maternal grandparents’ home in Altamont, N.Y
Meahwhile further north, in Otter Lake, N.Y. and perhaps later in Holland Patent, N.Y., my dad’s four older brothers and their wives and children were invited each week by my maternal grandmother, Mary “Molly” (Owen) Charboneau, to come to Sunday dinner with her and Grandpa (Wm. Ray) Charboneau.
Charboneau dinner roll-call
Who attended these Charboneau family dinners? The 1950 US census provides a snapshot.
Uncle Owen and his wife Aline “Gig” (Desjardin) Charboneau and Uncle Fred and his wife Jean (Bastow) Charboneau would have been there. They lived near my paternal grandparents in Holland Patent, N.Y. in 1950.
Also invited were Uncle Franny (Wm. Francis) and his wife Marion (Warner) Charboneau and their children, who lived in Utica, N.Y., in 19501Utica, Oneida New York, ED 73-38; scroll to page 7, and Uncle Hube (Hubert) and his wife Doris (Chandler) Charboneau and their son, who lived in Boonville, N.Y., in 1950.2Oneida, New York, ED 33-7; scroll to page 4.
They all grew up in Otter Lake, N.Y., so the Sunday family dinners were a sort of homecoming.
Aunt Gig remembered those dinners
In 2005, on a visit to Aunt Gig with my parents Norm and Peg (Laurence) Charboneau, I asked about the Sunday dinners at my Grandma and Grandpa Charboneau’s house.
“She was such a wonderful cook. Every Sunday we went up there [to Otter Lake],” Gig said. “It’s a wonder she didn’t kick our asses out. She cooked all day Saturday and we went every Sunday. She could depend on that. It was just such a natural thing to go home. We never thought of all the work it comprised.”
“What did she serve?” I asked, and Gig described the fare.
“She made a big ham. Also roast pork. And a pot roast of beef with a rich brown gravy. And mashed potatoes, but we loved them because of that gravy. She was such a good cook,” Gig said, then covered her mouth. “We’d better stop talking about this, it’s making me hungry.”
Some animated discussions
Then Dad chimed in, “But the men used to argue at those dinners, too.” And I remembered a cousin telling me that at one dinner Grandpa Charboneau and my four uncles — none of them farmers — went on for hours on the best way to plant and grow peas!
“Well, it’s no fun if you don’t argue,” Gig said, and we all laughed. “But they didn’t think of it as arguing, because there was no anger there. They were ‘discussions.’ ” We all laughed again at that.
Grandma Charboneau had grown up in a large Welsh-Irish household in Baltimore, Maryland, so I doubt that animated dinner discussions phased her.
More important, I imagine, was gathering her sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren around her for as long as she was able — every Sunday and especially during the holiday season.
Please stop back for the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.
© 2022 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.
- 1Utica, Oneida New York, ED 73-38; scroll to page 7
- 2Oneida, New York, ED 33-7; scroll to page 4.