P is for Peg in her 40s: My mom resumes her career. Sixteenth of 26 posts in the April 2023 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: Endwell: My High School Years — adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
During my high school years – while my dad, Norm Charboneau, was busy becoming a Catholic – my mom, Peg (Laurence) Charboneau, was eyeing a relaunch of the career she put on hold to raise me and my four younger siblings.
Dad was one-and-done with his education and career aspirations. He had a BS in Engineering from Clarkson College and in the late 1960s worked as a quality control engineer at General Electric in Johnson City, N.Y. Although active in the American Society for Quality Control, he never pursued post-grad education.
Not so with Mom. She began with an BS in Education from SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. Before my parents married, Mom moved alone from upstate New York to New Jersey while Dad finished college, which had been interrupted by his WWII Navy service.
For two years, Mom taught general music, chorus, theory, and music history at Atlantic City High (1947-48) and Garfield High (1948-49). But after my parents married in 1948, children followed – first me, then my two brothers and, during my teens, my two sisters – so Mom put her career on pause.
Mom restarts her career
By the late 1950s, though, Mom was looking to pick up where she left off. Encouraged by the principal of Hooper School, my public grade school where she was a substitute teacher, Mom began commuting from our home in Endwell, N.Y., to Ithaca College for her master’s in Music Education – graduating at age 36 in 1962. Her Teacher of Music Permanent Certificate from New York State followed in 1964. By the time I was in high school, Mom was well on her way.
My mother had always found solace and support in her Catholic faith – and at midlife, it helped her re-enter the workforce. From 1959-1963, while in grad school, she taught instrumental music, chorus, and classroom subjects at St. Ambrose parochial school in Endicott, N.Y.
She became fast friends with Sister Louise, the school principal – and for one of the Christmas pageants Mom even pulled some strings so my youngest sister Carol could play baby Jesus in the nativity scene.
Armed with her MS and teacher’s license, Mom moved on to teach elementary music and chorus at parochial and public schools in Endwell from 1964-69 – all while raising five children! School was not Mom’s only creative outlet, either.
She also directed the adult choir at Christ the King, the Catholic church we attended – which required evening practices in the church loft to get the music just right. Wow, how did she do it all?
Enlisting family support
At the time, I was a teen preoccupied with my own high school issues, so I didn’t fully appreciate what a remarkable life she was creating for herself – or how fully she enlisted our family to support her efforts.
On her college nights, Dad was in charge of us, and my brothers and I also had home assignments – from setting the table, washing and drying the dishes, cleaning, vacuuming and ironing, to mowing the lawn, taking out the trash and babysitting our younger sisters.
At the time, these were just our chores, for which we received a weekly allowance — but our work also freed up Mom’s time to pursue loftier goals. Now I realize what a strong role model she was for us kids – showing by example how to excel at whatever we chose to pursue and to enlist help as needed along the way.
Mom went on to a long career that survived several moves for my dad’s job, during which she completed a doctorate in education (EdD) from Syracuse University in 1980 and worked as a music educator until her 1989 retirement – and all from the determined path she embarked on during my high school years.
Up next, Q is for Question of ethnicity: My first family tree. Please stop back.
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