Tag Archives: Molly Charboneau

X-pletives deleted: I learn to curse #AtoZChallenge

X is for X-pletives deleted: I learn to curse. Twenty-fourth 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!

Before I moved to Endwell, N.Y. at age seven, I led a relatively sheltered country life on our family’s farm near Altamont, N.Y.

My second grade school photo. Fresh from life on our family’s farm, I was innocent and wide-eyed — and unused to fowl language — when we moved to Endwell, N.Y. in 1957.  Scan: Molly Charboneau

The four adults in our household — my parents and maternal grandparents — were probably trying to set a good example for me and my younger brothers, so I don’t remember much in the way of colorful language.

But all of that changed when we moved onto our working-class street with 50-or-so kids two blocks from the Susquehanna River.

There, my brothers and I became River Rats who lived on the other side of the railroad tracks below Main Street  — and that’s were I learned to curse.

Dad sets the tone

At our new home, my dad was in charge of household projects without my grandfather as a buffer. So he had sole responsibility for painting, repairs, lawn mowing, car fixing, you name it — and it didn’t take much for him to let fly with a few x-pletives deleted when a project went awry.

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Dad let fly during household projects. At home, Dad was responsible for painting, repairs, lawn mowing, car fixing, you name it — and it didn’t take much for him to let fly with a few x-pletives deleted when a project went awry. Artwork: Pixabay

In one famous episode, Dad was painting the outside of the house during the summer and something went wrong. Maybe he stepped in paint or messed up the window trim — who knows?

Whatever it was, Dad started cursing — along the lines of “goddammit” and other choice words — and came stomping red-faced into the house.

Dad wasn’t a drinker, but he’d been a bartender in his parents’ Adirondacks hotel — so he could think of only one solution. He made himself a boilermaker.

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One neighborhood dad cursed like a sailor. My father could not hold a candle to the yelling dad up the street, whose x-pletives deleted were over the top. Artwork: Pixabay

“What a mistake that was,” Dad told me years later. “Between the heat and the alcohol, I had to go straight to bed in the middle of the afternoon. Well, I never did that again!”

He did, however, continue to utter a string of x-pletives deleted during almost every household project throughout my childhood — a number of which I made a mental note of.

Another dad ups the ante

Yet my father could not hold a candle to the yelling dad up the street — the one whose windows we kids waxed every year during our fall Halloween mayhem campaign.

Yelling Dad’s x-pletives deleted were completely over the top — true “cursed like a sailor” outbursts, which I will not repeat here.

And we kids got to hear just about all of them as he spent miserable evenings scraping wax off his windows when trick-or-treat season ended.

My third grade school photo. Don’t let my cross and first communion dress fool you. After a year on our working class street, I had toughened up and learned to curse. Scan: Molly Charboneau

I listen and learn

I know I should have been shocked by the sudden exposure to Yelling Dad’s rough language — but oddly, I was impressed.

This was not the run-of-the-mill swearing Dad used at our house — which Mom was already afraid we children might pick up.

Yelling Dad’s curses had a raw edge to them that was somehow more authentic — a primal howl of frustration that he had yet again been outwitted by a bunch of kids and our annual childhood pranks.

Meanwhile, we kids gloated, listened and learned. Then, out of earshot of our folks, we practiced some of his choicer phrases on each other — and that’s how I learned to curse during my elementary years.

Up next: Y is for Youthful pastimes: Parties, skating and dust-bowl biking. Please stop back! 

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Weeping Willow: Our backyard tree #AtoZChallenge

W is for Weeping Willow: Our backyard tree. Twenty-third 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 professional arborists go into an unfamiliar forest, particularly in the tropics, they count on local residents who grew up there to help them identify various species.

With no formal training, these locals “just know” the trees they have lived with since childhood — and for me that tree was our back yard Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica).

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Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica). A giant Weeping Willow tree was a major presence in our Endwell, N.Y. backyard during my elementary years — a tree I know like family because I grew up with it. Photo: Pixabay

Propagating the willow

When our family arrived in Endwell, N.Y. in 1957, my second childhood home had no major flora to speak of.  There were the grassy yards and some tiny shrubs on one side — but no stately pines or other trees like we had at the farm to cast their long shadows or for us kids to climb.

My dad grew up in New York’s forested Adirondacks region and descended from several generations of amateur landscapers and home gardeners — so he was always up for a horticultural challenge.

Our treeless back yard in Endwell, N.Y. (1957). When we moved in, our Endwell home had no major flora to speak of. But my dad quickly picked up the horticultural challenge — rooting a Weeping Willow in a glass of water as other dads on the street had done. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

And the other dads on our new block were there to help — suggesting he grow a Weeping Willow in a glass of water from a cutting, just like they had done.

Budget-conscious Dad loved the idea — after all, a free tree! — so he gratefully accepted cuttings from other willows on the block and started them rooting. He also took some backyard photos — possibly to plan his planting.

Our willow takes root

The water-loving willow cuttings grew quickly — and before long Dad was able to plant the choicest one in our back yard not far from the swing set in the above photo.

As my younger brothers (and later my sisters) and I grew, so did our Weeping Willow — taller and taller each year, its droopy branches sweeping the ground or whipping wildly on windy days. And best of all it had a three-pronged trunk — perfect for getting a foothold to start climbing!

My brother Mark in our Weeping Willow tree. We kids and our neighborhood playmates would regularly climb the tree — daring one another to go higher and testing tree limbs before inching out onto them. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

 Nature’s backyard gym

Once the willow was big enough, we kids and our neighborhood playmates would regularly climb the tree — daring one another to go higher and testing the tree’s limbs before inching out onto them. Sometimes there would be several kids up the tree — with more of us yelling from the ground below as we waited our turn to ascend.

My brother Jeff in our Weeping Willow tree. As our willow tree  grew, so did the danger of one of us tumbling out of it. So after Jeff fell and required stitches, my parents put an end to our tree climbing. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

This was all well and good when our Weeping Willow was a reasonable size. But as it grew and grew, so did danger of one of us tumbling out of it. So after my brother Jeff fell and required stitches, my parents put an end to our tree climbing.

Mom decided an obstacle was the best deterrent. So she had Dad build a platform where the three trunks met — then installed a large plaster statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary to stare down any child who dared go near the tree again.

Our willow’s sad demise

Dad’s earlier excitement over growing a free tree eventually gave way to aggravation about the willow’s proclivities. For one thing, it attracted beetles — hundreds of them — and they left sticky droppings on the leaves and yard that drove him nuts.

For another, the tree cast such a shadow that no grass grew in its vicinity — messing up Dad’s perfect suburban lawn.

https://pixabay.com/photos/weeping-willow-hängeweide-tree-4140533/
Weeping Willow branches. Although it was later removed by subsequent owners, our backyard Weeping Willow lives on in memory — the tree I “just know” from my elementary years. Photo: Pixabay

Then came the realization by other dads on the street that the roots of their moisture-seeking willows were now breaking through their water pipes — and soon there were landscapers up and down the block chopping down willow trees and grinding out their stumps.

Our willow tree never harmed our pipes so it survived the mass slaughter — and it was still standing when we moved away in the late 1960s.

Yet although it was later removed by subsequent owners, our backyard Weeping Willow lives on in memory — the tree I “just know” from my elementary years.

Up next, X is for X-pletives deleted: I learn to curse. Please stop back!

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Vacations and Visiting Relatives #AtoZChallenge

V is for Vacations and Visiting Relatives. Twenty-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!

Holidays and summertime still evoke memories of vacations and visiting relatives during my elementary years. My family often took to the road in our Pontiac station wagon — and I well remember our seating arrangement inside the car.

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Beach and dunes on Cape Cod. For two weeks every summer General Electric, where my dad worked, closed down — and that’s when we made our annual family trip to Dennisport, Mass. on Cape Cod. Photo: Pixabay

My dad was a road warrior and generally in the driver’s seat. On long trips, my mom sat in the back seat behind him. Why? So she could be in reach of all of us kids if we needed something — or if we got out of line and required a firm hand. Also, she could tap Dad’s head as a wake-up call if he  seemed to be nodding off.

Up front, I rode shotgun with my brother Mark in the middle, Jeff and Amy were in back next to Mom — and Carol, alas, had to sit in a cleared spot in the station wagon’s trunk. And thus we traveled from Endwell, N.Y. to our various destinations.

Vacations

General Electric, where my dad worked, closed down for two weeks every summer — and that’s when we made our annual family trip to Dennisport, Mass. on Cape Cod. We rented a family-friendly wood-frame house withing walking distance to the beach — and it became our home away from home for a fortnight.

https://www.historicnewengland.org/explore/collections-access/capobject/?refd=MS028.01.012.019
Cape Cod souvenir matches. During college, my mom broke up with my dad before her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod. Then she thought it over and sent Dad some souvenir matches — and that’s how they got back together. Talk about serendipity! Photo: historicnewengland.org

I associate Cape Cod with my childhood — but later learned of an important family history connection, too. Mom told me she used to go there with her parents (aka Boom and Gramps) — and during college before one of those vacations she had broken up with Dad, who she was dating at the time.

“But while I was at the cape, I thought it over and sent your father a box of Cape Cod souvenir matches,” she said. “And that’s how we got back together. Can you believe it?” Wow, talk about serendipity!

The cape was a great place to vacation as a child: hot, salty days on the beach and cool, foggy sweatshirt nights; weekly auctions of little trinkets outside the camp rental office, followed by fireworks; eating fried clams at noisy Kream ‘N Kone — and one time even boiling a lobster for my sister Carol’s birthday.

Plus there were tons of other children — some also from hometown GE families — to hang out and play with. My siblings and I all still love Cape Cod based on our fun childhood vacations there.

Visiting relatives

Other trips — usually for weekends or holidays — involved visiting relatives and gave me a larger sense of family.

Family buggy ride (1956). A visit to my grandparents’ farm was always fun. Here, we ride in an antique carriage that my grandmother was likely planning to sell through her antique business. I am sporting ringlet curls my grandmother created with tied rags. Out of sight is my grandfather, who acted as the “horse” to pull us down the driveway. Photo: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

Visits to my maternal grandparents Tony and Liz (Stoutner) Laurence on the farm were always fun — and sometimes surprising, as illustrated by our brief carriage ride above.

We kids loved running around in the fields, splashing in the small nearby creeks, skipping stones on the pond and feeding grass to the cows next door. But there were family gatherings, too.

A summer gathering of my maternal Italian- and German-American relatives. Boom and Gramps, my maternal grandparents, often invited their families over from Gloversville, N.Y. for family picnics at their Altamont, N.Y. farm — giving me a chance to meet everyone during my elementary years. Photo: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

My grandmother was big on keeping family connected, so she would invite her German-American and my grandfather’s Italian-American family over from Gloversville, N.Y. for big family picnics on their Altamont, N.Y. farm — giving me a chance to meet everyone during my elementary years.

Dad’s North Country family

On separate trips, we drove north of Utica, N.Y. to visit my dad’s family — his three brothers, their wives and children and the paternal family patriarch Grandpa Charboneau. And sometimes, in the summer, we visited their camps in the Adirondacks.

Dinner with Dad’s family in New York’s North Country (circa 1962). I’m on the left in a red blouse in this photo of a dinner with some of Dad’s brothers, their families and Grandpa Charboneau. Photo: Peg (Laurence) Charboneau

That’s how — little by little, through these regular visits to faraway relatives — I became acquainted with my extended family during my elementary years.

Up next: W is for Weeping Willow: Our backyard tree. Please stop back! 

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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