Post 2 — The Family Broquet

Before the plane ride, before the packing, before the terror of the trolls, they were simply an ordinary family. A history teaching dad, a stay-at-home mom, and a bunch of kids who spent most of their days coloring pictures of apostles and learning how to spell from nuns.

Detroit in 1964 was still three years away from the riots that would paralyze the city, although racial tension was high and a long simmering resentment was building based on widespread reports of police brutality. The Detroit Tigers were in fourth place in the American League and the Beatles, fresh from their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, would be playing Olympia Stadium in September. But for these children living in suburban Harper Woods, MI, life was as insulated as the plaid thermos of tomato soup that was tucked into their Flintstone’s plastic lunchboxes.

There were four Broquet siblings, all girls and as alliterative as they could be: Kathy, Carolyn, Chris and Karen. Their parents, Larry and Jean, claimed that all the ”kuh” sounds were unintentional. Kathy might have been Virginia and Carolyn was very nearly a Martha. The names had no particular significance or family connection; the folks just liked the way they sounded. Although the Broquets never really planned on having their daughter’s names sound like a girl’s singing group, it occurred to them that by the time they got to the fourth one, it was too late to stop. That decision would prove problematic when it came to discipline. Their mother would frequently run through two or three of the wrong names until finally landing on the one she was yelling at. “KathChrisKar …Carolyn! Stop it! Take that snake out of your cousin’s pants!” Fortunately there were no pets at the time to add to the confusion, although they had once had a dog named Clancy.

At twelve, Kathy was the oldest. She knew her perch at the top of the birth order made her the alpha kid and she relished being in charge. “Now we will place one sock on top of the other, roll each pair from the toe up and then fold the open end where the foot goes in down so that the compact bundle stays intact! Karen, don’t wipe your nose on the sock.”

Vivacious with a dazzling smile, there were dozens of pictures of her in the Broquet family photo shoebox, and in every one of them she strikes a pose and beams at the camera. Her tiny white teeth are straight and even like small rows of baby corn. Although the photos are all in black and white, her cheeks appear to be rosy, as if the wonderfulness of her could not be contained in shades of gray. There was always one kid picking at something or scowling in the pictures, but it was never Kathy. Even the baggy plaid uniforms they were required to wear to St. Peter’s elementary school took on panache when she walked by, her beanie at a rakish angle.

Carolyn was next in line, born two years later. When she was quite young, the family called her Lynnie. This was surely meant as an endearment because Carolyn is a bit severe for a baby, but somewhere around age six she decided that as diminutives went, that one was pretty lame. “I will only answer to my real name,” she stated.

She solved the problem of relatives who insisted on addressing her as Lynnie by pretending they were dead, which was distressing to her grandmother, who was not. Her sisters figured out pretty quickly that this was not a girl to be trifled with and dropped the nickname before anyone could get hurt. There was a brief period when they tried calling her “Leonard Gas Station”, but that was mostly just to annoy her.

Amidst all the photos of Kathy, there is a shot of Carolyn in her First Communion finery, looking pudgy and adorable in her smudged white organza. Under her snagged veil, she wears a gleeful grin and clutches a Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle. Receiving the body of Christ for the first time was big event in the lives of Catholics, and they celebrated accordingly.

Born like clockwork two years after Carolyn, Chrissie enjoyed her position as the baby of the family until she was four, when her little sister Karen came along and robbed her of what she felt was her rightful birth order spot. She became the reluctant middle child, forced to be cheerful and easy to get along with instead of the pampered and cherished baby. But she adapted, because that’s what middle children do.

She developed a fondness for troll dolls, perhaps seeing in them kindred souls who were no longer the center of attention. She even developed the ability to make a face that made her look eerily like one of her ogres. It involved setting her mouth in a straight line and puffing out her upper lip until her nostrils widened. Her Polish ancestors would not have been pleased to know that their genetic material was exactly the right shape to inflate into a troll snout. The only things missing were the Day-Glo plastic eyes. Carolyn thought the troll face was hysterical and encouraged her to do it often, sometimes joining in herself. Whole rolls of film were wasted as they begged their parents, “Now take one of us as trolls!”

Carolyn and Chrissie looked so much alike that they were often mistaken for twins. Both had otter brown hair and eyes the color of mixed nuts. Pictures of them were frequently captioned with question marks, as if even the labeler wasn’t sure who was whom. This worked in their mother’s favor, for when she was accused of taking only photos of Kathy, the photogenic one, she could point at the mystery label and swear that was a picture of whomever was making the accusation.

Karen, at four, was the youngest. She had golden ringlets and the men in the family wrapped around her tiny finger. She also had a well-deserved reputation as a whiner but could turn the charm on and off like a switch. She liked to get up early and visit their grandparents, who were conveniently located about twenty feet away in the house next door. “Here’s Charlie Brown!” her grandfather would exclaim, mixing a milky coffee and handing her a pale beige slice of braunschweiger with the silky texture of velvet. “Here’s my curly top!” She must have been adorable. No pictures of her before age 6 exist.

Sept. 4, 1964
The girls are doing fine. Karen was whiny with us but was ready to stay with a Samoan family we met and has been perfectly charming to all she meets. So if we can stand her for a little longer we won’t ship her back. Chris has adapted beautifully and is letting her hair grow. Lynn is still going through the complaining stage, she has been in it for four months now, and the going has been pretty rough. However, they are all acquiring a very “Fa a Samoa” attitude, which loosely translated means “what the hell, everything is loused up in Samoa!” Kathy is still her charming pre-teen intellectual self. She received an invitation to a teenage dance but hasn’t shown much interest. I think she will stay like she is until she’s 17 then suddenly be an adult. Maybe I’m wrong but we’ll see.


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One Comment to “Post 2 — The Family Broquet”

  1. I hate to say it, but the “troll face” photo looks a lot like Remy. Sorry, Rem (or maybe congratulations?).


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