Laburnam Crescent begins
"Laburnam Crescent" is an odd street name. People usually don't get it. They want you to spell it out for them, and as soon as you do you start to doubt yourself—"Is it one U and one A, or two U's ... ?" Even if you do manage to get the letters out in the right order, whoever you're speaking to (the receptionist at Urgent Care in Portland, Oregon, for instance) is likely to write down something like "Lavurnam" by mistake anyway, since the word "Laburnam" doesn't even register in anyone's mind as a thing. It's a tree, but hardly anyone knows that. According to Wikipedia, they are native to the mountains of southern Europe, from France to the Balkan Peninsula. No mention of how it came to name a street in Rochester, New York.
The addition of "Crescent" further complicates things. People expect to hear "street," "avenue," "drive," not some random shape. They'll ask you to spell it, and again you doubt yourself: "Is it SC, or maybe just S ... or C?" You opt to abbreviate it, but that's no good—again you wonder if it should be "Cres." or "Crec." (no that can't be right!). At least the whole ordeal isn't arbitrary. The street actually is crescent shaped, and longer than you might expect, curving as it does across two intersections. It begins just north of Monroe Avenue, tucked away next to a wall bordering the expressway, but marked with a helpful sign, and it extends south, across Monroe Avenue and then again across Pinnacle Road, before finally terminating at Crossman Terrace.
My mother pointed out at dinner tonight that actually the name of the tree does have two U's, so my instinctual confusion about the spelling all these years has been justified. Laburnum tree, but Laburnam Crescent. Apparently the original street signs included versions with both spellings, so a meeting was convened to rectify things, and for unknown reasons the incorrect spelling was agreed upon and now it's the "official" street name. According to my mother, there used to be a lot of Laburnum trees on Laburnam Crescent, but they'd all died out by the time the family moved here in 1985. Years later, she and her friend Diane planted one in the front yard. It's a good first step. Now someone has to get out there and put U stickers on those street signs...