Gert and Gertie – make that Trudy

the anniversary of my mother’s death in 2011

Gert and TrudyThis a picture of my mother as a child. She’s with HER mother, Gertrude Yates Williams. Like Lorelai on Gilmore Girls, Gertrude and Clarence Williams, if he had a say in the matter, named the girl after her mother. (Clarence was apparently quite marginalized by my grandmother’s mother, Lillian Archer Yates Holland.)

There is an odd thing in the photo. My mother looks rather sad, but actually, that often seems to be the case in pictures from this time period. The real revelation is that my grandmother looks happy! In all the time I knew her, she never looked particularly cheerful. Maybe that’s because as long I knew my grandmother, she told us she was on death’s door. She also had bad teeth, if memory serves.

My mother was working outside the home, at McLean’s department store in downtown Binghamton. So my sisters and I would go to my grandma Williams’ house for lunch. This meant we went to Daniel Dickinson in grade school rather than Oak Street. This, of course, fundamentally changed the trajectory of our growing up.

At some point after she married our dad, mom stopped being Gertie, a term her remaining cousin Fran still uses. She became Trudy. As best I can recall, I never asked her why she changed her nickname. Perhaps it was obvious, to distinguish her more from her mother.


When I was an adult, I did talk to mom about all the scary stories her mother would tell to keep us in line. Tales of boogie men, real and imagined. (Grandma’s next-door neighbor, Fred, was pretty terrifying when our ball would inevitably land in his yard.)

My mom acted surprised that her mom would use fear to try to control us. And BTW, Gert’s tactics worked pretty well with Leslie and me. Not so much on baby sister Marcia, who could see through her lies. Mom probably knew what was happening. I suppose she thought that Gert’s sister Deana would be a mitigating force against Gert’s BS. It was somewhat true. I loved Deana dearly, but she died in 1966 before she turned 60.

Anyway, today is the anniversary of my mother’s death in 2011. It recently occurred to me that this is also around the time my grandmother died. It was January 24, 1982. I only remember this because my father (I think) called me during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVI, when San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21.

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