What’s your favorite vacation?

two Olin reunions

vacationThat Greg Burgas, the scoundrel, asked What’s your favorite vacation?

Overthinking this, as usual, I don’t recall any vacations growing up. Oh, we would go camping, which I hated, and we might see some attractions. Day trips to Eldridge Park in Elmira, NY; Catskill (NY) Game Farm et al. Maybe the trip I took with dad to Lake George, NY was a vacation, though it was only a few days.

My family visited NYC several times, but it was partly to see my mom’s cousins. Going to the Empire State Building, Coney Island, or Jones Beach was a secondary consideration. Likewise, trips with my wife’s family to Massachusetts didn’t usually feel like vacay, mostly because it was often logistically or interpersonally… complicated. However, the trip to Newport, RI, in 2012 was far less stressful far than most.

My wife and I did take a trip to Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont at some point before the daughter was born; THAT was a vacation, as was the trip to Maine in 2003. My favorite was my trip to Portland, ME, with my soon-to-be wife in March 1999, when we got snowed in for a couple of days. And even the three of us going to Yorktown in 2008.


But when I think of vacations, I think of three trips, or maybe four. There’s the one in 1998, which I wrote about while attempting to write about my 2011 vacation.

2011: the Olin international reunion in Peterborough, ON, Canada. We stopped at Niagara Falls (more ); Toronto  (moremoremore);  eating in Canada; reunion; Canton, NY

2016:the Olin international reunion in Ashtabula, OH.  Corning (NY) Museum of Glass; Seneca Nation; Lucy-Desi Museum; Pro Football Hall of Fame; First Ladies National Historic Site; Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (more); reunion; traffic; Letchworth State Park. There was more, but I didn’t write about it until the following year.

Closer to Albany, NY, than San Diego

The fourth is our honeymoon in Barbados in May 1999. Considering it’s the only time I’ve ever been anywhere besides the US, Canada, and Mexico, I’ve written relatively little about it, in part because it predated this blog.

Truth to tell, it was just grand to go to any all-inclusive resort for six nights, especially as a prize for coming in second on JEOPARDY on my second episode. But arranging for the trip was terribly complicated, and it makes sense that the show has since opted for cash prizes for second and third place.

The ocean was gorgeous. My wife went snorkeling, but I opted out. There were three different places to eat dinner, and the food was fabulous. We bought a rum cake to take home; it was extraordinarily delicious. We enjoyed having tea at 4 p.m.

Everything was interesting to us, from the way the news was far more international to the wall-to-wall coverage of cricket. I must say that the cab ride from the airport to the resort was a white-knuckle affair, and there was a fatal automobile accident that very afternoon we arrived.

When we returned to the States, we needed to pay $13 apiece for the privilege. (If we didn’t have it, would that mean we could stay forever?) Somehow, we were bumped to first class on the five-hour flight home. Customs at the JFK airport, though, was chaotic, with the queue somehow turned into a figure eight.

Clarence Devan Williams: grandfather

I don’t remember my maternal grandfather

I’ve seldom mentioned my maternal grandfather, Clarence Devan Williams. It’s because I don’t remember him. He died in July 1958 in Owego, Tioga County, about 20 miles from Binghamton, Broome County, at the age of about 71.

From what I knew, he was the son of Margaret, or Marguerite (1865-1931) and Charles Williams, who was a year older or a year younger, depending on which Census you check.

Clarence had a brother Charles Nathaniel Williams (1885–1923) who was about two years his senior, and they both reportedly played Negro Leagues baseball somewhere.

In 1900, they lived on 103 Paige Street in Owego.

But there’s a record in the New York, Census of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses, 1830-1920 suggesting that a Clarence Williams was the “illegitimate child of Mary Williams – December 20, 1887.”

Someone suggested in a note in Ancestry.com that Clarence might have been adopted. Presumably Mary was the sister of the elder Charles.

Clarence was a laborer at some point in his early twenties. I have no idea how he met Gertrude Williams in Binghamton, but they apparently got married in 1927 and had two children. One was my mother, born in 1927, and the other was a female child who died in early 1929.

The family lore suggested that Gertrude’s mother somehow drove Clarence away. But Lillian Holland died in 1938, yet he mostly stayed away.

There’s a guy, a black male, named Clarence Nat Williams, who had a 1942 draft registration card, though he was 55. If it’s the same guy – by then he was living in Deposit, Broome County, with a Charles Williams. Did he take his brother’s middle name as a tribute?

This was just a quick and dirty search in Ancestry for less than an hour, and it was like falling into a wormhole. I acknowledge that some of my assumptions may be wrong.

This is why I need to retire, in order to track these and other familial mysteries down. I have a feeling it’s going to take awhile, especially since I have no contact with the Williams tribe, and, of course, I can’t ask my mother.

Maybe sometime I’ll go to Evergreen Cemetery in Owego. I don’t believe I’ve ever been to the grave site of Clarence Devan Williams, unless my mom took me there when I was very young.

E is for entertainment for the whole family

In the 1980s, I ROCKED at Trivial Pursuit

UnoIn November 2018, Slate came up with The 40 Greatest Family Games, entertainment for the whole family. There are five things games should be: the right length, fair, action-packed, helping you learn something, and encouraging spontaneity. “Not every good game follows all these commandments, but the best ones balance them well.”

I will only note the ones I have actually played.

Sorry! – wrote about its greatness here eight and a half years ago
Concentration – I’ve always been notoriously bad at this. By the time my daughter was eight, she could beat me. I used to watch a TV version with Hugh Downs as the host.
Uno – I am a harsh competitor. Even when she was much younger, if the Daughter didn’t say “Uno” when she played her penultimate card, I made her take two more. I also insisted she keep her cards above the table. Slate calls it Bloodthirsty, Thrilling, and Desperate
Air Hockey – when we’re at the timeshare, the daughter, nieces and I often play. Something visceral about it.

Apples to Apples – “asks players to decide which of a set of proposed nouns best fits that round’s designated adjective.” It’s often hilarious.
Boggle – My wife is MUCH better finding words than I.
Cribbage – I actually have a cribbage board and deck of cards both in my office and at home
Pictionary – I’m lousy at it because I cannot draw worth beans
Chess – I learned how the pieces move, but that is about it

Scrabble – I played this with my great aunt over 55 years ago. My college roommate painted me a Scrabble board. I’ve reviewed a book about Scrabble. I haven’t played in a while. No, I’ve seldom played Words with Friends online.
Scattergories, Stratego – I’ve played them but never owned them
Trivial Pursuit – in the 1980s, I ROCKED at Trivial Pursuit. Now, any 21st century pop culture question would ground me
Yahtzee – a dice game that I like because it requires decision-making and odds calculating

Slate also notes the 10 Worst Family Games

Candy Land – pretty lame, I thought, even as a child
Clue – I never “got” Clue
Hangman – boring
Life – I actually liked it as a kid, but quit by my teen years

Monopoly – I’ve played it enough that, at one time, I could have told you the price and rent of every property on the board. I suppose they’re right, though – “the most famous branded board game of all time can be made enjoyable — with the help of some aggressive house rules”
Operation – hated it from the start
Risk – never warmed to it
Tic-tac-toe – statistically boring

For ABC Wednesday

The family that’s grumpy together

Then she had to deal with HS insurance company.

Grumpy Pants

My wife is of generally good spirits, but last month, she mentioned how grumpy she was.

ITEM: Someone hit her car one night. The driver, who turned out to be one of the rotating cadre of students living next door, left a note on the windshield. She talked with him and said he sounded like a responsible young man who was very apologetic for the damage. He was coming home from work after an extra-long shift and was tired.

He scraped the car about 9:30 pm – no we did not hear it – when parking in front of her. He said his own car had a very small scrape but mine had a lot more damage. She had to deal with her insurance company and reported the damage. Then she had to deal with HS insurance company.

The short version is that she had to wait about three weeks get his adjuster to see her car and then arrange for a garage picked by his insurance company to fix it. She got a rental from them, but it had very limited legroom for a tall woman like my wife; she had it for a week. Fortunately, the next five days, she was actually driving a vehicle more suitable for her height.

ITEM: Our next-door neighbor is finally getting the roofing done that they started last fall. My wife made it clear to both the absentee property owner and the contractor where the property line was.

So she was greatly annoyed when a pallet of roofing was placed off right on our lawn. Then the old roofing was dropped from that roof onto our porch (view now on details related to roofing and roof repairs). They never removed the trash they left, when the folks doing the siding showed up. We’re happy about the work being done, but in the interim, it looks a bit seedy.

My grumpy complaints, primarily about the incredibly poor air conditioning at work, seems not so bad. I WAS frustrated to lose my cellphone at a point when the bulk of the news about my sister Leslie’s condition was coming via a mass text chain. Fortunately my sister Marcia either emailed or called with the info.

Burying mom: easy/not easy

We were all orphan adults, the folks of the oldest generation of our tiny tribe.


I was talking to one of my sisters, in November, just before what would have been my mother’s 89th birthday, on the phone – it’s easy to go 90 minutes. We noted the odd dysfunction that seems to take place when the Greens all got together, from missing a wedding we all traveled to in 1991, to the fight on my parents’ anniversary in 1995, to the return of my father’s black cloud in 1997, and I could go on, and on…

It was weird, then, to note that there was no particular drama when my mother died. I mean, her death was relatively sudden (stroke on a Friday, died on the following Wednesday) and heartbreaking and all that. But it wasn’t complicated to arrange.

Initially, I thought that, because we had gone through the process sorting out whether my father would be cremated (he was) and where he would be buried (in a military cemetery 40 miles from Charlotte, NC) that this made the decisions of what to do with mom easier. And of course, it was.

But I also think that, with her gone, we were all orphan adults, the folks of the oldest generation of our tiny tribe and that we gave each other room to grieve in our own particular way, without trampling on someone else’s space.

My mother, who was an only child, would constantly go on when we were kids about how we shouldn’t fight and should get along. She did have cousins she loved in her city of Binghamton, not too far away. The boy is Raymond, who was born 10 years and a day after my mom; he died two decades ago. Frances was three years younger and still alive. But those relationships were not quite the same thing.

Because fight my sisters and I did, even into adulthood. It has only recently occurred to me that we have outgrown whatever sibling rivalries, maybe because there’s no parent to take OUR side. It’s a bit sad that it took her passing to get to that place, but there it is. Not that we don’t have issues, still, but we have no parent to curry favor with.

Six years since mom died, the first and only person to date that I ever saw die. THAT wasn’t easy.

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