Our mom knew stuff

1 Corinthians 12

Roger and Trudy
March 7, 2005

In the ZOOM conversations I have with my sisters about 45 times yearly, I keep learning things about my parents.

Now, we realized early on that our mom knew stuff about finance. She was a bookkeeper in two Binghamton institutions, McLean’s Department Store and Columbia Gas and Electric. Later, she was a teller in Charlotte, NC.

I didn’t know until recently why she did not impart her wisdom to her children. She thought we were more intelligent than she was and that we would “figure it out.”

This sounds utterly Trudy. And it bugs me because we could have used her wisdom in this area. I know I had accumulated credit card debt for a time, which only got wiped out by my wife’s much better handle on finances, a topic that would make MEGO. It was also aided by winning money on a game show a quarter of a century ago.

But I’m also sad because it was her diminishing her gifts, her talents. She saw her husband as gifted in singing, painting, organizing, writing, schmoozing, etc. By comparison, she didn’t feel she had nearly as much to offer. And to suggest that her children know more than she did was incorrect.

Even though she went to church since before I was born, she never embraced the message of 1 Corinthians 12.

The Good Book

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines….

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many… God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

My mom had many gifts, including understanding, compassion, and a fantastic mind for math, which meant the ability to stretch a dollar. I wish she knew how to share the latter. Some of my friends suggest her reluctance was just a generational thing, but I think it was more that she was squeezed emotionally by her husband and her mother.  My mom died on 2 February 2011.

My mom’s paternal relatives

Daniel and Sarah Williams

It occurred to me that when I have written about my mother’s ancestors, I’ve almost always written about my maternal grandmother’s side but little about my mom’s paternal relatives. The reasons are several.

Among them is that many of the folks on her mother’s side, at some point, lived at 13 Maple Street in Binghamton, NY. That’s where my mom grew up, and my sisters and I spent a lot of time as kids. Some, including my great-great-grandfather, James Archer, were buried at Spring Forest Cemetery, maybe 300 meters from 13 Maple Street. And many of their names are recorded in the family Bible.

However, my mother’s father, Clarence Williams (b. 1886), was largely absent. He had married Gertrude Yates (b. 1897) in 1926, and my mother was born in 1927. But Gert’s mother, Lillian Archer Yates Holland  (1866-1938), and perhaps her grandmother Harriet Bell Archer (1838-1928) disapproved of Clarence and drove him away, we had been told.  Was it because he was so much older than Gert?

My mom was not devoid of male role models in her household. Her maternal uncle Ed Yates and Maurice Holland, Lillian’s second husband after her first husband  Edward died, were around.

Her dad

Her father, though, was out of the immediate picture. Clarence Williams, who fought in World War I, was a machine shop laborer.

He lived with his mother, Margaret (or Marguerite) Collins Williams (1866-1931), in Owego, NY, according to the 1930 Census. Her parents were Irish, though I don’t have their first names or her mother’s maiden name, and I’ve been actively looking.

An odd thing, though. If there are any photos of my mom with ANY of her paternal relatives, even her father, I’m unaware of them.

According to Selective Service records, Clarence resided in Deposit, near Binghamton, with his father, Charles (1863-1944), in 1942. But he was living with his wife Laura back in Owego, in Margaret’s old house, in 1950.

Or were they married? My mother told of her and her mother visiting Clarence’s home in early 1958 and not being allowed to enter the house by a woman. His July 1958 death certificate says he was divorced, but was that from Margaret or both Margaret and Laura? The house became my grandmother’s after Clarence died; it is pictured above from more recent times. I attended his funeral in Owego.

When I was at my Grandma Williams’ funeral in Binghamton in May 1982, more than one of her in-laws said, “I bet you don’t remember me,  do you?” That would be correct since I last saw them when I was five.

Her great-grandparents

Charles Williams, the elder, married Margaret Collins c. 1883.  They were together in 1915 but not in 1920. I assume they divorced since the elder Charles married Margaret Greenleaf in 1921, as I noted.

Charles’s second marriage license led me to HIS parents Daniel Williams (1829-1893) and Sarah Benson (b. 1833), who were born in Maryland.

From the book An Evergreen Companion: “Sometime before 1860 [Daniel]  lived in the Tioga County Town of Barton with his wife Sarah and five children. [The middle three were born in Canada.] Late in the Spring of 1863, he registered to serve the Union Cause in the War of the Rebellion (Civil War).

“He enlisted on August 23, 1864, and became a member of Company F of the 43rd United States Colored Infantry Regiment. The 43rd served with special distinction in the battles around Richmond and Petersburg, VA, capturing a Confederate battle flag and rescuing a Union flag at the Battle of the Crater. The regiment lost 239 men during service; 188 died from disease. Williams mustered out of service in September of 1865.”

What did Mom know?

I know my mom knew a lot about her mother’s lineage. But what did she know of her father’s line? What was her relationship with her father? She was familiar with her uncle Charles playing baseball, though I had never heard any details.

How well did she know her paternal grandparents? Was she aware she had TWO great-grandfathers who fought in the Civil War? These are questions that I’d love to ask her but can’t since she died in 2011.

Today would have been my mom Trudy Green’s 96th birthday.

DNA Day is April 25

Your DNA Guide

According to Your DNA Guide and other sources, today is DNA Day. Their resident storyteller developed a framework for writing about 300 words. I’ll have a go at it with a previously shared tale.

The beginning of your story: What was your DNA question, or what were things like before your DNA discovery?

My sisters and I have known since we were children that the man we knew as our paternal grandfather, McKinley Green, was not the biological father of our dad, Leslie H. Green (1926-2000). I don’t think my father knew we knew.

We learned this info from our mom, Trudy, and HER mother, Gertrude Williams. Grandma Williams referred to vague details about a minister in Pennsylvania.

The middle of your story: What happened, or what did you learn? What did you think or feel about it? Then what happened?  

In 2018, I took my first genealogy tests. When I looked at my DNA matches, I discovered ten people were second cousins. The Yates, Walker, and Williams folks I recognized.

But who were the other four people? Three of them had trees, and two common people were on each, Carl Lorenzo Cone (b. 1915) and Raymond Cornelius Cone (b. circa 1888). But who was Raymond, and how did he meet my future grandmother, Agatha Walker (1902-1964)?

I wrote about this on my blog. On December 26, 2019, my dear friend Melanie discovered an article from January 1927 in a newspaper in my hometown of Binghamton, NY. The Reverend Raymond Cone was acquitted of impregnating Agatha and being the father of Les!

And then…

The end of your story: Where do things stand now? Why does this story matter to you?

By 1918, Raymond Cone’s first wife and father had both died, and he had a certificate to be a preacher. I followed his trek that brought him to Binghamton in the fall of 1925, departing two years later.

I have learned more about him than people I’ve known in person. He died of an apparent heart attack at his church in New York City in December 1947 before he turned 60. My Grandma  Green also died of a heart attack at 62. That’s sobering medical news for me.


Music: my mom and my dad

West Side Story

As part of my birthday month celebration, I’ve selected songs tied to a particular time and place, or occasionally multiple times and places, in my life. I associate these with my mom and my dad.

I wish I could find a recording of Be Kind To Your Parents that sounds like the pink vinyl we had growing up, possibly from Peter Pan Records. My sister Leslie and I would sing it to our parents, and I sang it to my daughter.  Here’s Florence Henderson singing it, not as perkily as I remember it.

I’ve noted my father’s vinyl collection growing up, music I listened to in our living room. Of all his singles, Forty-Five Men In A Telephone Booth by The Four Tophatters is the one I most loved. I bought a compilation album mainly for this one track. We listened on a brown squarish record player that played at 78, 45, and 33. To listen to the 45s, one had to put an adapter on the turntable.

My mother, sisters, and I went to see West Side Story in a second run, probably at the Riviera or Strand Theater on Chenango Street in Binghamton. My baby sister was young enough that the ticket seller questioned whether she should be allowed to see the movie. When I heard   Quintet, I thought, “I didn’t know you could have two competing melodies like that!”

My father owned an album by  Joan Baez, a “best of” from 1963(!). One of the songs the Green Family Singers performed was this version of So Soon In The Morning, which featured Bill Wood. Leslie and I sang it at my 50th birthday party. My friend Laura and I sang it at my former church in the 1990s.

What is he listening to?

My mother came home from the grocery store. I went to the car to help haul in the food. When I returned to the living room, the stereo, playing the eponymous Vanilla Fudge album, was turned off. My mom said, “The record player must be broken. The song kept getting louder!”  No, it was just the crescendo at the end of Take Me For A Little While, which retreated sonically in short order.

I was listening to the Tommy album by The Who. The last track, We’re Not Gonna Take It, was on. My father was in the room, reading the newspaper, I think. When he heard the lyrics, “We forsake you, Gonna rape you, Let’s forget you better still,” he peered over the paper with a look that said, “What IS that boy listening to?” But he said nothing.


Mom was born with a veil?

Ten Commandments

Trudy.Green_dressAmong the tales I heard about my mother was that she was born with a veil in November 1927. What’s that? According to this article: An en caul birth — or veiled birth, “as they’re also referred to -… [are] incredibly rare… where the baby is born encased in their amniotic sac.” It is a medical anomaly, estimated to occur “in less than one out of 80,000 live births.”

That’s somewhat interesting but nearly as much as the other part. “As is the case with many rare events, en caul births are thought to be a sign of good fortune…

“Susan B. Martinez, author and paranormal researcher with a doctorate in anthropology, writes: ‘The veil, it was believed…, protects its bearer against danger; thus was it superstitiously gathered and preserved as a valuable charm against malevolent spirits. The caul… made one ‘special,’ even destined for greatness.'”

Apparently, the veil was broken, and my mother was happy and relieved about this. She did not want the power.

Her mother, Gert, was very much into fortune-telling and the occult. Yet Gert sent her daughter to the Oak Street Methodist Church. My sisters and I were musing on why. Maybe it was socialization, or perhaps it was to keep the child occupied for a few hours while the mother delved into the dark arts. Of course, we have no way of knowing.

The power

Yet there were at least a couple of times when my mother experienced unexplainable phenomena. One was when a voice told her to stop the car, which avoided an accident.

Another time, I wrote in 2015 about the house my mother grew up in. “I DID need the space heater… and the colorful quilt that kept me from freezing.

“One night in February [1975], I woke up with a start. The quilt had caught fire, having fallen on the space heater. It generated an acrid stretch, which might have killed me if the fire, which I could somehow smother, hadn’t.

“A day or two later, I called my mom in North Carolina and told her this story. And she told me that she knew this had happened. She woke up from a dream or a vision, she called me mentally to wake up, and I did. This is NOT the type of tale my mother generally told, so I believed her, believe her still.”

The church

For someone who attended church for decades, my mom had an odd lack of theological curiosity about her faith. When sister Leslie asked her what she thought “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” meant to her, she really didn’t seem to have an idea. My more pointed questions about her declaration that she just “followed the Ten Commandments” were without much context. Yet she attended Bible study reasonably often.

Moreover, she was highly active in the church both in Binghamton, NY, and later in Charlotte, NC. She was very sociable and sought responsible positions in the congregation.

My mom passed away a dozen years ago today, and yet she as much an enigma to me as she was the day she died.

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