Mom extended her holiday visit to include her birthday, today January 5, and we are looking forward to a day of family celebration with a birthday dinner tonight with her grandson, Christian, and wife, Katie. Who knows, we may even convince her to change her name again!
Color-tinted photograph of Sue Brown, c. 1940.
About a year ago, Mom surprised me with the casual remark that her “real” name was not Suzanne, as we all had believed for so many years. Her formal birth name had been, Mercy, a family name of old tradition and also the name of her own aunt Mercy Kinsel MacPhee (of kidnapping fame).
At the time Mom was born in Olathe, Kansas, her grandfather E.B. Kinsel was living in Los Angeles and very ill from the after-effects of a stroke. Her own mother, Arline, was unable to visit her father due to her advanced pregnancy and age (42 at Mom’s birth). Instead, she kept informed of her father’s condition by letters from friends and family.
She also wrote her father to tell him when the baby was born, and that she had named the little girl afer his sister, Rebecca Suzanne. However, Mom’s birth certificate listed her name as Mercy.
Those letters are a snapshot of life in 1933. As grandfather Kinsel lay ill in Los Angeles, his daughters fretted about his health and financial resources. In early spring, he suffered another stroke and passed away in May 1933. Neither daughter was able to attend the funeral, but letters from friends shared details of the sad occasion. Sadly, without immediate family in Los Angeles, E.B. was buried and a tombstone was never placed at the gravesite. (We have plans to remedy this situation!)
Mom remembers being called variations of Rebecca Suzanne as a little girl. Evenually, it just became Suzanne. As she was preparing for her own wedding at 1953, Arline realized that it would be important for names on the marriage certificate and the birth certificate to be the same. Mom’s sister recalls a determined trip to the government offices with documentation in hand to make sure the paperwork was completed before the wedding date.
Many women may change their surname during their lifetimes, but Mom is the only woman I know who has had multiple first, middle, and last names. At least, we can still call her Mom and Grandma.
Happy 77th birthday, Mom, Mercy Rebecca Suzanne Winsor Brown May Freeman.