LC's Take: Margaret

Posted Tuesday, October 15, 2013 in Features

LC's Take: Margaret

by LC Van Savage

I often wonder if, when it's my turn to shuffle off this mortal ball, my left-behinds will stand by my bier wailing, gnashing and rending.  I really would rather they didn't.  I would rather be remembered the way Margaret will be.

That was her name. It's an old fashioned moniker of three easy syllables. Nothing special. Lots of people are named Margaret. One hears it all the time.

She caught my eye one day while I was idly perusing the obits of one of our more illustrious dailies, ruminating on that old groaner, "if I don't see my name in the morning obituaries, I’ll know it’s gonna be a good day."

She was in there, first on the list, having been chosen by that publication on that day above and beyond the others listed who'd also gone to their respective glories.

 It seems Margaret really hadn't done all that much, at least compared to other dearly departeds the paper selects daily for the venerated number-one slot.  Margaret hadn't been responsible for the installation of her city's sewer system, she was no Madame Curie, she apparently hadn't reared multiples of foreign orphans, and she certainly had never protégéd for Mother Theresa.

Margaret, quite simply, had just been an unpretentious, good woman. Not awfully newsworthy perhaps, but good nonetheless, and this paper had quietly lauded her for being just, and only, that.

Margaret earned her daily bread by chambermaiding for three decades at a motel some two miles from her home. She apparently liked her job and did it well. Margaret continued to work even when after one of life's more common fatals brushed by and touched her on its way, a heart attack, eventually taking her away for good, but not until she’d “done a few things first.”

And Margaret walked. Remember walking?  For reasons of her own, she'd never obtained a driver's license, so in order to get to where she wanted to be, Margaret made use of the mode of transportation given to humans since before they even were: she perambulated. She always walked to work year ‘round in all weathers, never took public transportation, and refused all offers of rides. And, the obituary went on to say, in good weather, Margaret's constitutionals took her over long stretches of beach, and one can surmise, she must have always stopped to smell the wild roses. 

And when the redoubtable Margaret chose to stroll the byways of her town, she shopped, window style, but rarely bought. She enjoyed the sight of the baubles, trinkets, and artworks behind the plate glass, the sights of them being the things to enjoy, but not owning them. 

She had a family, had Margaret. A husband of nearly half a century, a daughter, a son, a couple of brothers and a double brace of grandchildren.

She knew she was doomed when that heart attack came, did Margaret, but she took what time she had left and spent it in gentle, memorable ways. During her last summer, she and her beloved son and daughter attached a pop-up trailer to the back of a car, no walking this time, and hied themselves off to camp at one of the more glorious locales of which their state was proud to boast.

And they walked together. And talked. They made fires and ate simply and they talked more, well into the summer nights, the orange/red sparks from their fire swirling upwards to mix with the yellow/white stars in the black sky. And, mother, son and daughter already being best friends became even bester, dearer to each other, and sweeter because their days together were quite obviously numbered. Margaret spent the end of her life in good ways.

The life stories of people like Margaret would never sell a lot of newspapers.  Good stuff like this never does.  Her story, compared to the media's piercing need to top-that-horror, would be considered boring and would assuredly have made the earliest of cuts in the hallowed halls of the tabloids.  She and her simple, calm story would have glazed those readers to stunned catatonia.

 I daresay there was no wailing, gnashing and rending when Margaret finally died. I suspect she left behind grins in place of tears. Margaret's name will never be in any thick book filled with lists of eternally memorables. Her name will not be chiseled into the lintel above huge carved bronze doors.

The tourists she'd come to know at the motel she'd so happily kept clean for so many years asked about her when she was no longer there, remembered her pleasantness and her good smile. Margaret gave great legacy. She will simply be remembered, and remembered simply.

lcvansavage@mainetimes.org

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