A week ago I received an email reminder from Jacquie Lawson online greeting cards that said, “You asked us to remind you that Margie has a birthday on Thursday, 17 December!”
The reminder was unnecessary not only because Margie passed away more than four years ago, but also because her birthday is my birthday. I’ve never bothered to cancel the reminders because they always spark a parade of lovely memories.
Actually, she was my mother’s friend at the beginning, and I grew into a friendship with her as I grew up. I first met Margie when she and her husband and two young daughters moved into the house across the street from my parents in Sandy Springs, GA.
My parents’ neighborhood was a typical suburban enclave…upper middle class, mostly hard-working dads, stay-at home moms who belonged to the Garden Club, and lots of kids, most of whom I babysat at one time or another. That was my first introduction to Margie’s family—husband Bob, daughters Lisa and Mary-Catherine.
I loved babysitting for them because the girls were sweet and cute and well behaved, but also because Margie was a great Southern cook and she always left yummy snacks for me. Also she was an artist, and her house was wonderful—on the outside it looked like all the other houses in the neighborhood, but inside it was a big, rustic log cabin, filled with art and crafts, much of it done by Margie. I don’t think there was any medium she hadn’t explored—painting, fiber arts, sculpture, woodworking–and her style was kind of naif and sort of folk art, full of texture and color.
I graduated from college and got married and moved away, but I saw her whenever I came home, and when we discovered we shared a birthday we began exchanging cards…hers were always handmade and beautiful or funny or particularly meaningful to me. She gave wonderful gifts, and I never knew how she found time to make things for so many lucky people. She painted an elegant fireplace screen for my mother, and when I admired it, I found myself the recipient of one for my house that reflected my own style.
Eventually she and Bob moved into a different area, and my parents retired to Cumming, GA, but they remained close, and the group from the old neighborhood celebrated every New Year’s at Margie and Bob’s cabin up in the north Georgia mountains, even as their numbers slowly dwindled from illness and death and dementia. And Margie and I sent our birthday cards as I got divorced and remarried and moved from New Orleans to Houston to Denver to Atlanta to Seattle to Los Angeles and Santa Fe.
Margie was a giver—not just of gifts—but also of time and attention. As each of their five grandchildren finished high school, Margie and Bob took the graduate on a trip someplace special. When my dad fell and broke his hip and I started making frequent trips to Georgia, Margie and Bob always picked me up at the last Marta stop and took me to my parents’ house, and they always took me to the train when it was time to go home. When my mom had to give up driving, they came up often to see her and take my dad to physical therapy or the doctor or the dentist.
And when I finally had to pack up the house and move my parents to a retirement community in Colorado, they were there to help.
About a year after the move my mom told me that the cancer Margie had battled and beaten years ago had returned and she was in chemotherapy. At Thanksgiving the following year Geoff and I were passing through Atlanta on our way to spend the holiday with his mom in Asheville, and I called Bob and Margie to say hi and see if we could stop and see them on our way out of town.
In his best Southern gentleman voice, Bob thanked me and said that he would be sure to give Margie my love, but that she really didn’t want to see anyone. She passed away the following spring with Bob and Lisa and Mary-Catherine at her side.
I think about Margie a lot at this time of year, not only because of our shared birthday, but because when we decorate our Christmas tree, I always use my favorite gift from her… a bird’s nest that fell out of a tree on their property. Like almost everything else in her life, it became a work of art.
The tag read:
It is legend that good fortune comes to the household that has a nest among the branches of its Christmas tree. Within this glittery nest are cradled the golden eggs of prosperity. Nestle this gift among the boughs of your tree, and my you be rich with health, happiness, friendship and love.
Happy Birthday, Margie…
BONUS! Margie made this for my parents’ 50th anniversary party and people were standing around the stove after dinner, scraping the pan.