From a summer evening in 1969 to a pre-spring afternoon in 2011, I was truly blessed and fortunate to have Margot present in my life. Throughout the years, throughout MY years, she was always there in some fashion or another. Early on, she was my new step-mother; an exciting new entity in a little girl’s life. Tall, slim, beautiful, elegant; I was totally in awe of her. On her part, she was cheerful and friendly; careful not to come on overly strong and never encroaching on either my Father’s or my mother’s parental status.
With her encouragement and guidance, I became a voracious reader at quite an early age and also developed a life-long love of history; not just of people in distant places in the long-ago far away past, but the history of wherever we happened to be. Margot had a talent for making places come alive by sharing information and fascinating facts about them. That she was able to tailor the delivery such so that my sister and I were able to get drawn in was just one of her many talents.
Looking back, it seems that, as I grew, so did the depth and quality of our relationship. As I entered into those terrible teen-aged years, Margot took on a supporting role. She was the non-judgmental ear to my tales of woe and angst; offering suggestions here and there that always made sense. During these years, she also began to teach me several things; some obvious with an actual product like my 3’ dolly (named Margaret!) and the many stuffed Paddington Bears, and others much more subtle such as the art of conversing with just about anyone, regardless of their age, background or status. Literature was even more of a shared interest now as I was able to ask thoughtful questions about what I was reading and history came even more alive, especially during a very memorable trip we took to England in 1980. Ah, what fun the two of us had tromping through the streets of London! In true Margot fashion, she had come prepared with scads of interesting stories about every place we visited; making even a seemingly boring Cathedral enthralling to me when she pointed out that there was a picture of The Earl of Leicester, Queen Elizabeth I’s crony (and maybe even lover), hanging on the wall. During this time, Margot became much more of a presence in my life. Step-mother still, of course, but now also, teacher, encourager, supporter, guide.
The next several years in my life were occupied with college and the early stages of my career. Other than a few trips to their house over the holidays, I didn’t see as much of Margot as I had in the past. Still, each time I visited, she had an arsenal of things lined up to do, each one carefully researched. These were always options, mind. There was never pressure to do every single thing she suggested. In addition to activities, there were wonderful meals to eat at home and at nearby restaurants. And, always, there was interesting, engaging and lively conversation. Around this time, Margot began to encourage me to cook, giving me copies of several cookbooks, many of which contained her own recipes, and all annotated with her comments and suggestions. Here, then, are a few perfect examples of Margot’s humorous and subtle guidance:
“Amy – The desserts are really good but try some other things, too! Love, Margot”
“This is fantastic but a hell of a lot of work!”
“Be sure to use crescent rolls; others retract and ooze out”.
“Good, but omit carrots. Looks like barf!”
In 1988, I met my future first husband. When Margot was introduced to him, she promptly took a dislike to him, however, because I loved him (and true to the goodness in her heart), she eventually came to draw out something in him that she could tolerate and even enjoy. Later, however, after that marriage ended in divorce, Margot remained fiercely loyal to me. The “Tiger Mother’s” of today had nothing on my Margot, my step-mother, my teacher, my encourager, my supporter, my guide, my number one fan and, now, too, my friend.
The next decade brought many changes in my life, some darn-right bold and scary. In all honesty, I’m not so sure I would have done the things I did, taken the risks I took, had it not been for Margot’s presence, including signing up for eHarmony, which is how I met my husband, Mark, whom Margot held in extremely high esteem and loved very much. About a month before she died, she wrote this to me in an email:
“Wonderful to have you + Mark here last week. I wrote one of my friends that it was amazing you’d uncovered such a gem on eHarmony (was going to write “eBay”…hah. hah!) but of course it was recognizing what you had that was all important.”
I’m not exaggerating when I say that, throughout these years, I received daily words of love, encouragement and support from Margot. This isn’t to say that there were not still long phone calls with Margot and my Father, on top of many visits and wonderful face to face conversations because there were. However, I look back now and am so grateful that I have Margot’s words still with me, near me, accessible with a click of my mouse. If I were to go look in my email files, I would find THOUSANDS of emails from Margot. Additionally, there are many, many comments she posted on my Blog (she was a faithful reader!) Lately, I’ve been re-reading a lot of my old posts and have found several comments from her, each usually offering some sort of support, encouragement, or praise. Such as this one, when I was writing that our then new cat Lily didn’t seem to like me that much:
“Hang in there…she’ll adjust. What’s her alternative? She probably won’t be snooty the rest of her life & if she is…that’s her problem!”
I can’t express how much it means to me to find these there.
I wrote awhile back on a day when I was particularly missing her that, being able to read her emails and comments was like hearing her talk directly to me. It’s comforting to simply read her words, hear her stories again, laugh at her funny way of putting certain things and “listen” to her continuing words of support and subtle advice.
So, today, one year after her death, I sit and reflect on many things. I miss her terribly. In addition to the vast regret and sadness that I feel that she is gone and how she left, I am sometimes overwhelmed with a selfish sorrow that she won’t be with me as I continue on my life’s journey.
Yet, I hold onto the memories of the years she was with me. Her being present, her presence, and, finally the presents she gave me; things that I will never have to part with: Love of Books, Interest in History, Fascination with New Places, Art of Conversation, Cooking, Devotion to Family and Friends, Caring of Animals and Pets, Trying New Things, and, most importantly to her, Remembrance of the People from the Past; one of her favorite quotes being “Those remembered will never die”.
For the last few days, I’ve had words swirling through my mind that will eventually form themselves, I hope, into a poem for Margot. As is typical of my style, I have the ending before the middle or even the beginning:
"You’re still here
You’re not far
You’re in my heart
That’s where you are”
I close my eyes and can hear her saying, “Wonderful, Dear!”
In loving memory of my Margot.
April 22nd 1942 - March 1st 2011