I want to tell you today about a dear friend of mine from my childhood. Her name was Margo, and she was then and is now in memory, the kindest and most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. I wanted to be exactly like her when I grew up, but there was really no chance of that. None. But I surely wished for it.
Margo was southern, although she married a Northerner named Cecil, “Ces”—and moved to New York. It was difficult for her as a young bride; New York was raw, rude, dirty and loud, and everything and everyone moved and talked and ate and played too fast. Margo had always lived her genteel life the opposite of all that, but she worked at fitting in, learned to cope and eventually came to accept and even like Northern living.
When she was around 18, her thick black hair inexplicably became a bright silvery grey, but she did not panic. Nor did she run to the nearest beauty salon to get her hair back to its original color. No, Margo kept it, understanding it made her unique, that she stood out. And even though today it is known to be harmful, Margo loved to get tan, and so lay in the sun for hours in the summers, turning her long body as the world turned to get an even tan, and she never permitted strap lines to show. The contrast between that beautiful silver hair, her dark tan and her impeccable head-to-toe beauty stopped people as she passed by. She played tennis, and the fact that her beautiful, shapely legs stopped somewhere below her chin was not lost on those watching the game. She was also blessed with deep dimples but was not one of those who smiled perpetually and insanely so the world would be sure to see those charming facial dents. Margo was kind and funny and sweet and while most of her women pals had to fight down feelings of jealousy of her, they finally had to let them go because they came to understand that Margo was innocent of any competitive and subversive feelings toward other women. Everyone was her best friend and she was an equal opportunity good person.
Margo was my friend. I loved her as everyone did. She was constantly well turned-out and when Ces got home at night after work, this shining, beautiful woman met him with chilled martinis, a fabulous dinner in the oven, candles on the dining room table, music on the stereo. Margo made sure that Ces always saw her at her best; perfect clothing and jewelry, high heels, stockings, a perfectly made-up face and her thick, silver hair done to perfection. Today Margo would be mocked for this outdated “performance,” but back then, Ces knew he was the luckiest man on the planet.
The thing was that even though Margo was blessed with radiant beauty, she also radiated goodness. Everyone really adored her, especially young people. Margo and Ces had three sons and even though Margo yearned for a daughter she loved and respected her sons for the rest of her life. She was thrilled, however, when they married and presented her with granddaughters. All of their son’s friends congregated at Margo and Ces’s home for many reasons; Margo was a joy to behold but she listened, she was interested, she asked questions and she offered her home as a safe haven for any young people who wanted to get away from their own unhappinesses for a while. She fed kids, gave them rides when needed and she dispensed solid, good advice to all of them, and they, we, listened. Margo never preached or scolded. If she found we’d done something stupid, she explained gently to us why it was not a good thing to behave that way, that we were better than that, and she always admonished us to be forgiving and kind and to especially be “other centered.” (Instead of “self.”)
The countless good things that beautiful woman did for me have stayed with me, but alas, I could never measure up to her; I wanted so much to be exactly like her when I grew up, but it couldn’t happen. When Mongo and I had three sons I was happy because Margo had birthed 3 males too, two of whom I dated in high school. Oh, to have had Margo as a mother in law would have been a gift from the gods, but it obviously never happened and Mongo was really the best for me and always has been. Mongo is very tall. So was Ces. Margo and Ces had a long, loving, friendly, funny marriage and I got that too. As our boys grew, I made sure our home was always a welcoming place for all of their friends, and as I look back, we did seem to have a lot of rowdy, terrific kids in the house. Again, Margo’s influence.
I never met Mongo at the door at night with martinis, wearing beautiful clothing. Margo managed to be perfect and to have an elegant home, even with three sons roaring about. I managed to be imperfect in a vastly imperfect home with three sons roaring about. I was never beautiful with shining silver hair and a Miss America Figure and if there were ever great dinners in my oven, it’s because Mongo cooked them.
But she taught me so very much and if I am good in any way at all, it’s largely because she showed me how. I never could be equal to her and she never expected that of me. When Margo and Ces died, they left an unfillable hole in my life. I am still in touch with their eldest son and when I hear his voice on the phone I hear Margo and Ces, and it is so good. Margo was an elegant, good woman, a true thoroughbred, a class act. I never quite got there but I know she doesn’t mind. She loved me for who I was, she let me call her “friend,” and those things were gifts enough.