I chose to call her Magnolia Blossom.
She's all of maybe 5'2", maybe, and with a personality a mile high. She had a smile in her eyes and determination in her step.
She had interesting stories to tell, of growing up with 13 siblings, of marrying a pilot at the age of 18, of moving to Japan and travelling "two weeks by ship just to be with him", even being hit on by Bob Hope while on board. She has a very cool photo to prove it. Apparently she was wearing a sheer blouse that you could see through to her slip and he turned to her and said in a "cheeky" voice, "How the hell are ya?" Can you imagine?
She talked about how she raised two boys but always wondered why God never gave her a girl.
She talked of living a wonderful life with her husband, the pilot...until "he got sick and up and left me...I went crazy for a while after that...I just couldn't believe he was gone." This is the only time the smile in her eyes faded.
We visited in her living room, frames full of family portraits, walls full of painting after painting, most her own originals...a pagoda, red geraniums, bowls of fruit, a wind mill, a Peruvian king (this was her favorite...my friend loved the bowl of fruit...and I was partial to the geraniums). She was incredibly talented.
When asked to play us a tune on her piano she replied, "Oh I haven't played in a hundred years...but let's see what we can do."
And she played...and then she sang...and it was wonderful...and I wondered why I wasn't filming her, documenting this beautiful human beings zest for life. I wondered if her grandchildren know how amazing she is. I wondered if they realize what a treasure she is. I wondered if they had footage of her singing and playing a song on the piano from a memory that was slowly fading. (And I wondered why I didn't film my own grandparent's when I had the chance. Note to self: seize the moment. Magnolia would have.)
Then my friend and I played a sorry rendition of Heart and Soul and Magnolia danced and clapped, smiling as though she thought we might actually have known what we were doing.
Margaret continued to tell her incredible stories...and told them again, and again...over and over and over. And each time she told the story about living in Japan in a "27 room mansion with 7 servants...can you imagine?" she told it just as she told all of the other stories...verbatim and with just as much gusto and amazement as the time before.
The thing about Magnolia is that she loved her life. All of it. Or at least all that she was able to remember. She loved her husband. She was happy. And her joy was contagious.
She made me smile. She made me happy. She made me miss my grandparents.
Thank you for the nice visit, Magnolia. I hope to see you soon.
"You called me Magnolia. I haven't been called Magnolia in a long time. My husband called me Magnolia Blossom. He was a pilot. We lived in Japan for three tours. It was wonderful. We lived in a 27 room mansion with 7 servants. Can you imagine? I'll be 92 in March. I don't even need glasses...or a cane. My neighbor, she needs a cane! But I'm doing great! And I'll be 92 in March, can you imagine?"
Yes, Magnolia Blossom, I can. And I can only hope to be as happy and content with my life as you when I am almost 92.