If anyone knew my mother or read the book I wrote about her, "Sterling Silver and Dollar Stores", you know she was quite the character. And, for all four feet, eight inches of her, she was larger than life. I admired her and loved her very much. She lived her life with gusto and overcame many things. Words to describe her include quirky, eccentric, compassionate, southern, and devoted.
She had many friends. Among those, were women she had kept up with from her youth, her days at Wake Forest, and the early years when she and my Daddy first moved to Orangeburg. One of those was "Miss" Margaret Ballard.
Our first address in Orangeburg was a wonderful street, Edisto Avenue. There Mama and Daddy found a great neighborhood that offered them immediate friends and a gaggle of teenage babysitters to help care for me. I was just a tot at the time. It was a very special time of our lives. Dad's home movies chronicled much of it. This was time they met the Ballards.
As the years of my Mama's life moved on, much like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, she maintained her friendship with "Miss" Margaret through good and bad. I knew they were close friends, because like good friends or close sisters, women who are fond of each often complain about each other. As they got older, Mama would make comments like, "Margaret has no business going to her mountain house by herself. She is going to fall and no one is going to know she is there." This was said by the little lady with a huge limp, who tootled up and down the road to HER mountain home by herself, often without even letting anyone know where she was. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
I could tell Mama was jealous of "Miss" Margaret because while Mama was very independent, there were boundaries she feared. She just would not let herself go with a certain reckless abandon. I am not talking about anything dangerous, but I am talking about doing anything she wanted to because she could and because she wanted to.
They had a lot in common. They both had college educations and careers. Both were active in their churches and fast to help others. Physically both walked with a limp, "Miss" Margaret was almost crippled but that did not slow her down, while Mama had one leg that was a bit shorter and a hip that caused her to walk with a serious limp. Both were devoted to their children and grandchildren. And, probably most of all, both had homes in the mountains that they dearly enjoyed. But this is where the similarities stopped.
Yes, my Mama could cook, but she was only known for fried chicken. "Miss" Margaret was known for her lemon pies. Mama could be seen driving up and down the road in her little Honda CRV, often with some antique she had picked up in the back. "Miss" Margaret would be heading west toward the mountains in her convertible with the top down. While Mama had a Dachshund when we were little and was not overly fond of our dogs, "Miss" Margaret raised Cocker Spaniels and shipped them to buyers across the country.
I read this morning that "Miss" Margaret had died. Her obituary, while detailed about her life, could only touch on her personality. No one who knew her needed to be told, they all knew her and her life. But, those who never knew her missed out on knowing someone with a life well lived. Now that I am in my 50's, after reading about her life this morning and thinking about Mama, I realize that I better grab that brass ring and start really living life. I have missed so much time, passed so much by, been too timid, not been willing to take chances, and not taken advantage of opportunities offered.
If there is anything to learn from these two ladies it is that life is too short and I have spent much of it afraid of my shadow. From now on, I need to roll the windows down, never regret an invitation, stay out a little later, and live life for today.