Margo is now ninety-six and a half.
Recently her zest for life and her heart have both begun to fail, and Margo's indomitable fighting spirit is giving in. She's in a home now in Trinidad where she is loved and respected. My mum spends many days there with her, singing, reading letters and remembering.
I'm in tears now. But if you know Margo, and so many people do, don't think of her dozing in the shade in a home.
Think of her sewing. How many people did Margo teach to sew, how many of us are really good at inserting a zipper or oiling up our machine or understanding fabrics and colours? How many of us have a skirt or a tapestry or a cushion in our homes that has been made for us? How many kids had a specialty cape or outfit that was one of a kind? Many, many. The sound of the sewing machine and the touch of fabrics will always be a Margo memory for me. All three of Margo's daughters are incredibly creative women.
Margo taught me to cook, or more importantly, to forge ahead and create in the kitchen. I remember one luncheon party I was 'volunteered' to help out with: The salmon mousse and cucumber nibbles we made were beautiful! But the child-pleasers, like the famous 'Margo-roni Cheese', will be fondly remembered too. A couple of years ago, Margo got into a groove of making little cakes with dried fruit. It was just a recipe that had stuck in her head and became part of a repetitive therapy for her failing memory... We were inundated with little cakes! The boys took them to school, we gave them to neighbours and friends, we ate them. We complained about the sheer quantity and a friend said, "You will miss them when they are gone..." We do.
Think of the way Margo faced every day. She got up, stretched, did a few exercises, and DRESSED. Jewelry, makeup, hair. Margo is beautiful. She stands tall, despite being tiny. She has looked after herself and has always been ready for an adventure. Who else in their nineties can spend the whole day out on a shopping expedition, where the friends, daughters and granddaughters are flagging and in need of a rest and a coffee and she's still raring to go? Margo loved to buy beautiful clothes, and I have always been disappointed to be too tall to fit into most of her hand-me-downs.
Margo has passed on to her children and grandchildren all of the words to every song on every musical ever written, and a LOT of obscure poetry. We are a family of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear fans and might suddenly quote 'Jabberwocky' in its entirety at the slightest provocation. So be warned. Margo also adored dancing, and sometimes it seems like we live in a musical, bursting into a song and dance routine to fit any occasion.
When Margo was young, she worked with the very first computers: Comptometers. Margo had a real head for numbers and loved to tell stories of outwitting business execs in the days when women were not thought to be that bright. The men who hired her would say, "I will double check your work of course," and give her a fiendish accounting problem. With the help of her computing device, Margo would provide the answer in minutes, and she said the men tended to go away for hours and return very sheepishly to say they THINK she had the right answer. "I was smarter than them!"
During the war, Margo kept working and remembers traveling through Liverpool the morning after bombs had fallen. She saw an elderly couple exit the shell of their house through the door, which had been miraculously left standing. The couple carefully closed their door and locked it, and everyone on the bus burst into tears. Margo married my grandfather, a ship's engineer, and after the war they moved to Trinidad where there were no bombed-out buildings. Margo designed beautiful clothes and took part in fashion shows in Trinidad, and so inspired many women. Her marriage was not forever: In those days, it was not understood how a man could be damaged by war, and Margo was one one to put up with any nonsense. She lived life on her own terms.
Margo continued to inspire and love all her life, making friends of all ages, traveling widely, being wined and dined by handsome gentlemen, and enjoying everything immensely. I wish I were there at her side now, singing with mum or going back in time with Margo. But I know Margo would prefer me to believe that she's sipping a gin an tonic on the veranda, before dressing up to go out on the town with a dashing gentleman who will dance all night with her and then whisk her away on a lavish cruise.
My cousin is coming to visit for the weekend, and although it's officially my birthday weekend I know we will be thinking of Margo while we dance and drink and sing. We will be sure to recite poetry and bake cakes. It will be a celebration of life.
For all of the Margo writings, click HERE.