January 3, 2006 > Margo
by Pat Kite
My garden is hibernating. The birch trees are almost bare. Robins have eaten most of the pyracantha berries. I keep sweeping up fallen leaves, an unending task, but it lets me be outdoors and feel productive. Ever so often I go out, dig a hole in the mud and extract a weed or three, just to keep in practice.
For all of you who would rather be planting, today I will tell you the story of a small seed planted by a teacher, so very long ago.
In the 8th grade, my English teacher, Miss Mott, in an attempt to improve our penmanship and literary abilities, decided to assign us international pen pals. Mine was a girl, same age as me, living in Essex, England.
Margo Mascall and I wrote about beaus, school, and family. The letters meandered back and forth like homing pigeons. Eight years later, when my spouse and I were living in Chinon, France, courtesy of the U.S. Army, Margo came for a visit. Would I recognize her? Would we be nice friends still? There's often a lot of difference between paper pals and personal pals.
We did fine. Margo earned my unending admiration for being able to look cheerful after taking a limited hot water tub bath in our rural attic bathroom where ice formed on the inside of the window. English stoicism.
Spouse and I visited England, courtesy of military transport where we sat on cargo plane, space-available, rumble seats, with the wind whistling up the whatsis. We met Margo's folks. Her mother made us a full English tea, with real clotted cream, real homemade strawberry jam, and real homemade pastries. I remember the scene, and the taste, these many years later. We got to see their garden. If you have never enjoyed an English garden, even a small one, you must. They have the best roses, ever.
We went to England several times. Margo came to Newark. Yakkity, Yak. But this is a garden story, yes? I've been gardening since childhood. I write garden. I've got a CATV garden program. It's an integral part of my world.
Margo Mascall Cooper? Margo is now an award-winning floral designer of national repute. Her most recent letter includes "I have a frantic weekend starting on Friday with decorating the Georgian manor house at Capel Manor... Then on Saturday going to the Arthritic Christmas dinner and doing the 12 table arrangements and the 64 bowls of hyacinths gift-wrapped. Monday- doing four "pedestals for a Carol concert in aid of Ben Holyoake setting up a hospice for children..."
Margo and Keith will be visiting me in May. Who knew when we began an 8th grade English writing project, that 50 years later, we would still be friends? Or that both of us would become professionals in the world of horticulture? Life is so full of intricate coincidences.
Dear Readers: May your 2006 days be as bright as possible, and may all the seeds you plant grow into the finest of life greenery.