Table of Contents

Peggy Jo

Margelyhood. Peggy Jo was John and Fay's second daughter. She was born in Ft Collins but she loved Louisiana, my birth state. She always envied me Louisiana. We made a pact to trade birth states. I liked Colorado because it had mountains. She said it was boring. It's just a rectangle, not a boot like Louisiana. She and Tim made up words. My favorite was margelyhood, which she defined as the particular quality of being in an attic with the afternoon sun slanting in through a window such that you could see the motes of dust floating in the air. Atmospheric.

Ecstasy. Peggy had CREST syndrome, which eventually killed her. She starved to death surrounded by prosperity. As she got older, she had to be more careful to stay in a warm environment because of Raynaud's, the R in CREST. I had Raynaud's for most of my life. It seems to have gone away. Sleeping in my car was a good test for that and I passed. CREST made Peggy weak. She had to be careful about everything, taking no risks. She could never challenge herself to make progress with love. Making progress always pushes me out of what's comfortable and familiar. When I succeed in making progress I'm in a new state. That feels tingly and warm, a very nice feeling, the feeling of ecstasy. Standing outside my own state in a brand new one. That feeling never lasts. The new state becomes my new normal. I used to long for that feeling of ecstasy and be disappointed when it faded but that's silly. I'm still in the new state, I'm just used to it now and it feels normal.

Husbands. Peggy got married three times, to three wildly different guys. Number one was Larry the Grunt. As in Marine. The Marines gave him a medical discharge after god knows what miseries in Korea. He was mentally unstable. A bit like Tony but without the charm, wit, or success in life. Larry didn't beat Peggy, but he found other ways to make her miserable. To put the icing on the cake, their daughter Sue was profoundly retarded, to use the language of the day. Larry disappeared and Peggy threw herself into caring for Sue, but Sue needed full time nursing care. She disappeared into Florida's institutionalized care. Peggy mourned Sue all her life. While Larry was serving they lived wherever the Marines put him when he was not in Korea. We visited them on a family trip out west. They were living in a trailer with the Stars and Bars in the window in Twentynine Palms California. The desert may have its own severe beauty, but it just felt like hell to me.

Yellow Bird. Husband number two was Peter the Playboy. Peter was flamboyant, always up to something, some new scheme or adventure. He wooed Peggy with candlelight and roses. Spur of the moment trips to some exotic… well, Pompano Beach. He drove a black Austin Healy Sprite. On both front fenders he'd had it inscribed Peter's Yellow Bird. Which seemed odd on a black car. It was the calypso song he meant.

For Peter, that song symbolized freedom and adventure. I still can't find what he was reading into the lyrics. One day he took me for a ride in the Yellow Bird. We zoomed up the Blue Ridge Parkway, tires squealing, fishtailing the turns. Call it anything you like, just take me for a ride!

Halloween. Peggy got married and left while I was still small, but we kept in touch by letter. Peggy's letters were sometimes a work of art. I remember one I got near Halloween one year. At the bottom of the page she'd drawn a wonderful scene with her fountain pen. It was a cypress swamp with all kinds of spooks and monsters, really well drawn. She had a gift. She titled it Halloween Night in a Louisiana Swamp. I kept that letter for decades.

The letter's long gone. Somewhere along the way I learned the secret of not holding on to stuff any longer than I have to.