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A Stone's throw: Where are you, Margaret Peterson?


Betty Stone



My children put me on Facebook, but I have not figured out how to work it yet. I fear there may be people out there who befriended me who might think ill of me because I have not answered. The truth is I do not know how. I just thought Facebook might be a good way to find out whatever has happened to some of the people I remember fondly from a long-gone childhood. 


None of them showed up on Facebook, however. Perhaps those of us in my generation are not good tech examples. 


One of those I had hoped to find is Margaret Peterson. I do not know why I have been thinking of her lately. We never kept in touch beyond childhood. My grandmother, who lived in Greenwood, where Margaret lived, passed along a little information -- but that was no contact on our part. 


Yet I find myself wondering about Margaret lately. Did she marry? If so, what is her name? Where did she go to college? She was so smart, surely she did. Did she have any children? 


This I remember: She was a child recruited by my Greenwood grandparents to come over to play with me in an area that had grown away from child-friendly neighbors. For that reason, when I visited during long summer weeks, I had few built-in playmates; so I enjoyed Margaret's company when she came. 


Our main sources of entertainment were the Sears Roebuck catalogue and the big, cast-off Simplicity, McCall and Vogue pattern books that my grandmother's cousin, Aunt Elma, saved for us from the dry goods department of Fountain's Store, where she worked. We cut out paper dolls from the pattern books and kept them filed away between the pages of the Sears catalogue. We had a very stylish assortment of clothes at our fingertips for the heroines of our imagination. 


Sometimes we cut out pictures of furniture from the catalogue itself. We arranged those cut-outs to furnish various rooms of the pages of spiral notebooks we kept for that purpose, two-dimensional paper mansions where our dramas took place. My own daughters had Barbie dolls, more sophisticated and expensive; but they could never have the style or variety of our humble paper dolls. 


We usually created our make-believe kingdoms on the east sleeping-porch, a room screened on three sides with lightweight opaque curtains that could be pulled at night for privacy. It held two double beds that we played on. In those pre-air conditioning days, it was the most comfortable place to play. When it got too hot in the mid-afternoon, we went outdoors and played in the yard sprinkler. 




Hot feet and good grades 


Things were different when we spent the day at Margaret's house. She lived on the river, but I cannot remember the exact location. It was at the end of the road, however, and beyond her house stretched fields of cotton. Farther on was a grove of trees. We would start out, barefooted, in the early morning, cross the cotton field, and play all morning under the shade of those trees.  


When it was time to return to the house for dinner -- we had noon "dinner" and later "supper" in those days, instead of "lunch" and "dinner" -- we had to cross the cotton fields again, still barefooted. It was agony to me; the delta sun made the black dirt hot as black coals turning red in a fire grate. We ran all the way, hoping our feet could spend more time in the air than on the broiling ground. 


Margaret's mother was named Cecile. She taught me how to draw the profile of a face. I think her father was named Jim George and her brother Marshall Noel. 


When we hit the teens, my visits to see my grandparents were shorter; and though they were still often, there were no more long summer days for child's play. I rarely saw Margaret then. Besides, teens get so involved with their own school activities, they easily lose touch with early playmates. 


My grandmother told me several things about Margaret, however. She was high-school valedictorian, but she refused to make a valedictory address. It seems she had performed a senior piano recital and forgotten part of her big piece. It had spooked her. So, never being a big talker, she refused to make a speech in public. The school administration threatened her with not allowing her to be valedictorian, but she said it did not matter what they did with the title, they could not take away her grades. I admired her spunk, but that was the last I ever heard of Margaret. My grandmother moved to Columbus for a while, and I had no other source of information. 


It is strange how she has been so much on my mind lately. I nostalgically wonder, so many years later, whatever happened to this childhood friend. Did she stay in Greenwood? Does she have family remaining there? Has her life been happy? Is she even still alive? 


Alive she is in a way, still in my memory. I have not thought of her in years, but now I find myself wishing good to her. Where are you, Margaret Peterson? Do you by any chance share these memories? Are you well? Do you remember me?


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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