The Painting of Margaret

Non-Fiction Short Story by Kelli J Gavin

Every other Wednesday, I work with Miss Margaret from 12 to 3 p.m.. She is a lovely woman of 86 years.  I have worked with her for many years and I enjoy her company.  Of Norwegian descent, she is a woman of few words.  She doesn't like long conversations, makes fun of words such as wonderful, fabulous and perfect, and doesn't enjoy long goodbyes.  She makes me laugh each and every time we are together.

On precious occasions, Margaret will share with me stories of her childhood, her teen years and even stories from 40 years ago. She is a walking, talking history lesson. All of her stories have a purpose.  She speaks of World War II, small town life, individuals who didn't come home from the war, relationships with her parents and siblings, She talks about The Korean War, Vietnam and even of the Gulf War. She loves America, the Military and those that have given up their lives to serve and defend our country.

Many years ago, I was pulling out Christmas Decorations from Margaret's attic. She asked if I could put them in the spare bedroom. Before that day, I never had a reason to go into that bedroom before.  I walked in and struggled to turn on the ceiling light. A huge 100+ year old gorgeous dresser slightly blocked the switch. I pushed the button and the light came on.  The room was small, contained a sewing table, a hide-a-bed couch and two dressers. There was also a book shelf and a folding table ready to hold the Christmas decorations.  I turned around to head back to the boxes of ornaments and stopped when I saw a painting on the wall. 

Clearly it was a picture of a young and beautiful Margaret. I paused and studied the beautiful portrait.  When Margaret rounded the corner into the back hall, she saw me standing there looking at the piece hanging on the wall.  "From an admirer.  I should have pursued him more."  That was all she said. 

Now, I know not to press Margaret. I know to only ask questions when she is isn't busy or working on something.  I smiled at her and carried on with our work.  I later asked her a few more questions.  No new information was volunteered. 

I have occasionally and casually commented on the painting over the years.  This past Wednesday, it was time. She volunteered more than ever before. She loved him, yet didn't think it would ever work. He didn't love Jesus the way she did.  She didn't see a future with him.  So it fizzled.  What a beautiful painting came out of a relationship that was never meant to be.

Margaret never married and didn't have any children. She enjoys the company of her great nieces and nephews. Her days are filled with many friends, bible studies, special events and outings. She participates in many activities.  I have always admired how very active she is. 

"Kelli, no one I know will want this painting of me when I pass away.  Maybe I should give it to you. You sure talk about it enough."  I laughed so hard at her attempt at humor.  She smirked and giggled a bit too.  So all those attempts over the years to gather more info were thwarted.  Private treasured memories that Margaret holds dear.  And those memories will always reside with Margaret.

She has shared with me so many great stories of the beautiful pieces she owns and who owned them before her. Some were gifts, some passed down.  But I think this beautiful painting of a young Margaret is probably also her favorite possession.

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