Peggy With The Good Hair

Ms Peggy cropped

Hi.  My name is Becca Devens, but I’m right now I am representing Webecca Boys circa 1991 and when I talk about Peggy Reeve, I am mostly talking about Peggy Lamar who lived on Commerce street in the red house behind the pond next to the nursing home.  I am Sarah’s best friend and RG’s pretend sister and I have known Ms. Peggy since I was four years old.   I don’t remember the first time we met because to me Ms. Peggy has just always been there.

As many children do, Sarah and I each had a fun parent and a scary parent.  We were both in agreement that my mother and her father (Mr. Bob) were the scary parents and my father and her mother (Ms. Peggy) were the fun parents. 

I have been wracking my brain for the first memory I have of her.  And as memories work, the first one that popped out is perhaps the most important one.  One that is really just so-Peggy.  Something that when I thought about it, I realized has apparently rubbed off on her own children who are also so good at serving others.  And that is when Ms. Peggy and Mr Bob, took me and my parents in for the summer when I was 7. Our house burned down and Sarah thought I had died in the fire because Mr. Bob was reading the morning paper and there was a picture on the front cover of the melted frame of our car in our burned down garage.  We didn’t have any family there and we literally had no where to go.  I am so curious how the conversation went between Mr Bob and Ms. Peggy.  It kind of makes our “scary dad” label laughable.  I am not even going to tell you how that conversation would go with my husband.  I am not sure I would even ask.   

I asked my mother how in the world we ended up staying with them.  I was already great friends with Sarah, but my parents hadn’t really been in town long enough to have set down solid roots and close friendships.  Mom said she was complaining because the parsonage where we were staying was so hot that she and my dad couldn’t get any sleep and Ms. Peggy just offered us her home. It isn’t like we stayed there for a few days while we figured something else out.  No.  We stayed there until our smoke damaged and half-burned house was repaired. It was the best summer of my life.  And in hindsight, it probably is the reason why the Lamar home has always felt like my home.  Even today.  Because it literally was.  At the Lamar house, they lived the high life.  Y’all.  They had the Disney Channel.  And the pantry was stoooocked.  Bye bye Chocolate Rocks because at the Lamar house, we had the real deal name brand Coco Pebbles.  This was the first time I introduced Sarah to the delicate art of eating French vanilla icing straight out of the can because I was a guest-and Ms. Peggy made sure we had whatever we needed to make us feel at home. 

We weren’t really allowed to hang out in her art studio.  To get to it, we’d have to walk through Ms. Peggy and Mr Bob’s bedroom and we definitely weren’t supposed to go in there.  But on the occasion when we would sneak in, something was always being created.  I remember lots of pottery in the garage. Ready for the kiln at the high school where she taught.  Always a project.  Everyone knows that Ms. Peggy was an artist.  And in our little town, she was THE ARTIST.  She designed murals on buildings downtown and created back drops for our community plays at the opera house and was always the go-to for creating.  And she had that stereotypical artist’s mind.  I told her once that my nose was crooked and if I could just pull it a little to the left my face would be symmetrical and boy oh boy did she take me down a Peggy rabbit hole of why symmetry is unnatural, unattainable, and undesirable.  She had a list of famous attractive people whose faces were so asymmetrical and even though I couldn’t see it in my mind, she swore that if Brad Pitt’s face was perfectly symmetrical he would look really strange. 

She was always like this.  With any and everything.   I would say something and she would immediately respond with a very specific fact she read about that somehow totally and perfectly related.  Then, would usually end with “It’s quite fascinating. Yeah”.  And it usually was quite fascinating.  Quite fascinating, I think, is how Peggy went through her entire life.  She was quite fascinated by almost anything.  A curious mind.  An artist’s mind.

When I was a little older and came over, she could usually be found in her office.  She was always online.  The Lamars had the internet too.  She was always online and I would ask what she was doing and she’d say something like, “Oh.  Just learning about how Indigenous farmers in the Amazon use ancient fossilized amoebas to create their own antibiotics.  It’s quite fascinating.”  For the record, that was not an actual quote and I totally made that line up because it sounded exactly like whatever Ms. Peggy had said to me because I was too dumb and young to care about whatever weird thing she was learning about that day.  Ironically, if she had decided to do a podcast on all the interesting things she learned, I would now in my thirties be a dedicated listener.  She was quite fascinated by everything.

I think that’s why everyone felt so loved by her.  She was genuinely interested in everyone she met.  She would always ask me a thousand questions and throw some facts at me and then I would leave thinking, “Wow. I didn’t even ask her about herself.”  She interviewed me and dissected me and for some reason I feel like a really cool and interesting person.

When I was reading the comments on FB, I kept seeing the same words over and over again.  Artist.  Kind.  Always smiling.  Best laugh.  Inspirational. Believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.  Lights up a room.  Loving.  Positive energy. She gave me confidence in myself. Encouraging.  Supportive.

One of our friends, Elizabeth, shared a funny little story that was so Ms. Peggy.  She said when she was young, Sarah’s hamster bit her finger.  I remember that hamster.  It was a very uptight and sadistic hamster.  The bite went right through the nail bed.  Peggy immediately took her to her “green wall” which was in the basement where I had lived one summer.  She took her to the green wall and told her to focus on it because green was calming and will help with the pain. Elizabeth said that it did.  Like.  Who even thinks of that?  That sounds like something that I would hear on the John Tesh Radio show and go “huh” and never think of again.  But not Ms. Peggy. 

Ms. Peggy could see a pile of trash and think of a thousand possibilities.  Her ideas were endless.  My son, who is five years old, has an artist’s mind like hers and I don’t.  Ever since I realized this I would go to her for advice.  Last year I bought him a book that taught him to draw step by step different things because he was always asking me how to draw things.  I was going to give it to him for Christmas.  She had messaged me explaining how nurture his gift by encouraging  him and providing him with different materials to experiment with.  I told her about the book.  Apparently, that was the wrong idea.  You see.  I don’t have have an artist’s mind so I had no idea that “younger kids sometimes quit drawing because they think there is a certain way to draw a thing.  If they quit drawing.  They quit drawing the narrative. Do not let that boy touch a book teaching him anything about art until he is at the least 10 years old.”  Needless to say, that book is still sitting in my closet. 

She was so encouraging to others because she believed whatever they decided to do was the right thing.  There is no wrong way in art.  And to Peggy, life was art.  We believed in ourselves because she taught us that whatever we were was okay.  Her students gained confidence because she appreciated the beautiful differences in each one of them. 

And her children. Well.  Sarah and RG are kind of ridiculous.  They are those people who just really go after what they want.  They set goals and then they actually meet those goals.  They always have.  Seriously.  For a while there, it was more Sarah just did whatever RG did.  RG did karate.  So Sarah did karate.  RG learned piano.  So Sarah learned piano.  RG learned to play golf.  Sarah grew up and decided she didn’t need to do everything her brother did.  Ms. Peggy gave them the resources to learn whatever they were interested in really.

While I know a large part of that comes from natural intelligence and co-parenting from two great and very different people, a lot of that drive comes from confidence in oneself.  And confidence in one’s abilities doesn’t just grow on trees.  It has to be nurtured.  Peggy was so good at nurturing their interests, whatever they were.  I can still feel that warmness she projected on to me when she asked me about my life and my journey.  Judging from others who knew her, they felt it too.  She made all of us feel special.  She seemed fascinated and impressed with almost everyone she came across.  Add to that a mother’s love and devotion, and the encouragement she offered her children was astronomical.  A lot of what she offered that so many mothers especially in 2019 do not is freedom.  Especially expressive freedom.

We made the biggest messes.  At night, Sarah and I would mix up the most disgusting condiments we could find, wrap our bodies in trash bags, turn the water hose on a soapy trampoline, and have food fights.  I am talking 1:30 in the morning weird, disgusting food fights.  I cannot even imagine the mess left behind the next morning.  RG and his friends and Sarah and her friends would all play Flashlight Tag at night too. We would all find the darkest clothes and paint our faces black (leaving the paint out I’m sure) and disappear into the night.  We rode a mattress down the stairs and made obstacle courses in the basement.  One time, RG was catapulting Sarah on the mattress downstairs.  He would lie on the mattress and Sarah would get underneath on the other side and fold it back onto him and he would just propel her across the room.  This is the ONLY activity I know of that was eventually ended by their parents because Sarah actually did finally break her arm.

I saw Ms. Peggy for the last time about two years ago.  She was at RG and Rachel’s house, the same house where all our childhood memories live.  We were reminiscing on the good ol days at the Lamar house and for the first time in my life I thought to ask her.  Did you know?  Did you know what we were all up to?  “Yeah yeah yeah!  You kids had so much fun.  You were always so creative and just came up with the wildest ideas.  I just loved it.  Yeah yeah yeah.  Ha ha.”

Ms Peggy had a granddaughter a month ago and fortunately she got to meet her. I saw the video of her holding her for the first time and the love was so apparent even through my cracked iPhone screen.  She was already so proud of her grandbaby.  It’ll be fun to watch this precious girl grow and see Peggy in her little personality just like I see it in RG and Sarah.  I know her granddaughter and any other future grandchildren will be raised with that same love of life and curious nature that Peggy passed to her children.  And she will be so proud and so in love.  Whoever this little baby turns out to be and whoever Peggy’s other grandchildren become, whatever decisions they make, whatever paths they choose, I can picture Ms Peggy in Heaven, looking down bright eyed and smiling saying “It’s really quite fascinating.” 

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