I think I remember Aunt Marjorie. She was the one who tied bells to the pet bear, showed us tricks with magnets, and baked ginger cookies. Mark Helprin
Lovey. She put the whirl in my girl.
When I think of her, I am back in the dark green clubhouse that was underneath the magnolia supplanting her entire front yard. I hid out there when the adults were caring-on. Knarly limbs swept the ground and white blossoms perfumed the air with a scent that my cousin said could “put your nose out.”
The giant tree cast a shadow on each windowpane in her cottage style house. Inside room after room was filled with dark Victorian furniture, so explorations of a nosy child were aided by endless shadows. The entire shebang cast a magical feeling.
As far as Lovey herself, these tibbits still dance like sugarplums in my head:
“Call me Lovey, little Margaret,” she said when I opted for a more formal approach.
On a tall frame she displayed a pillowy bosom, a cottony tuff of hair and of course, a fancy dress. She took distinct interest in me a kindergartener, extolling my bright future whenever we were together.
My mother explained that she had the fabulous distinction of being a dear friend to both of my grandmothers. She and her husband Ed lived their lives out in Yazoo City and Tupelo, Mississippi coincidentally making friends with Edwina McKnight and Margaret Griffith.
She elaborated that the couple had a convertible and would pick her up for a Sunday drive when she was in junior high school. The Armstrongs did not have children of their own. They were a jolly pair who most likely never missed the high jinx activities of family life. Instead they relished all the beauty of what southern culture had to offer including collecting beautiful things.
The fun loving Ed preceded Lovey to the next life. I remember the last visit to her home where we exchanged sweet somethings about the dreamy, curlicue wicker table on her screened porch.
One day my mother called me to seriousness and said that Lovey had taped notes to everything in her house. My name was attached to two of Lovey’s things.
Lovey had died. She bequeathed me the wicker table and an antique gold and pearl slide. I was puzzled by everything my mother was willing to explain about where Lovey was.
So now I’m possibly the age that Lovey was when I last saw her. Death and I are acquaintances many times over and I am just in the place where she found herself when she imagined the gifts she could leave behind.
She employed storytelling when considering the beloved curation of her life’s journey. Everything had come to the gregarious Armstrongs in colorful story. Lovey was born to entrust that love to an assorted collection of friends.
Gifts are my language of love. The table and the slide and I have never parted. I have painted the heavy wicker many a color ushering it into all the reinterpretations that my lifestyle could dream up. The slide has been on my charm bracelet since I was a teenager and will transpose beautifully for the next generation.
I struggle to remember Lovey’s face, but no matter, it is her generous aura that hovers and forms the part of me that lingers with children and loves to give.
Dearest Lovey. Here’s hoping we meet again and next time, I’ll be the adult and you be the child that I scoop up into a hug. We will recognize each other over beautiful things and we’ll tell each other the old, old story.
I never ate a meal with Lovey, but I can imagine that if we shared something it would have been a meringue. It would be served on a tray of silver, worn in spots from repeated use. Fresh fruit of the season would be sauced and swirled over the top.
Chef Dianne Farley and founder of Meringueshop says that Meringue is, “at once, humble and elegant, a show-stopper that gives nothing away of its simple beginnings.”
Such is a gift of how I think about the elders that my parents chose to present me with from a young age. I cherish my role as a willing participant.
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup superfine sugar
Combine egg whites, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla in a large bowl.
Beat at low speed until eggs begin to foam, then at medium speed until egg whites hold soft peaks.
Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, while beating on high speed.
Beat until meringue is very stiff, dull and no longer grainy.
Gently fold in remains sugar.
meringues should be dried rather than baked to obtain the proper texture.
Shape meringue according to recipes.
Place in oven for at least 4 house or overnight.
When completely dry, meringues may be kept covered in a dry airy place for several weeks or frozen.
If frozen, uncover to thaw and place in oven on very low heat if they feel moist in any way.
*egg whites should be at room temperature; the bowl should be slightly warm