Peggy was married when she was 18 years old. Her parents weren’t in favor of the wedding, but Peggy was in love. Hopelessly in love. He was a good man. He called her “babydoll.” She called him “love nugget.”
The two love nuggets moved to northern Alabama. He got a decent job. So did she. They were the poster children for their generation. They listened to Perry Como, drove enormous cars with big tailfins, ate congealed salads. It was a good marriage all the way. They didn’t just love each other, they truly liked each other.
The first obstacle, however, was having children. The doctor told Peggy she was barren. That’s the exact word old-time doctors used.
There weren’t any modern infertility treatments. In those days, a family doctor would merely tap his unfiltered Camel over his medical-grade ashtray and tell you that you were barren.
So Peggy planned to adopt. She was not daunted by the news about her infertility, not even remotely. She is tough. And she was not about to pass her lifetime without holding a tiny love nugget in her arms.
Peggy would find her nugget many years later, one summer afternoon, by way of a civic women’s group meeting. She remembers the exact day it happened.
She was in a school assembly hall. She was sitting in a metal fold-up chair. These were the kinds of rusty metal folding chairs every church, civic league, and PTA once used in America.
Peggy recalls this chair with vivid clarity because when someone at the meeting told Peggy about an abandoned newborn at the local hospital who needed adopting, Peggy stood abruptly from her chair and announced, “Take me to the hospital right now.”
But when Peggy shot to her feet she heard something rip. Her skirt had become stuck in the inner workings of this folding chair, and now it was torn. It took three women to get her unstuck.
After fiddling with the dress for several minutes, someone finally yanked Peggy’s skirt so hard that the garment ripped, leaving Peggy with a gaping hole which exposed her blindingly white upper thigh.
The ladies gasped.
“You have to go home and change,” someone said.
“No,” said Peggy. “I’m going to the hospital. I don’t want anyone to get their hands on my baby.”
“But we can see your…”
“Oh honestly, Linda. They’re just underpants for heaven’s sake.”
So Peggy rushed her half-bare backside across town to the hospital, and when she entered the maternity ward she was instantly drawn to the orphaned child.
If you can just imagine this scene: a tall, slender woman in her early-forties, with teased hair, pearls, smelling of bath powder, holding a newborn in her arms, with one thigh exposed to God and country.
That’s how it happened.
She named the baby after her grandfather. And the quirky story of that fateful adoption would be told and retold at various reunions and get-togethers for years to come.
Well, a lot has changed since those early days. Peggy’s husband died a few years ago. And Peggy’s adult son moved his family to Boston for work. And because of her son’s unique job, travel isn’t an option during COVID. Peggy hasn’t seen them for over a year.
The term “loneliness” took on new meaning when the pandemic hit. Everything in Peggy’s life came to a standstill. She quit going to the supermarket, her church shut down, she stopped hanging out with girlfriends, no more shopping.
A young man delivers groceries on Wednesdays. Someone cuts her grass during the summer. She hardly uses her car. The solitude is sometimes so overwhelming that it could make your ears ring.
She reads a lot. She watches TV. She overfeeds her cat. She eats ice cream for breakfast.
But a few days ago, something happened.
Peggy was in her den, thumbing through a magazine, when she heard footsteps on her porch. At first she didn’t bother to get up. She figured it was a delivery. Although this was the wrong day for grocery deliveries. How unusual. Who could it be?
She walked to the door and peeped out the window. “What on earth?” she said.
There were delivery men. Two or three men. They were all wearing matching green shirts, carrying massive bouquets in their arms. In her driveway she saw two florist delivery vans.
The men unloaded flowers after flowers until the bouquets filled her porch like a floral explosion of pinks, whites, yellows, and reds. Neighbors gathered on the street to gawk.
When the delivery vehicles finally pulled away, the old woman stepped onto her florid porch and found herself in a bona fide jungle. It was staggering. All these flowers must have cost a fortune.
There was a card. She read it. The card went something like: “To the lovely woman with the torn dress…”
She placed a hand over her mouth and choked back tears. Peggy still remembers that day in the hospital clearly. The joy she felt, holding a warm baby. The beautiful smile on her husband’s face. Theirs wasn’t a perfect life, but oh, was it pretty.
Then. She heard something. She stopped reading. What was that sound?
It was singing.
She walked around her home into her side yard. She was shocked to find a familiar young man with his wife and two children. He’d come all the way from Boston.
The young family was singing loudly. Surgical masks covered their faces. And when the singers bellowed the lyrics, “Happy birthday, dear Grandma…!” Peggy felt her chest become warm and her eyes begin to burn. Because it’s been a long year.
And there’s nothing half as wonderful as seeing your love nuggets on your 84th birthday.