Plenty to party about for 80th birthday
by Juanita Hughes
January 07, 2014 10:00 PM | 1376 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
Folks in my generation stay busy going to 80th and 90th birthday parties, 50th and 60th anniversary celebrations, homecomings and reunions, and funerals and viewings.

Sometimes it’s hard to squeeze in doctor visits. I hate that word “visit” in relation to a doctor. A visit should be a time to chat and catch up on news about friends and relatives, perhaps have a cup of tea and a cookie, and maybe talk a little about our ailments … without “paying” our way out. Besides, a visit with a friend or neighbor is often as good for us as a dose of medicine and a whole lot cheaper.

I found that to be the case for some family members and me as we rode up to Dalton last week to party with Cousin Margie. She was turning 80. She and I were born the same year and grew up next door to each other in the Dawnville community in Whitfield County.

The party was a surprise for her. Her children and their spouses somehow managed to secretly plan and carry out a celebration that will provide fun memories for all of us for a long time.

I love it when folks are asked to share their memories at one of these functions. We were told ahead of time to be thinking about it and to email tidbits about things we might know about her as they prepared a multiple choice quiz for all the guests to take just to see how well we know her.

It was no surprise that Eddy Arnold is no longer her favorite country/western singer. (“After all,” she said, “he died.”) Fickle Margie, she now likes George Strait. Dream on, Margie, he’s too young for you!

And I knew she didn’t learn to drive until she was a mother three times over. I taxied her a lot before we moved away. I was never a passenger with her at the wheel. That’s why I didn’t choose either answer for the entry “At what age did Margie learn to drive.” I wrote in “Never!” instead of circling 15, 20, 36 or 40.

She wasn’t offended. She knows I know about those dented fenders and scratch marks.

Most everybody there knew she retired after a 40-year nursing career. Literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hospital staff and patients knew her over those decades. She was the kind of nurse you wanted when you needed the best.

Many of my memories of her in those early nursing years was how she was always ironing a uniform at the very last minute before she had to leave for work. The uniform had to be perfect in every way, starched, spotless, buttons properly attached, not too short. Her white shoes were always polished and shining. She was the perfect picture of a professional nurse.

Away from the hospital, she was just as particular about her dress. She loved (and still loves) pretty clothes. As little girls, we played paper dolls, and Margie’s Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth dolls were impeccably dressed and served as great examples. Margie grew up to look like those dolls with a nice figure and a classy look.

Although we were born the same year, she was always one grade ahead of me in school. In a day when school policy was more flexible, she was allowed to begin school in August before her sixth birthday in January.

I could not begin until the next August before my sixth birthday in November. We both loved school and we both made friends there that we still know and love today.

Margie loved to read. Even though she had four younger siblings and was often needed at home, she somehow managed to find a quiet spot to curl up with a book. The bookmobile ran in the summertime, and we loaded up on Grace Livingston Hill and Emilie Loring.

There was no TV, and trips in to town for a movie were few and far between. Our entertainment, besides reading, was music. She liked all of it … country, (we went to the Grand Old Opry with our husbands), popular (think Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Eddie Fisher), and especially gospel —vintage Lee Roy Abernathy.

Her big gift from her children was a new, big-screen TV just for her. Now she can watch those old movies in style, perhaps sing along with the musicals, recall happy times.

Party emcee and son-in-law Jason says the Hallmark Christmas movies will still be going in July!

Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.

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