Edith Gallagher Boyd is a graduate of Temple University, a former French teacher, and an avid sports fan. She and her husband live in Jupiter, Florida.
Afternoons With The Rogans
Aunt Kate used to pick me up in her black Dodge. My mother treated me to ribbons in my hair on the days Aunt Kate worked for the Rogans.
"They're lace curtain," Momma would say, an expression that sprinkled my youth with visions of opulence and splendor. "Tis how they can afford Kate's fussing with hems and gowns."
I tried not to let Momma see how happy I was to spend an afternoon with the Rogans. From the moment Mrs. Rogan opened the door, I felt I donned the cape of a royal person.
Sweet smells emanated from the big kitchen, and during the spring and summer, the scent of freshly cut grass added to my sense of comfort.
Mr. Rogan probably never threw a beer bottle across a room in his life. Mrs. Rogan
called him "my Jim" when she spoke to Aunt Kate, but to me and the neighborhood kids, it was "Mr. Rogan."
The neighborhood kids were not playing stickball or dodge ball in the street. They were swimming in one of the backyard pools, or sunning themselves in lounge chairs like grown-ups.
Mrs. Rogan often encouraged me to bring my swim suit and join the family across the street.
Fearful, at first, I resisted the invitation. But one day, I ventured across the street and one of the Martins said, " Get your suit. We're playing Marco Polo." That sealed it for me. The next time Aunt Kate treated me to an afternoon with the Rogans, I was going to be ready to swim with the Martins.
But I wasn't going to let Momma know. Not wanting to feel less than the Rogans and their "fancy neighbors," Momma would have felt sad for me, not having those kinds of things, and sad for herself, for Poppa's inability to provide them. And I would do anything to avoid making Momma sad. Just about anything, but when the turquoise water rolled over me, or one of the Martins invited me for water volleyball, Momma was of no concern to me, whatsoever.
One afternoon, Aunt Kate nearly hissed at me, "Maggie O'Neill, Mrs. Rogan asked you a question," tilting her head toward her boss.
"She's dreamy, Kate. Not to worry about my foolish questions," Mrs. Rogan said without an ounce of guile. I was so taken with the arrangement of tulips and daffodils and the bees visiting them, I didn't hear Mrs. Rogan speak to me.
"Your garden is beautiful," I said, surprising myself with my assertion. The Martin kids and their friends were rubbing off on me, and Momma could smell it. I could tell by the arch of her eyebrow, when I glared at Daddy during one of his drinking binges.
"Why thank you, Maggie. The Mr. loves doing it, but rarely has time. I schedule the
gardeners when he isn't here," she whispered gently. And then she got a faraway look as if she knew this was all temporary, a fact I was clearly not ready to accept. I also got the feeling she brought in her sister and her daughters to give my Aunt Kate work.
Mrs. Rogan's niece, Ellen, was clearly not interested in the finery Aunt Kate stitched for her, but seemed to have inherited her aunt's grace in keeping that from Aunt Kate, who would have been mortified if she thought Mrs. Rogan was making work for her. Her "Dodge was bought and paid for with her own bare hands." It was oft heard phrase that still makes me smile and miss my Aunt Kate.
Aunt Kate and the Rogans couldn't have known how much they influenced my decision to live a genteel life, where glowing with affection for one's spouse and children was completely acceptable, desirable behavior.
I met Grant at the University of Pennsylvania, where my grades and SAT scores opened the doors of the Ivy League, whose students reminded me more of the Rogans than my own family. Some bell rang in me that this man was familiar to me as if we'd known each other in a past life or something like that. Beneath the instant spark of attraction, was a sense of safety and endurance I felt in him.
He called when he said he would, which deviated from my experience with fellows who complicated my life with unkindness. Initially, I was slightly repelled by Grant's directness, of his not needing to flirt with my friends, or notice my extra five pounds. He liked me, and respected my time. I loved him after I cured myself of my resistance to accept his unpolluted interest in me.
Without my afternoons with the Rogans, I would never have met Grant and felt worthy of his interest. Nor do I think Poppa would have found the group which elevated him, and whose members treated him so much better than any of his bar room buddies, and put the spark back in Momma's eyes.
When my behavior at home became more assertive, yet more cordial, something
seeped into the wallpaper of the O'Neill home. My parents reached for a second chance in life, and as I sit here waiting for my grandson, Grant... the fourth or fifth, I rejoice that my Aunt Kate was spunky enough to carve a path out of the way things were, into the way things could be.
Although I never referred to my late husband as "my Grant," I did alight at the turn of his key after a day of work, and greeted him with all the joy and affection of Mrs. Rogan for her Jim.