On Tuesday, my niece came home from Charlottesville. I picked her up at the train station. We headed up Charles Street to pick up Kay Magruder, whom we both consider a close friend.
The idea had popped into my head about a week ago. I’m not sure how or why. Perhaps the importance of seizing the day and being with people we care about has been driven home sharply this fall by the deaths of three friends and longtime Roland Parkers Blair Barton, Bob Green and Anne Healy.
My niece at 22 finds Kay Magruder at 92 as stimulating as I do at 62. Trim and fit, she walks briskly every day, as she has as long as I have known her. She is in a book group that reads two books a month. She plays bridge several times a week, sees movies the minute they come out, and has her son’s dog, Buddy, over for regular sleepovers. She considers Buddy her fourth grandchild. She has four great-grandchildren, none by Buddy!
She will soon fly to Atlanta to see her “greats,” and this spring will fly to Turkey with her son to see her oldest daughter and son-in-law. Last spring, she went on a long trip to Austria and Eastern Europe. Nothing stops her.
At any party, she is the first to get up and dance. She never sits down. If she stops dancing, she stands and talks to one of the legions in town who, like our family, considers her one of their family’s closest friends. She sings often, still with a great voice and on tune.
One of my most vivid memories of her is on the highway, driving her two daughters, my sister and me north from Richmond one summer after we had visited camp friends there. She is so small, she has always driven a small car. In those days, it was an Opal station wagon, whose steering wheel she could barely see over.
In one of her signature hats (she goes nowhere without one), she leaned forward over the wheel and led us in song from Richmond to Baltimore. We taught her our camp songs too, so she knew most of the words when her granddaughters and my niece headed south to our camp decades later.
Kay Magruder is one of three women whom I consider my “other mothers.” She has been a friend of our family since the fall of 1959, when her oldest daughter came into my class at Roland Park Country School.
Kay Magruder, my mother and the other mothers from our class became close friends. Lasting bonds were forged volunteering together at our school, sitting on the sidelines at our games, and going back and forth to Virginia, where we and our younger sisters spent six weeks every summer at camp.
By the fall of 1961, the Magruders had become such close family friends that Kay Magruder’s husband was a pallbearer at my grandfather’s funeral. My sister and I spent the first night after he died at their house. We felt as relaxed and comfortable there as we did in our own house.
My niece and nephew felt the same way 30 years later, when they moved into a townhouse in the complex where the Magruders then lived. Kay visited and played with them regularly. They visited her grandchildren across the driveway any time they came to town.
After my sister and her children moved, my niece and I returned regularly, so my niece could visit and play her violin for her also-musical fan Kay.
This week, we picked up Kay Magruder and headed to Atwater's for lunch. When I spoke to Kay the next day, she said she'd forgotten to ask my niece about the violin.
Next time, I said.