There’s an impressive list of notable Americans born in 1924. Who among those five are most famous to you? My vote is for Marjorie Vines, a blue-eyed, curly-headed blonde born on Oct. 11, 1924, in Dougherty County’s tiny hamlet of Putney. Before long, she’d get new next-door neighbors. One of them was a blue-eyed boy born in 1922.
Fast-forward to 1946, and that blue-eyed beauty would leap from her parents’ front porch into the arms of that blue-eyed neighbor, who was just returning from World War II. Days later, after years of romancing through mail during the war years, Margie married Dink NeSmith. And that’s how our family began. Sandy was born first. Sheila came third, and I was in the middle.
A couple of Saturdays ago, 75 friends and family watched Mother blow out the candles on her 90th birthday cake. We all felt the spirit of my dad, as we rejoiced. Stretching back to those Putney days, Mother said, “I can’t remember a day that I haven’t loved your father.” Even though he left us in 1998, my sisters and I join her in loving him and appreciating him more each day.
If Big Dink had been in the circle, standing around the cake, he could have told dozens of Margie stories. In his absence and since he left me as the patriarch, I’ll share a few:
• Margie has always been a looker. She prides herself in facing the world each morning with her best outfit and always with a fresh swipe of lipstick-- her “war paint,” as she calls it. She is fussy about her hair. But once she had some unwanted facial hair. Her loving, playful and thrifty husband assured her, “I can fix that, just sit in this chair, lean back and close your eyes.” Riiiiiiiiiiip! Mother’s yelp could have been heard across town, but now, she won’t stop laughing about that infamous Duct Tape facial.
• Margie has always been a talker. That made my dad happy. He was pleased to respond, “Momma, how about you answer that?” And she could. Growing up, her friends teased her about a popular cigarette’s motto: LSMFT—“Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.” Margie’s pals countered: “Let’s Stop Margie from Talking.” But they couldn’t then and won’t now.
• Margie has always been a friend to young and old. My peers still hoist her high, dating back to the night the Beatles premiered in America on the Ed Sullivan Show. As members of the First Baptist Church youth choir, we were itching to see the historic British Invasion. “Shhhhh,” she said. “When you finish singing your special, tip-toe out and hurry home.” When the Rev. Floyd Jenkins turned to congratulate the choir, the loft was empty. Margie, the youth director, asked the befuddled minister for forgiveness.
• Margie has always been a note-writer. She calls it her personal ministry, doing her part to keep the U. S. Postal Service in business. Up until lately, she’d write five inspirational notes before each day’s sunrise. One friend opened his desk drawer and showed me 100 or more notes that he had received. Another friend has a ribbon around 350 Margie notes.
• Margie has always been the encourager. My sisters and I grew up thinking our mother wrote the story about the “The Little Engine That Could.” Even at 90, she can zing uplifting scriptures, quotes or Margie originals. The last year has been a tough one for her. “Aging ain’t for sissies,” she quips. Still, her determination and her smile shoo away the black clouds. This week, as I stood by her hospital bed, she beamed those blue eyes into mine. Squeezing my hand and ignoring her needs, she said, “You can do it.”