“What if” is a writer’s territory. If we didn’t have an active imagination, there would be no fantasy, no fiction, no Harry Potter, Holden Caulfield, Bridget Jones, or Hamlet.

It’s my mother’s 90th birthday on July 22, a significant occasion, especially if she’d lived. I was reminded of that “what if” when I helped to celebrate Marion Taggert’s 90th birthday in May. Marion and Garnette, my mom, were friends from childhood and related by marriage: Marion’s older sister Dorothy married my Uncle Penn, Mom’s older brother.  They all started life in Danville, Virginia, where I was also born.

If I want to hear stories about Danville in the 1930s and 1940s, Marion is the  best and most interesting source. Likewise for tales of the San Fernando Valley as it grew; Marion knows the scoop since she was in real estate for years.

Marion, who is an unstoppable force of nature and a very classy intelligent lady, has created a village of offspring since the 1940s. All but one of her 10 children were born in Southern California, and they created: 32 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great grandchildren, and the numbers keep increasing. My daughter Heidi and I joined about 130 happy people to mark Marion’s milestone.

My mother stopped at three children and only lived long enough (age 52) to briefly get to know my two children. She missed out on my sister Tupper’s brood of five. Coming from a family of eight and being a friendly Southerner (Is there any other kind?), Mom had always enjoyed people in general, a valuable trait as the wife of an Army colonel. I know she would have embraced the opportunity of nurturing grandchildren. I remember her visit to Los Angeles when I was a young bride. She told me she was checking up to make sure I had children in mind and wanted to breed! Heidi wasn’t even a thought in my mind yet.

The picture below is my mother, Garnette Williams, age 44, at my wedding. She made her dress, my dress, and my sister’s dress for that momentous day.

Mom and Dad retired in San Antonio, Texas, built their dream house and then her kidney disease took over. Besides the lack of advanced knowledge of this disease in the 1970s, there were too many complications and my mother passed on within a couple of years.

Rewind…I’m going to indulge my flights of fancy here and create a different life for her. She and Dad (they had a contentious relationship after two decades of marriage) would have gotten amicably divorced after trying the supposed idyllic retired life in Texas, and Mom wouldn’t have developed kidney disease.

In my imagination, since I was married and settled in Southern California, Mom would have packed up and come to live nearby. Only in her early 50s, with lots of creative energy, she might have turned to her seamstress skills to keep herself busy. With her looks, personality and sense of humor, I can picture her meeting a handsome man in costume design for the studios. It would lead to lucrative work on several Oscar-winning movies, independent films, etc. Having spent years as an Army “gypsy,” the crazy life in Hollywood would appeal to her, and she would’ve make plenty of friends while enjoying all the social events. She would never have been too busy for her children and grandchildren, of course. Her life would’ve been so full and blessed that she wouldn’t have been ready to leave the planet until she was 100.

Although she didn’t get to live the script in my mind, she would have laughed at my ideas. And that’s the best part—it didn’t take much for her to laugh.

As the song goes, “I can dream, can’t I?”









One Comment

  1. Marlie says:

    I found just what I was nedeed, and it was entertaining!

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