Erika Preval - Simply Put

Remembering Aunt Margie

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Last weekend was extremely busy. I’d flagged it as such as early as February. Baby Girl was to play in a Regional volleyball competition in Birmingham. A surprise baby shower for a dear friend (for which the aforementioned is named) was taking place in DC. A local charity, The Enchanted Closet, asked that I facilitate an etiquette session for a group of 30 young ladies preparing for prom. What’s more, my husband and I were to celebrate our anniversary on the following Monday, April 22 – an odd day for a celebration considering our busy schedules. The weekend of April 20 had been on my radar for quite some time.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that the life of my Great-Aunt Margie would be celebrated on April 20. Death isn’t one of those things that you can plan for, nor the activities that follow. The loss of Aunt Margie presented one of the toughest business challenges I’ve had, to date. Would I attend her services, or should I be there for my daughter and the 30 young ladies who were looking forward to my guidance for their first prom? I wrestled with it the entire week.

Talk to anyone in El Dorado, Arkansas, and they’ll laud Aunt Margie’s pound cake. They’d purchase her cakes for holiday celebrations, and the like. Admittedly, it was amazing! Members of the Matthews Family (we are all the branches of the tree planted by Jeff and Savannah Matthews) coveted the cake. Slices were saved, and sometimes hidden, in safe places during our get-togethers. You can’t imagine the disappointment that would follow the phrase, “there’s no more cake.” It was just that good. No. Better. However, (and this is just between us) should you happen to call Aunt Margie, frustrated that no one had saved you a slice, somehow there would happen to be one or two waiting for you at her house. It was endearing. It was Aunt Margie.

Aunt Margie was amazing. All things that a Southern Belle should be – she was. Honestly, we were never close during my  time growing up in Arkansas. It’s our time together and conversations we had during my adult years that I remember fondly. She was, perhaps, the most like me, of Granny’s siblings. I both appreciated and welcomed that.

As the years pass, my appreciation has grown for an assignment that my daughter’s Social Studies teacher gave her. She was to interview three members of her family, in order to become familiar with our family history. In addition, a coveted family recipe was to be prepared and shared with the class. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about our family during those interviews: The fastest worker on the land we sharecropped. The family’s ties to the beginnings of Grambling State University. The first signs of my Granny’s memory loss. The recipe for Aunt Margie’s pound cake.I thought it would be difficult to convince her to give it to me, but she wanted me to have it. I was honored, and I baked my first of her cakes for a most pleased group of 6th graders. They talked about Aunt Margie’s cake and asked me (by way of my daughter) until the end of the school year to make another. I shared their responses with Aunt Margie. She simply said, “People just love that cake.”

Certainly, they loved that cake. If you were a member of the Matthews Family, you loved both – the cake and the woman behind it. One of those can’t be replaced, and we, as a family, are at a loss – an indescribable and most impactful loss.

I decided to drive my daughter to Birmingham. I slept all of two hours in our hotel room before driving back to Atlanta, at 8AM, to ensure that those teenagers were able to attend prom (and a lifetime of activities) fully aware of their social graces. Thoughts of Aunt Margie and our family kept me awake. It’s difficult to lose a matriarch – a voice in the Matthews Sisters chorus, no less. Considering her concern for and love of youth and family, I felt the best way to honor her was to uplift both. It was a tough choice, and it still sits heavily on my heart.

Though I’ve done so for holidays when my family can’t make the trip to Arkansas, I don’t know when I’ll bake another pound cake. I don’t know what it will be like to be at our reunion this year and not have Aunt Margie present. I do know that heaven has received an amazing asset, and I will honor God’s decision to have her there with him in comfort, peace and love.

For you, Aunt Margie,

Erika