Every community has one, larger communities may have several, but if you look closely, you will find the Wallflower. They are friendly yet quiet, seemingly self-contained, seldom sitting in a group although not always alone, and never the center of attention. They are pretty, they are not, they are plain, mysterious, tall, short, slender and not so slender, but without exception, they know they are a Wallflower.
As young children, the Wallflowers were often alone on the playground, or they desultorily joined the games played by other children when a teacher brought them into the group. Yet, if left unattended they would return to their wall. As teens they sat alone in a classroom, in the back corner, or frequently had a vacant desk beside them. Some were quite studious, while others struggled to understand the world around them. They did nothing to call attention to themselves, but on occasion they garnered the looks, comments, or dismissal, of others who were curious, who wished to tease or simply did not understand.
Such was the case with Mary Margaret. Alternately called Mary or Margie by family, friends, or acquaintances. Nonetheless, she was Mary Margaret. Rarely she gave someone special permission to call her Mare.
Benny Malone, although he was not a Wallflower, was often treated similarly to Wallflowers because he was a special child. He was the only person who bothered to call the Wallflower, Mary Margaret. As a young child, allowed to hold the five-day-old baby, the mother carefully told him the baby girl's name. Although he did not say her name any better at the age of thirty-two than he could the day he held her so carefully, he persisted in calling her Mare-Mar-Get, as if it were three separate words. The gentle soul, inside the body of a grown man, blushed when she would shake his hand on Sunday mornings and say, "Good morning, Mister Bennett Malone." His pride at having two names was as special as Mary Margaret's pride with her own two names.
Usually somewhere near Benny was his older brother Gerald. Gerald, or Jerry as he was known by a select few, may have thought of Mary Margaret by both of her names and may have spoken to his brother using both names, yet if he spoke to the young woman, he addressed her as Miss McNabb. The two men resembled each other, yet they were not at all alike. Benny had soft features that easily turned into a smile of pleasure at a kind word or a simple thought and he had an infectious laugh. The harder features of Benny's older brother seldom expressed a smile. Both Gerald and Benny were stout and strong men, accustomed to the hard labor of a full day caring for the large farm where they lived alone without parents, siblings, or wives.
Benny was capable of doing a full day's work, similar to other men, with adequate instruction and careful supervision. His body may have matured beyond the age of the raging hormones of a much younger man, yet his mind had not advanced with his physical age. The joy he found in life was that of a young child not yet a teenager. He was tempered with gentleness, and the occasional awkward movements of someone many years younger than he was.
Few people knew anything about Gerald's preferences in women. He was a gentleman, somewhat courtly and occasionally chivalrous. Around town, at church or in a community gathering -- beyond the dutiful greetings and dances with the grandmothers, mothers, and unattached women -- he was usually in the company of other men. Gerald, like the other men with whom he conversed, spoke about crops, about animals and the weather. However, the few women who knew him beyond a polite nod thought of him as well-educated, sensitive, and quiet. He was a handsome man who puzzled some because he did not pursue women who smiled at him or watched with a flirtatious glance.
Young women viewed Gerald as an older man because he seemed to be a peer of their fathers, with similar responsibilities, possessions, and interests. Older women thought of him as less eligible because of the impediment of his younger brother. Perhaps the women between those two age groups, who had children of their own, either did not know Benny or else felt having him in the same home with their own children was not to their preference. Therefore, they too did not show interest in the older, good looking man. Gerald may have had similar thoughts. At any rate, he had never found a woman who seriously interested him.
Because Benny felt so comfortable with Mary Margaret, and because Gerald was indulgent of his younger brother, Gerald often found himself near the young woman, participating in conversations between her and Benny. The few occasions anyone could recall seeing Gerald smile or hearing him laugh were those limited times when he spoke to Miss McNabb.
"Mother, are you sure you want to spend hours on end with four small children cooped up in a motor home for six whole weeks?" Mary Margaret looked at her mother as she asked the question and could not believe the excitement she saw on the older woman's face.
"Well, your daddy's going to be there, too. He can help."
"Oh, right." Mary Margaret did not bother to hide her sarcasm. "Then who is going to be the driver? The last time I remember being in a vehicle with him and four small children, I was one of those children and he was telling you to make us all sit still and be quiet."
"Now, now," Hilda McNabb made a mild effort to counter her younger daughter's comment. "It won't be that difficult. Your sister is going to fly out for the last few days of the reunion. She'll be there part of the time. Besides, if I can corral a classroom full of eight year olds, I should be able to handle my own grandchildren."
Hilda was not going to tell her younger daughter the other reason for taking all four children on the extended trip. It might break the young woman's heart. Although she was Aunt M's to the younger generation, Mary Margaret had been the only mother the youngest child had ever known. Less than six weeks after the baby was born, his mother abandoned him, his older sister, and their father. Two days after Bruce's wife left, at his parent's urging he moved himself and his two small children into the rambling two-story farmhouse. That was little more than a month after Mary Margaret graduated high school.
It was more than two years before the telephone call came from a distant police department, informing Bruce McNabb that they had identified a Jane Doe, the victim of a drug overdose, whom they had buried in a pauper's grave almost a year earlier. Bruce did not even care enough to have a marker placed on his wife's grave.
Years earlier, the older daughter, Charlene, was pregnant at sixteen. Now the mother of two, she worked as a bank teller, struggling to help her auto mechanic husband support their small family. Charlene had finally taken her family out of her parents' house into a home they could call their own only a few months before her brother Bruce and his children returned to the family home. The old farm house seemed to swell, shrink, and then swell again.
The oldest son of the family, Thomas, had been engaged to marry his long-time sweetheart upon her graduation from college. The marriage never happened. The young woman decided to accept an out-of-state job rather than be the wife of a man whom she felt had no better aspirations than being the next generation to farm land which had been owned by a McNabb for over two hundred years.
The revolving families and individuals moved in and out of the McNabb house during the summer Hilda had expected the house would finally begin to empty. After all the shuffling was finished, Hilda and Hiram still had three grown children and two grandchildren in their home.
Jeremy, Mary Margaret's young nephew, the motherless child, was now four years old and his sister, Janet, was almost six. Their cousins, children of Hilda's older daughter, Charlene, were nine-year-old Theresa and seven-year-old Josh. When all four children were together, any room they chose to occupy become a racetrack, a jungle gym, or a scene that would rival any professional wrestling match. Toys became weapons or closely held possessions. Shoes and socks were lost, and parents and relatives raised their voices to be heard over the energetic screams of children hard at play in constantly changing contests of boys against girls, siblings against siblings, or one-on-one.
Hilda had expected to see the rooms of the big farmhouse emptied of her children. With Thomas's pending marriage, Bruce's growing family, and Charlene establishing her own home, she'd had only her younger daughter's future to consider. Mary Margaret, if her mother could persuade her to do so, might actually go to college. None of Hilda's children had chosen that route, and Hilda thought Mary Margaret might want to be a teacher someday.
Instead, Bruce returned with his two children, Thomas did not leave, and Mary Margaret decided that with a house full of people, she would fill the role of homemaker in her mother's stead. There were five adults, a tiny baby, and a young child to care for, meals to prepare, clothes to wash and mend, a large vegetable garden to tend, chickens to feed, eggs to gather, two cows to milk, butter to churn, and she didn't want to go to college anyway. She was a Wallflower, happy in her solitude with one of the best-used library cards in the county.
.... There is more of this story ...