Margaret Ward McClain is a writer for the Essays on Childhood project. She is also someone I knew in my years at Davidson College, and with whom I recently reconnected at our class reunion down Tobacco Road to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
I remember Margaret as a quiet but incredibly fun person when we were in school. She was quirky-smart like many of my classmates, always alert and focused, and clearly absorbing even in her silences the antics and personalities of our more boisterous friends. She was and is a beautiful woman, but she always had that untouchable intellectual attractiveness that so many of us long for, as you know even in your twenties how much you will covet that trait in the coming decades. I always noticed the young men in school looking at her in a certain way, in a way that said they too knew she had a timeless “specialness.”
(It’s kind of cute now to remember watching guys try to flirt with Margaret. They really wanted her to like them, but one could see they knew how far out of their league they were to even try…..)
On receipt of Margaret’s essay, I am reminded of what a unique and brilliant woman she is. I also learned something about her, and that is that within her tiny frame is the courage of a lion.
I’m not sure she considers herself a writer, but I can promise you that after you read her essay, you will consider her a gifted storyteller and accomplished essayist. I have read The Simons House several times now, and each time it leaves me in tears. Happy tears, but really very serious tears nonetheless.
Due to the length of the essay, it will appear in three separate posts over the rest of the week. This way if you have the opportunity to read it all at once a few days from now, you can do so; but you will also be able to read it in sections as time allows. (For the record, my strong preference is to wait until you have the time to read all of the posts together as a single experience.)
No one has a “perfect family,” and every one of our families has been touched by grief over the years. I’ve learned that for some people, grief and loss make it emotionally impossible to revisit old memories. It hurts too much to relive the beauty, love, and connections that time, illness, and hardship can take away. Only lions can, as they say, “go there.”
We may never be able to return to some houses. But maybe we can take our children, and enter new places to call home. I hope you will keep an eye out for Margaret’s essay beginning tomorrow, and that you will share it with others. It is a powerful piece of writing.
Margaret Ward McClain
Margaret was born in the miasmal swamp of Charleston, South Carolina. She spent her childhood dividing time between the Holy City and Greenville, SC, the red dirt capital of the Upcountry, where she was raised and attended school. She says, “At Davidson College I learned how to be a better human being, and also received a B.A. in English.” She earned a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law, went on to practice domestic law, and finally landed at I.B.M. Today she is a recovering lawyer residing in Chapel Hill with her wonderful husband Tim. Professionally she is the mother of a 13-year-old son, two grown stepdaughters in-residence, and three very spoiled dogs. Margaret’s essay, The Simons House, centers on the house where her family spent two weeks each summer.