Margaret O’ My Heart
I can never go back to 1990. Only in spirit.
In thought, it is a brilliant, midsummer Sunday morning. I see a lovely little girl dressed in a lime-green Lilly Pulitzer shift with a psychedelic pattern of monkeys and giraffes, a pristine white grosgrain bow in her soft, shoulder-length strawberry blond hair, entering a front pew at St. Chrysostom’s Church on North Dearborn Parkway. Her mother is gently guiding her, finding the page number in her Book of Common Prayer for the opening hymn and placing the little girl’s collection envelope in her white-gloved hand.
I would see this tableau repeated many times in the years to come, and never cease to be touched by the love and affection that emanated between them.
That little girl, Margaret Webster, would become a dear friend, as special to me as if she were my niece. Now an energetic young woman, Margaret was fêted by her mother, Mrs. Andrew Wright III, father, Reed Webster, and stepfather, Andy Wright, at a graduation/birthday soirée held beneath an elegant white tent in the candlelit garden of Heather and Andy Wright’s home in Lake Forest.
I arrived as the party had just passed its beginning stage and missed the poignant “vale of tears” as Heather toasted her daughter and her future success. This is a mother/daughter team of love, encouragement and togetherness unlike any other. Margaret’s grandmother, Carolyn Wright, sat bewitched by the glow of her adored granddaughter. She smiled warmly and then remarked, “Heather has hung in there with tight tentacles. She has been the most wonderful, supportive mother, and Margaret is the young woman she is because of that confidence.”
The first guest I encountered was the adorable Bev Keseric, certainly one of the friendliest and welcoming women one could be privileged to encounter at a party. She was sitting next to a baby-elephant-sized gentleman who looked as if he were wearing an ill-fitting Dockers blue blazer and khaki trousers from Kohl’s. He sneered as Bev introduced us and did not shake my hand when I extended it. I remembered what Granny Cushing used to say: “Don’t let one bad apple at a party spoil the whole bunch.” I went in search of the birthday/graduation girl.
I felt a touch on my shoulder, and as I turned, there she was, my lovely Margaret. Dressed in her own choice of a chic, navy blue and cream silk polka-dot dress from J.Crew, she radiated happiness and delight. She is quiet, almost shy, but without the coy implications of shyness.
White-jacketed waiters circulated with silver trays of champagne, wine, Perrier, or just about any other kind of refreshment. If one wanted a little nibble before the candlelit buffet supper was announced, there were mini crab cakes served with Creole tartar sauce, Maytag blue cheese pirata pizza, beef teriyaki, stuffed mushroom caps, and vegetable egg rolls served with apricot sweet and sour sauce. Beneath the tent, circling the parquet dance floor, 10 round tables were set, covered in pale green and pink Scalamandré cotton chintz and centered with an enchanting pot of pink geraniums.
Margaret’s first dance was to Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” Her father, Reed Webster, took her hand, and, as regal as a Hanoverian princess, she followed him to the center of the dance floor, where they charmingly held every guest in thrall. Andy Wright, dressed in an elegant navy blue Ralph Lauren suit and sporting white suede shoes à la Buddy Holly, gently tapped Reed on the shoulder and expertly guided Margaret in a 2012 version of “At the Hop.”
Soon, thanks to DJ Corey Sanford of Music Masters, not an inch of space could be measured on the dance floor. Brother danced with brother, aunt with niece, husband with wife, grandparent with grandchild—it was that kind of party.
And then, as traditionally appropriate at a summer party as a Fourth of July parade of fire trucks and American-flag-decorated bikes, came the call:
Y-M-C-A, it’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A…
They have everything for you men to enjoy,
you can hang out with all the boys…
Arms flew in the air, forming each letter of the iconic hit by the Village People, guaranteed to make any gathering of young and old and in between a dance riot. It was one of those moments of well-deserved fun, of a sense of the confidence and joy possible in life. For me, it was nostalgic as all get out.
Time for the buffet supper to be served in the Wright’s candlelit, brick-red dining room, the lace-covered table groaning under the weight of heavy family silver and antique blue and white Chinese bowls filled with strawberries the size of baseballs. Margaret was first in line and chose a tiny plate of scotch salmon, sushi, and one very small silver dollar tenderloin sandwich. She wanted to save room for a piece of her birthday/graduation cake.
Other queue-mates who were limp from all that YMCA-ing, and didn’t feel the need to save room for as much as a macaroon, were Anita Watkins and Bob Graham; Kass O’Brien; John and Amanda Rutledge; Lake Bluff bros J.P. and Eric Pickell, sweetly cutting in line in front of their handsome parents, Sue and Randy; Diane and Paul Reilly, who just moved into 1530 N. State Parkway; Erica Kuhlmann; ballet impresaria Melissa Todos and her husband, Rick Johnston; and Andy Wright’s sister, Sally, who didn’t find it necessary to take a tiny plate or save room for a macaroon, OK?
The soft glow of a golden-red sun could be seen setting over the treetops of the Wright’s manicured garden in Lake Forest as late afternoon turned to early evening. The votive candles circling the chintz-covered tables flickered as a light breeze crept through the tent, pleasantly settling on dozens of guests who had enjoyed themselves immensely and didn’t want this delightful evening to end.
Peter Keseric and his aforementioned fabulous wife, Bev, offered photographer Matt Messmer and I a ride back to the city. As is the case with guests discussing a memorable party they have just left, the talk centered on one or two highlights. The adjective “glow” kept coming up in the conversation.
The glow of Heather Wright in the accomplishments of her daughter.
The glow of the young people and their delight at being at a “grown-up” party.
The glow of two men—one father, one stepfather—and the camaraderie of their interaction, as if they were long-lost fraternity brothers.
The glow of Margaret, and the happiness that overflowed from her.
Margaret is totally unlike many young people today. Her two thumbs do not play a Rachmaninoff concerto texting all hours of the day and night, her eyes are not paralyzed on a cell phone screen, nor is a phone permanently attached to her ear. She could neither tell you the names of the publicity-monster Kardashian sisters, nor the name of Jennifer Lopez’s new boy toy.
Margaret Webster is a young woman. In a word, a lady.
She has beautiful manners, remembers birthdays, is respectful of her elders. She is able to carry on a conversation with an adult, shows kindness to everyone, and her favorite authors are those who specialize in non-fiction.
Ask one to describe her, and their answer would be, “She is such a lovely young lady.”
Margaret Webster to a glowing “T.”
Photos by Matt Messmer