Marvelous Mama Margaret

29 August 2016

After a short interlude, I’m back with another Marvelous Mama! And this is a very special one (though aren’t they all): my grandmother, Margaret Ayer. or as I know her, Bang. Bang raised six children (including my Dad, the fourth), on a dairy farm in Connecticut. She is smart, resourceful, funny, lively, and humble. At 90 years old she has more energy than most people my age (which seems like a cliche, but with her it’s actually true), and lives close to her children but in her own house. She is famous for injecting herself into any conversation within earshot. She loves doing crosswords, telling stories, singing camp songs and hymns, being at the Island, and being with her family. She has a loud, gorgeous, generous laugh. I would be thrilled to be just like her when I turn 90.

P.S. Big hugs to my Mom, who went out to the farm, asked Bang my questions in person, and sent me her notes. I’ve paraphrased from there!

bang-glamour-shot

Name: Margaret (Peg) Ayer
Occupation: Wow – there have been a lot! I was a Biology major at Mount Holyoke College; I graduated in 1947. Out of college, I was a lab assistant in Dr. Peter’s Diabetes lab at Yale Hospital in New Haven. I met Jack then – he was working at Yale teaching Spanish. In 1949, I began working for the Red Cross in Attleboro, MA as the Executive Director of a local chapter – a very small chapter! Jack and I were married in September 1950. I switched to working for the Department of Children and Families for the state of Connecticut, assessing families that wanted to take in children for foster care, and I worked there until John was born in Nov. 1951. Then I had five more children! As the children got older I began subbing in our town’s school and in other districts – with no training. I also kept busy with church activities and being active on the School Board and Public Health Nursing Board. Around 1967, I taught kindergarten in a nearby town, bringing my youngest daughter with me. I worked there for about ten years, also teaching fifth grade. For two years, I worked for Project LEARN on the team that identified special needs kids, but the funding ran out and the job ended. After that it was back to the Department of Children and Families as a Child Protection Coordinator based at a local hospital.

Christmas-card

Bang is in the pink and my Dad is down front in the yellow

Things you collect: Books!
Words to live by: Every day, learn something new, do something kind, and see something beautiful.
Favorite TV show: I don’t watch TV.
What was one of the best things you did to prepare for having kids? Well, we got the necessities together (cradle, clothes, etc.). There were no parenting classes, Lamaze, or anything like that, so that was about it.
Where did you go for parenting advice? Grammy Robbins, my mother-in-law, most often. I also would ask my other friends, and there was an extension (farming) group with other young families. We met once a month and after the farming talk there would be a family/parenting talk by the ladies!

bang-at-the-island

I’m all the way to the right in the sweatshirt!

Best tip for a new parent: Enjoy being a mother.
What is your parenting philosophy? I always tried to encourage good things in my kids. I encouraged them to take advantage of opportunities that would help them grow. Mostly, I tried to ENJOY them — except for the time when John was about four months old and I couldn’t get him to stop crying and I yelled out the door, “If anyone wants this baby, they can have him!”
What is something related to kids you were not at all prepared for? Hmm, probably leaving the hospital – I thought, “these people are crazy for letting me take this baby home!” I was lucky enough to have my mother-in-law next door — she was a wonderful mother-in-law — and she was helpful with the things I wasn’t prepared for.

building-the-deck

Classic Bang move – offering direction/telling people what to do :)

Tell us about a few of your favorite family traditions. I loved our Pendleton and Copeland family reunions. And of course, our time at the Island with my two sisters and all of our cousins.
One thing you did differently than your parents: I didn’t make my children take their younger siblings along with them — I always had to take Alice along.
One thing that fell by the wayside and one thing you never compromised on: I had played the viola with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony in Willimantic, but I didn’t get to keep that up. I was also involved with a theater group in Lebanon, and I only kept that up through the first few kids. We always stayed active in our church, and I served on many boards and commissions in town. I was lucky because Jack worked at home!
Favorite books to read with or to your kids: Everything by A.A. Milne, the Just So Stories, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.

dad-in-hammock

My grandfather and my Dad – too cute not to include :)

Thank you, Bang!! We love you.

12 Responses to “Marvelous Mama Margaret”

  1. Melanie

    Thank you for writing this, Em! I still sing with Peg each week with the Symphony Chorus. She is such a delight! I’m glad I was able to learn a little more about her life from this post. :-)

  2. Kelly Strawberry

    LOL at “if anyone wants this baby…!” Too funny!!! She seems like a wonderful lady and I really enjoyed reading this interview!!

  3. This just might be my favorite Marvelous Mama so far :)

    My two favorite lines:

    Hmm, probably leaving the hospital – I thought, “these people are crazy for letting me take this baby home!”

    Mostly, I tried to ENJOY them — except for the time when John was about four months old and I couldn’t get him to stop crying and I yelled out the door, “If anyone wants this baby, they can have him!”

  4. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention how beautiful she is!!

  5. Elizabeth

    You look like your grandmother!! So pretty!

  6. Natalie

    This is great! What a special post and a special lady. I remember that story from your shower and I loved how honest it was. :)

  7. Amber

    What a fun read and a great chance to learn some new things about this lovely lady! Loved seeing the photos too!

  8. Sarah

    She is an amazing woman! I love talking with her and hearing stories of the family and the farm. I hope I can be even half the woman she is when I’m 90. Thank you for such a great read.

  9. Tom

    I’ve only known Aunt Peggy for ~42 years or so but I must say she is the most inspirational person that I have ever been around. Thanks, Em!

  10. Craig Beisiegel

    Great job Em! I have known Peggy all my life, grew up with all the kids. I have been to the island with them too. Pig racing on the farm, church, choir, They are like family! I miss them all. Please give them my best.

  11. Samantha

    I love this special interview and wow! what a resemblance between you and your grandmother … beautiful!

  12. Susan

    Beautiful! And you captured my Aunt Peggy’s essence perfectly. Interesting that she made the comment about not making kids take their siblings along…my mom, her youngest sister, didn’t make me do it either because she always felt like Aunt Peggy’s and Aunt Alice’s “ball and chain.” Consequently, I loved taking my sisters along…usually!