EDITH GALLAGHER BOYD - AFTERNOONS WITH THE ROGANS
Afternoons With The Rogans
Aunt Kate used to pick me up
in her black Dodge. My mother treated me to ribbons in my hair on the
days Aunt Kate worked there.
curtain," Momma would say, an expression that sprinkled my youth
with visions of opulence and splendor. "Tis how they can afford
Kate's fussing with hems and gowns."
I tried not to let
Momma see how happy I was to spend an afternoon with the Rogans.
the moment Mrs. Rogan opened the door, I felt I donned the cape of a
royal person. Sweet smells emanated from the big kitchen, and during the
spring and summer, the scent of freshly cut grass added to my sense of
Mr. Rogan probably
never threw a beer bottle across a room in his life. Mrs. Rogan called
him "my Jim" when she spoke to Aunt Kate, but to me and the
neighborhood kids, it was "Mr. Rogan."
The neighborhood kids
were not playing stickball or dodge ball in the street. They were
swimming in one of the backyard pools, or sunning themselves in lounge
chairs like grown-ups.
Rogan often encouraged me to bring my swim suit and join the family
across the street. Fearful, at first, I resisted the invitation. But one
day, I ventured across the street and one of the
Martins said, " Get your suit. We're playing Marco
Polo." That sealed it for me. The next time Aunt Kate treated me to
an afternoon with the Rogans, I was going to be ready to swim with the
But I wasn't going to
let Momma know. Not wanting to feel less than the Rogans and their
"fancy neighbors," Momma would have felt sad for me, not
having those kinds of things, and sad for herself, for Poppa's inability
to provide them. And I would do anything to avoid making Momma sad. Just
about anything, but when the turquoise water rolled over me, or one of
the Martins invited me for water volleyball, Momma was of no concern to
One afternoon, Aunt Kate nearly hissed at me, "Maggie
Rogan asked you a question," tilting her head toward her boss.
Kate. Not to worry about my foolish questions," Mrs. Rogan said
without an ounce of guile. I was so taken with the arrangement of tulips
and daffodils and the bees visiting them, I didn't hear Mrs. Rogan speak
"Your garden is beautiful," I said, surprising myself
with my assertion. The Martin kids and their friends were rubbing off on
me, and Momma could smell it. I could tell by the arch of her eyebrow,
when I glared at Daddy during one of his drinking binges.
"Why thank you,
Maggie. The Mr. Loves doing it, but rarely has time. I schedule the
gardeners when he isn't here," she whispered gently. And then she
got a faraway look as if she knew this was all temporary, a fact I was
clearly not ready to accept. I also got the feeling she brought in her
sister and their daughters to give my Aunt Kate work.
Mrs. Rogan's niece,
Ellen, was clearly not interested in the finery Aunt Kate stitched for
her, but seemed to have inherited her aunt's
grace in keeping that from Aunt Kate, who would have been
mortified if she thought Mrs. Rogan was making work for her. Her
"Dodge was bought and paid for with her own bare hands."
It was oft heard
phrase that still makes me smile and miss my Aunt Kate.
Aunt Kate and the
Rogans couldn't have known how much they influenced my decision to live
a genteel life, where glowing with affection for one's spouse and
children was completely acceptable, desirable behavior.
I met Grant at the University of
Pennsylvania, where my grades and SAT scores opened the doors of the Ivy League
whose students reminded me more of the Rogans than my own family. Some
bell rang in me that this man was familiar to me as if we knew each
other in a past life or something. Beneath the instant spark of
attraction was a sense of safety and endurance I felt in him.
He called when he said
he would, which deviated from my experience with guys who complicated my
life with unkindness. Initially, I was slightly repelled by Grant's
directness, of his not needing to hit on my friends, or notice my extra
five pounds. He liked me and respected my time. I loved him after I
cured myself of my inability to accept his unpolluted interest in me.
Without my afternoons
with the Rogans, I would never have met Grant and felt worthy of his
interest. Nor do I think Poppa would have found the group whose friends
treated him so much better than any of his bar room buddies, and put the
spark back in Momma's eyes.
When my behavior at
home became more assertive and yet more cordial, something seeped into
the wallpaper of the O'Neill home. My parents reached for a second
chance in life, and as I sit here waiting for my grandson, Grant the
fourth or fifth, I rejoice that my Aunt Kate was spunky enough to carve
a path out of the way things were, into the way things could be.
Although I never
referred to my late husband as "my Grant," I did alight at the
turn of his key after a day of work, and greet him with all the joy and
affection of Mrs. Rogan for her Jim.