Margaret “Peggy” Louise (Garrett) Evans
Peggy Evans was 50 when Dave and Amy were born in 1957. She had deep blue eyes, red hair becoming gray, and was 5’ 4” when I met her. She had a lean physique and a pale complexion, and she was often smartly dressed in colorful dresses.
Peggy was born and raised at Pittsburgh (PA) and moved to Ridgewood after she married Montgomery “Monty” Evans (Parker’s father). Peggy and Monty Evans were school teachers at Ridgewood High School until Monty died from sudden anaphylactic shock caused by bee stings. (Parker, an only child, was 3 when his father died.)
Soon afterward, Peggy quit teaching and became the HS librarian; she remained as such until she retired in 1963 at age 56. That year she operated Peggy’s New and Used Books from her two-story home in downtown Ridgewood. She lived upstairs and her bookstore was downstairs in a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian house (an elegant building like the kinds turned into bed-and-breakfast places) at 314 Main Street. It had a corner cupola we called “the rocket ship” where Dave loved to sit and read. He also wrote some of his best stories there, which he shared with Grandma Peggy. She was highly supportive of his writing and was always encouraging him to continue with the craft, even when he later turned to drawing and painting and making other kinds of art.
Peggy’s bookstore used every room downstairs; all filled with narrow rows of tall, black oak bookcases on polished oak floors. I think she had every book ever made inside her store.
She lived alone upstairs where there was a kitchen and bath at the back of the house, her bedroom and the living room to the right, and her reading room to the left inside the cupola. All the rooms were white plaster, including the high ceilings, and were lit at night by crystal chandeliers that seemed to set fire to the polished oak floors. The walls were adorned with Victorian paintings of English country life, a still-life of pink roses in the cupola, some garden scenes scattered about, and a few animals in the living room—mostly collies and terriers, all in massive, gold leafed frames.
Northern skylight filled the front of the place during the day from tall windows that seemed to be everywhere. Sunlight filled the eastern side of the house until noon, and then slipped behind shade trees that kept the western side darkened. But it was never cold inside, even during the harsh winters. Nor was it hot or humid in the summertime. Overall the place was pleasant—always inviting, which, along with Peggy Evans’s never-ending kindness, was why Dave and I went there so often. And upstairs always smelled of ginger and tea—I drank plenty of green tea and ate dozens of gingersnap cookies there.
Like me, Dave liked to read and write and create art, so my ex-English teacher challenged me to make him less athletic. I resisted because he played baseball so well that he’d become a milestone for me to learn and play the sport better. She further challenged me to change his and Lenny’s similar characteristics, which “joined them at the hips” in their passions (riding bikes, playing baseball and writing music, to name a few). “Either make them one person, or make them opposites,” she suggested one day during a study hall period. “And please change the similar spelling of their last names.”
Other suggested changes included ARC’s too many musicians. She found it difficult to believe that five students from one grade at the same school could be so talented.
That year, ARC’s membership dwindled to Amy, Riley and Carrie. Lenny and his parents moved to Pittsburgh and Lenny attended the school where his sister Susan taught. And Dave, minus a best friend, became an avid reader and a birdwatcher, but still played a mean game of baseball.
One May afternoon at Grandma Peggy’s bookstore, Dave spotted a magical creature outside one of the cupola’s windows. I outlined the story from an omniscient author’s viewpoint after I was further challenged to stop writing in first person. My ex-teacher also suggested that I get rid of Vree, but I resisted because I planned to have Dave’s magical creature remedy Vree’s disappearance.
As I set about writing Vree’s return during the summer break of 1973, the story’s ending wound up as nothing I envisioned or planned.