Those Who Called Her Maggie

She said something mysterious the other day.

She is Margaret, and while most people call her by her given name, Maggie flows well, there in the title. In her younger days they called her Maggie, Margie, Margy, or Marg; most often, it was Margaret. Those who know her now, though, know she goes by Margaret. She’s my mother.

mom_early 20s_june 2016

And, there it is. Have you ever thought about this? Have you wondered how well we really know each other? Have you wondered whether you’ve been spared the family secrets? Have you ever looked at someone close to you and thought, “What really happened in their life before they knew me?” and “What haven’t they told me?”

Do you know your mother? Or, do you think you know her?


On one of our recent visits, as usual, we entered the chat zone. Mom and I have always talked freely. I don’t tell her everything. She has been the type of parent who doesn’t need to know it all, or even ask about it all. I could say maybe she doesn’t want to know, but that’s not true. She always listened when we choose to open up, but was never one to push or meddle. Through the years, I’ve come to appreciate that.

I was certain the same was true for her. Mom led a separate life before marrying dad; she had other friends. And, I’d never imagined there was anything huge or unnerving that she’d kept from us.

April 2016_Margaret Geier_back in the day

We’d been chatting about confidentiality. We’d been discussing family relationships within our extended family, degrees of closeness, how much people reveal. It was light-hearted, and nothing raised the hair on the back of my neck.

Until the other day.

In passing, mom said that on her death bed, “I’ll tell you my one big secret.

I was flabbergasted, tried not to let it show.

With a smidgen of humor, I said, “Well, you probably won’t remember it then so you better tell me now.” 

She smiled and said nothing as did I. We maintained eye contact. The subject was dropped.


I didn’t think again about mom’s “secret” until today, not until I thought about my relationship with my daughter. I parent much like mom; I don’t expect to know each detail of my children’s lives, nor do I ask. I listen when they choose to talk.

I’m not especially motivated to ask mom about her “secret.” Mom’s entitled to her privacy; so am I. Still, what if, when the time comes, she passes without telling us? How will we ever know? Will it matter?

I’ve decided it doesn’t. Not in the least.

But, it got me thinking.

  1. People close to me (may and do) harbor secrets.
  2. Everyone has a past.
  3. People are entitled to privacy.
  4. Some things should be kept hidden.
  5. We may not know the closest people in our lives, not as well as we think we do.
  6. People make mistakes; we’re human and entitled.
  7. I rather like the mystery.
  8. I don’t want to know every detail.

I thought I knew my mother pretty well. I still believe I do. Except for that one thing…

Those who called her Maggie may know more.

24 thoughts on “Those Who Called Her Maggie

  • I pride myself in sharing more of my earlier life with my children than most, but I can assure you I will not share all. There is a line from a song, “Lord the things I’ve seen and done, most of which I’d be ashamed to tell.” While I am not really ashamed to tell most of the things I have seen and done, there are a number. I don’t think I am too different from a lot of people in that.

    Tim

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    • Hi, Tim. Your first sentence made me smile. That’s exactly how I feel. I also agree with your last line that I think most of us prefer to keep a few things to ourselves. We are entitled. I saw mom again today and I couldn’t bring myself to ask; then again, if I am meant to know, I will, someday. It’s all good. Thanks for stopping by and for the follow. I’ll be checking your site, soon. Have a great day! 🙂

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  • Fascinating post, and very provocative. We all have secrets, don’t we? I do wonder why your mother raised this now. I always feel that when someone hints at something, they want to tell me more, but are not sure how. My husband, on the other hand, never asks the next question, figuring the person would say more if they wanted to. I’m not sure which is right. Perhaps you are reluctant to know her secret? I sure could understand that.

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    • Thank you, Amy. It was rather thought provoking; hearing that one very loaded statement heightened my awareness. I had the same thought about why now, and it left me wondering if she wants to talk. I completely agree that sometimes we don’t know how to begin a conversation, that this may be one way for some. I think since the secret could be ANYTHING, part of me is a bit reluctant; on the other hand, I recently wrote a post about the burden of silence, the pain of carrying an untold story. I had no idea she would later drop that one on me. I am left very intrigued by all aspects of this one. Thanks for your comments. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Sheryl! When mom mentioned her “secret,” it was very much a reality check about those close to us. It’s far too easy to assume, is it not? Thank you for your nice comments. I love that quote. It could not be more true. 🙂

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  • It’s ok that we don’t know everything… she is entitled to her privacy. I have all those journals that she wrote, neatly tucked away. She asked that they are not read when she is alive, and I am honoring that. But, I did not know that there was a “secret”. That is interesting, but not surprising.

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    • Yes, I recalled mom’s journals, and wonder now if that secret is hidden somewhere there. The whole conversation was a bit of a jolt, the realization we really don’t fully know those closest to us. Lots to think about. And, yes, it’s really OK. 🙂

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  • I loved how you tell this. You drew me in and kept me here. Now I want to know the secret too but I know it won’t matter if you learn it or not as well. When you know someone’s heart, one little incident won’t make a difference in how you feel about them. It’s nice you have a good relationship with your mother and you can talk about things.

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    • Thank you so much, Marlene. Knowing someone’s heart, that they let you, is a wonderful thing, especially with a parent. My mother kept journals she told us she does not want read until she passes. I wonder now if this secret is in those writings; either way, I won’t ask. Thank you for the nice comments. 🙂

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  • An intriguing and thought provoking post Karen. I agree that we don’t need to know everything about another person and maybe there are things best kept to ourselves. Still, it must make you curious …

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  • What an insightful post! I agree that it is impossible to ever know everything about another person, even those we are quite close to. We all have some secrets, and I think that is perfectly okay. I do wish I had been better about not prying with my son and daughter when they were growing up, but I try very hard to do that now: just listen to what they want to tell me, and allow them the privacy not to tell me everything.
    I think you are right, whether or not your mom tells you her “big secret,” it will be okay. You know her as well as you need to know her, and that’s what counts the most!

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    • Thank you so much, Ann. At first I was a bit taken aback, it was a bit mysterious for mom. Then, in hindsight, I realized what mom said is pretty cool. Things are not always as they seem, and that is OK. Life might be boring if we knew everything, even a little disturbing. 😉 You are so right about finding the line and then not crossing it with our kids. What you said at the very end is right on target. I know what I need to know. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

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