Chapter 3: Daughter Margot
Lisa: (02:56:54:04) Eleanor I wanted to ask you, we've talked a lot about your son Richard and I wanted to ask you a little bit your daughter, Margot. And maybe you could describe some of your earlier memories of your daughter for us.
Eleanor: (02:57:04:26) I would be glad to talk to you about Margot and my early memories. Margot, as I mentioned earlier, the first time I saw her was in the juvenile court and she was holding court. She was always a bouncy girl. I remember bringing her home and I was changing her and I had a bassinette which I used to bathe Richard in [?] an aluminum top. She was- I had her on the top and she was kicking her heels, as babies do, boom boom boom boom boom. And Phil came in and he loved he always said the first time he saw her she was kicking up her heels and he sang to her. Because she was so pretty "little girl you're the one girl for me." I used to sing that to her and he did too occasionally. She gets sort of embarrassed about it now. Maybe she wouldn't now that she's a grandmother. She was just a delight, she was fun, she was interested in learning- she was like grease lightning, I couldn't leave her outside for a second she would be off- she'd go visiting. I'm talking very early and I had a chaise on the front porch and we had a yard about the size of a postage stamp in front of it and then the street. It was court street which was a fairly busy street in Doylestown. Two lanes, not a big highway, but busy, and I had a playpen, Richard was still in the playpen, now she was probably- she was probably close to a year old at that point. To keep her safe I had a harness on her and a big chain that I used for the dog in the backyard I put on her and it was on the post of the porch but it was long enough that she could sit there very happily, reading, looking at her books, leaning back; she loved the shade- with a big chain on her. I had a picture of it and her daughter saw it not long ago and she said- well several years ago, of course- may ten, and she said you had my mother chained, how could you do that. And I said wait until you have some kids. And of course, she had Brendan first and he was grease lightning- he had a harness and a leash. You couldn't even get him out of the car without hitching it. I've said just like his grandmother, she was very active. But she didn't mind being confined, because she knew she was going to get out you know we were going to go someplace that I had to do something and then all three of us were going to go out somewhere, around the town. And she was an animal lover we always had a dog or a car or both. Usually not a cat by itself we usually had a dog by itself and we had a dachshund and he was quite a character. He used to climb out- the house we lived in was a Victorian twin in Doylestown and it had been made into two apartments when we bought it and there was someone living on the first floor so we let them stay there. That helped us pay some of our bills and we lived on the second and third floor. So, the room that we had this kind of a thing back here, a daybed, we had there so we could use it for extra guests to sleep in and it was right by a window and the window was usually open and the dog would go out and run up and down the roof of the porch and bark at the kids when they're coming home from school. They'd say, "look at that dog!" and Margot loved that, she would get him in. She always- when we moved to the country in Penn's park and had a farm and a nice yard so there animals- rabbits and squirrels and groundhogs and so-forth around and we had a dog and a cat. But Margot always, and I've got a picture of her sitting with an injured rabbit. I don't know whether the cat or one of the dogs got the rabbit and Margot caught it before it got away or died I guess. And she had it in a box and she was sitting with it- with the rabbit in the box in her lap looking at it and hoping it was going to live- of course it didn't. She always loved animals. We had a dilapidated garage it was sort of one-sided, sort of leaned and just before we moved in there was a very big storm and a willow tree fell on it. We were going to clean it up Margot and I so we- it had a dirt floor and we didn't put the car in there we've had lawnmowers and stuff like that.
Eleanor: (03:03:13:16) It didn't fall down. We decided we were going to clean- straighten it up. It tar paper on top of the dirt so we moved the [?] out and I picked up one of the tar paper and it was all these tracks of where the mice had lived, where they ran up and down and there was a mommy mouse with babies hanging on her. Margot wanted to get her and save her and I said let her alone she'll find a place to go. We put the tar paper back on it was amazing they had practically a village under there. And that's the kind of girl Margot- she always was after the animals she loved them.
Lisa (03:04:25:02): What you're describing she sounds like a naturally compassionate person do you think that is who Margot is naturally or do you think or do you think that having a brother with a disability-
Eleanor: (03:04:39:00) Oh I'd love to give Richard credit but I don't think so. No I think that's Margot I think because it was always like that. She was like that with her dolls. She had a raggedy Anne she called Bocky I don't know where that came from Bocky- we were on a summer vacation we had a cottage for a week or two off some lake and we went into town to get her a new pair of shoes- sneakers or something and she had always took Bocky she must have been about 3 years old. We got in the store and we got her shoes and we came out- she forgot Bocky. Well we had to go right back. We had Richard in a go kart and back we went and nowhere was Bocky. Someone liked it better than Margot I don't know. That was a tragedy of all I mean that was a gigantic tragedy in her life. I bought her a new one- wouldn't do it wasn't Bocky. She mourned her she really did mourn that doll and there was nothing I could do about it but just keep giving her some things to do. She loved to swim. We lived in Doylestown when I first got them and they were little and Doylestown had a- probably still does- a pool that belongs to the township and it was donated by a man who had a lot of money and he donated the pool to- build it and that was so the children could swim. I don't know it was quite cheap- parents had to pay more but the children could go in the daytime and take lessons. The swimming lessons were free but I think you had to be a member or something. I had them in little jump seats that I could keep in the car, they slid under the back of the seat. So I could pick them up and carry them and I could just sit them down the side of the pool and Richard is safe- I'd let Margot go in and she was- well she wanted to go to the deep end right away and you weren't allowed to go to the deep end until you passed certain tests. So she stayed in the low end but I never had to worry- she was just barely walking and I would take her and hold her and you know and when I let her down she wanted to right back and swim. And when she was older and I got her some lessons she was right on the diving board.
Lisa: (03:08:34:27) Eleanor people talk a lot about the special relationships between fathers and daughters. Can you tell us a little bit about Margot and her dad?
Eleanor: (03:08:41:20) He always called her ‘baby'. Princess too, princess. I think they had a wonderful relationship he was very proud of her as a person and he was proud of what she was doing with herself and she was a stay at home mom for a long time and anxious to get moving and he was backing her in that and he was pleased when she- well he wasn't pleased when she left college. She went to Michigan State and we moved back to Pennsylvania so she matriculated as a resident and she went off to college with a great big stuffed donkey. It was right near one of the big political conventions and they were selling elephants and donkeys on the street. Grandmom bought them each one. Margot got the donkey, Richard got the elephant and Margot went off to college with this animal under her and she kept it I guess while she was there. Her junior year life changed for her in many ways and she decided she was going to come home. And I went and got her and brought her home I supported her in that- Phil agreed that it was a good thing to do. So she took six months off and finally went back and finished her junior year and then she had met John and she wanted to get married and so Phil said to John that it was okay- we would help them if they needed help but he wanted Margot to finish and he promised that someday Margot would finish she didn't want to finish right then. She got pregnant right away and had Michael but while Michael was a baby she managed to get some help and she worked in a bank there as a teller and she did that in the summer's when she'd come home but she still had not finished. And then Stephen came along and so she was extra busy and she tried to work in some courses and things on the side at night and then Kate came and that made it even more complicated but when Kate started school Margot went back to college in Michigan- Massachusetts. She went to a catholic college I'm trying to remember the name of it- anyway it was a nice college and they told Margot when she started that they- she was going to be full time and they expected her to be full time and they didn't want any excuses that the baby had a sore throat. You're supposed to be here so if you have problems with the children you're either going to have to quit or you'll have to get help for them and Margot stayed by that and she graduated and we went to graduation- Phil he just had to go to that graduation. He was sitting under trees it was an outdoor graduation- and it was hot and they were mounting the- and Margot had told us that they said she could use her full name if she wanted to on her diploma. Margot...Denise...Elkin...Arden. My dropout girl. I said Phil did you hear that he said of course- I don't think he hard that at all he was not surprised that she got- I was. I knew she was capable of it but I didn't think she was working that hard and apparently she was and she graduated with top honors. She had done alright before but you know she wasn't in any big hurry to get up there at the top as long as she finished it was okay. We never pressed her on that- do what you can do, do your best you know. I always knew she could do better and I guess Phil knew she could too but we didn't press her at all. She showed us what she could do and that was really kind of wonderful. She had three kids in school...and they were school and she was working as a nurse and she continued that.
Lisa: (03:14:10:14) What kind of a mom is Margot?
Eleanor: (03:14:13:05) Oh she's a good mom, she's a very good mom. She's tough she makes them behave like her father and made them be polite- all her children were grown up polite I [?] did that well with mine. In fact yesterday when Brendan was here he held my chair at the dinner table- nobody does that here. He pushed me in and he went around and helped his mother in- I was very proud of him. She teaches them that they're supposed to respect people not that they don't have their own problems too but that's another story that's their story.
Lisa: (03:14:56:19) What is it about Margot that makes you smile when you think about her?
Eleanor: (03:15:02:05) She's just the type of person that makes me smile not that I didn't used to get cross at her sometimes but no she's a good woman she was a good kid and she's a good woman. And I'm very proud of her work in hospice. She- well they were still living in Massachusetts- she got a job with the home, not the red cross one of the other ones that does hospice and got a job with them for hospice she did all the things she's a qualified hospice nurse and an administrator too and so she worked for them that way and John down her and they moved to New Jersey and she found a hospice again and she has been doing it ever since. She was managing one at Methodist hospital for a while they had come to her. She works for Vitas and Vitas was- this is a new section- Methodist hospital has a new section and this was going to be for hospice- people being in patient- not in their homes, there. She had dealt mostly with people in their homes and she liked that. They wanted her to manage it and she didn't want to do it but she said well I'll give you two years and then you have to promise me if I want to leave you'll let me go back to dealing with people. So she managed it for two years and she liked it but Margot's a perfectionist so she worked ungodly hours because if somebody couldn't come she did it. She was always having to go do the budget she was always having to go do the payroll at night and that kind of stuff because she was busy and it wasn't a big one it was a small hospice, it is a small hospice very nice it's really lovely. And so she finally said, her boss said to her, who is sort of a regional boss, "I don't think you're happy" and Margo said "I'm not and my two years are up. I wanna go back to working with patients." So that's what she's doing. That's how she met this one (points to picture) on the road.
Lisa: (03:17:26:17) Eleanor I want to ask you, and again I know this is hard articulate in a short period of time but what does your daughter mean to you?
Eleanor: (03:17:36:03 ) Everything. Everything- I don't know what I'd do without Margot. I don't see her everyday I don't even talk to her everyday but she's my life right now- she doesn't know it I don't think, but she is. I can't run hers never could never would I wouldn't even want to. She always in everything I think and do, always. She doesn't have the best health and I worry about that- I don't want anything to happen to her. I don't know what I'd do but I also don't know what her family would do. She's the glue in the family and she's the only one employed at the moment so she she's supporting five people. That wasn't what she planned- right now She and John should be enjoying semi-retirement sort of. They're not that old but wind down when you shouldn't have to worry too much about kids. She's 63- will be this year, 63.
Lisa: (03:18:48:03) She doesn't sound like anyone who would back down from a challenge maybe she got that from her mom?
Eleanor: (03:18:53:23) Well she get's tired and she goes to bed, she gets tired. We didn't have seatbelts at first when they were little and we would be coming back from the seashore and she'd be standing up in the front of the car holding onto the dashboard and all of a sudden she would disappear- plunk! Out cold on the floor but she would stay there like that you couldn't get her to sit down literally until she dropped and she's the same way now. She's still working hospice. It's demanding. She gets home after dinner. She just goes until she can't go anymore.
Lisa: (03:19:46:19) Is there any particular memory of Margot that you'd like to share with us- a memory that you hold particularly dear?
Eleanor: (03:19:55:20) Well I told you about her graduation- that was pretty wonderful and I think I've told you about the animals- I'm trying to remember some of the others. We took a couple trips together, of course, they were wonderful. We left everybody home- I remember one particular we had a wonderful time. I was an officer in the international society for persons with mental handicaps which is like the ARC international. There was a conference in Austria so I said do you want to go with me? Sure and I don't know whether my sister took one of the kids or both of them- she had two I think at the time I don't think Kate was onboard yet. Anyway there was arrangements made for the children and we went off together. We stopped in Saltzberg where I had been and she had too. We stopped there again and stayed at the inn where we had always had a good time for and made re-acquaintance with the people the people that ran it and it was a neighborhood inn with a little bar, food, so we stopped there first and we went on to Vienna where the conference was being held. She went to all the things I had to go to I said you don't have to go you know you can go to something else- no she had to go. We did get to see the Lippizaner Horses; they were either away for the summer- they were in Philadelphia I think, I'm kidding. They were away for summer but we saw some of them that were home were being trained but we did go to all the other stuff and then we had a big- a ball- a closing ball with Vienna waltz and we both had very fancy dresses we had gotten new gowns for the occasion and there were plenty of men that would dance with us so we did the Vienna waltz together and coming home we decided we could walk most of the way. It was hard to get a cab and so-forth and it wasn't all that far and we decided to walk and I tripped, hit my toe on something that was sticking, went right straight down on my face- that's the way I always go down and of course she rescued me and we continued to walk home and I had black eyes so I wore glasses the rest of the time. We had such a good time and it was a wonderful trip we had a couple trips like that together. Now we try to take, and she does this for me every year, she tries to save some time and we go away together. We'd be not very far and we'd do something special and it's hard to go away now because she doesn't have as much time.
About Eleanor Elkin
Born: 1916, Philadelphia, PA
Parent, Advocate, President of National Association for Retarded Citizens 1967-68
Resides in Philadelphia, PA
Parents, Families, ARC, Institutions, Advocacy, PILCOP