The Margaret Letters

By Marsha Tennant

The Margaret Letters

“Oh, Marsha, get over it…I am going to die. Just name a damn dog after me.”

Margaret and I met in 1980 in Atlanta, Georgia. We were on the same teaching team. She was six years younger, but we were partners in (crime) thinking outside of the box, having fun and being full of ourselves. We connected from the moment we laid eyes on each other. Together we were a tornado cut loose in the middle school where we taught. Looking back I realize that we were both ahead of the educational curve – if the student needed it – we did it! We were good at pleading ignorance if we were questioned by our administrator (who secretly applauded what we did).

I moved in 1984, but Margaret and I remained friends through phone calls and letters. There was no social networking like today. Margaret loved my daughter, Alice. They shared a passion for horses. Margaret wrote several letters to her over the years. I have them, too. When Mallory and Zach were born, Margaret shared the joys and challenges of having TWO children within twelve months. I can still hear her saying, “I was nursing Mallory – how did this happen? But I am so excited. They will be so close.”

Little did she know how prophetic those words would become. In the late ’80s Margaret called me and said that she had a brain tumor. The children were toddlers. She was scared, but determined to beat it. Over the next few years she underwent experimental treatments and surgeries. With each letter that arrived, I knew the challenge was becoming more grueling. “I am going to beat this. I don’t want to leave my babies.” Margaret’s Georgia grit kept her going.

I made several visits to see her during the next few years. I had the privilege of meeting her children. She saw Alice growing into a teenager. No matter the time lapse, we were able to remain close. The letters were a link and comfort for both of us.

In the summer of 1992, Margaret was losing her battle with the last of several tumors that would finally take her away from us. She had gone through all the stages of accepting death. She was at peace. I was not.

During one of our last phone conversations I was no help to her. I told her I loved her and didn’t want her to die. She was too good, had small children and it wasn’t fair. In her wonderful, slow, Southern drawl she admonished me. That is when she said “to name a damn dog after me.”

I have no idea what made her say that, but it must have remained in my subconscious. In 1997 a stray hound dog with her tail cut off bounded into my life. She was Margaret from head to toe. I heard my friend’s voice – the dog stayed and had a name! The canine had Margaret’s love of adventure and fearless attitude. Many times I said to my dog, “this is not funny, Margaret.” I meant my friend!

In June 2010, Margaret’s legacy came to life. I wrote a children’s book – Margaret, Pirate Queen. I connected with Mallory and Zach on Facebook. I told them that if they wanted to see their mother’s magnificent spirit as a young woman; they would find her traveling through the pages of the signed books I was sending to them. The pirate queen and their mom were one in the same.

The Margaret letters are on my writing table, along with the little book about my rescue pirate dog. A picture of Margaret sits quietly beside it. When I enter the mystical writing place, my dear friend, my dog and I race out into the beautiful coastal waters – searching for the next adventure.

To learn about Margaret, visit

About this writer

  • Marsha Tennant Marsha Tennant is the author of the children’s book, Margaret, Pirate Queen. She was recently published in AARP Bulletin and Mary Jane’s Farm. She and her husband retired and moved to the beach from Calabash in an attempt to downsize and spend time with their new grandson. A second Pirate Queen book is circling while porch sitting these days!

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4 Responses to “The Margaret Letters”

  1. Eileen Patonay says:

    Margaret the Pirate Dog is a wonderful children’s book! Looking forward to the sequel.

  2. Kate Trefzger says:

    Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of meeting Margaret. I can attest however, that her legacy lives on in Mallory, whom I am proud to know and love. I can not wait to share Margaret, Pirate Queen with my students!

  3. Patti Lyver says:

    Dear Ms. Tennant,
    I was recently in the JerriBob shipping store in Carolina Forest. The owner was so kind to tell me that you are a published children’s book author :)
    I am currently a Kindergarten teacher/author, of two children’s books; of which I had printed on my own.

    I am reaching out to you in the hope that you might consider viewing a US Patented Reading Aid which I was granted last summer. I realized the need to solve the ever frustrating phrase, “I can’t see”! which echoes from the cherubs listening to a story being read. ( The reader has to hold the book to one side to see the text; and no matter which direction he/she holds the book…the dilemma exists.)
    I have solved this problem, by reproducing the text of the book on the back cover:) The reader may now hold the book/illustrations toward the children at all times! ( The text is also included in the book, so the child may read on their own later down the road.)
    Librarians, teachers, daycare workers and parents of young children have shown delight in this feature.
    If you might find the time to respond, I would be most grateful. I would welcome the opportunity to meet you or send you my two books to allow you to view this Patented feature, which I know would be most helpful to so many educators, and child care givers. I am hoping that your publisher might consider viewing this feature as well.

    Congratulations on you endeavors as a children’s book author!

    I look forward to purchasing your book and reading it to my class.
    God bless and thank you for your time.

    Most Sincerely,
    Patti Lyver Teacher/Author
    “My work is child’s play!”

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