Aunt Margie’s Hands

This week’s blog post: Aunt Margie’s Hands

I still believe my Aunt Margie Nell had the most beautiful hands in the world. I miss those hands on the piano.

Although I miss Aunt Marge’s hands, I miss her heart the most.

Marjorie Nell Iles Walker was my Dad’s younger sister.

During her lifetime, she was SW Louisiana’s most renowned pianist. During her full life, she entertained thousands with her unique style and personality.

Aunt Margie was a prodigy. My Grandmother told me about waking up 5-year-old Margie Nell to play the closing hymn at Dry Creek Baptist Church.

Aunt Margie had a God-given gift, and she used it well. She was a good steward of that gift.

My Dad, who had a rich baritone voice, was her partner. He and Aunt Margie sang and played all over the state. Neither were shy about sharing their music as only a brother and sister could.

It touched me deeply when Aunt Margie played before and after my Dad’s funeral in 2003. It was her personal gift to her singing brother, and it was certainly a precious gift to our family.

Not only could Aunt Margie play, but she also had an amazing repertoire and memory and could hardly be stumped.

One of my best memories was a senior adult lunch at Dry Creek Camp. The crowd called out favorites, and she’d pound them out to their delight.

I’d be hard-pressed to describe Aunt Margie’s piano style. I guess you had to hear it to describe it. I’ve often remarked that if I was walking through Grand Central Station and the P.A. was playing one of her songs, I’d stop and say, “Hey, that’s my Aunt Margie Nell.”

As her nephew, she always made me feel special, and that’s one of the many reasons I loved her dearly.

She’d wink at me as she played my favorite song, “Ashokan Farewell,” the haunting theme song from Ken Burns’s “The Civil War.”

She was a performer: chewing on a stick of Wrigley Spearmint gum, smiling and nodding at the audience who were in the palm of her hand, or rather hands.

I loved Aunt Margie for much more than her amazing piano skills. She was the strong grip connecting me to my ancestors from whom she’d inherited her musical ear.

She and Uncle Mark would regale me for hours (literally) with tales of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and a host of great-uncles and aunts.

I took those stories to heart. Many of them are found sprinkled throughout my books.

Aunt Margie and Uncle Mark possessed what I call ‘Old Southern Hospitality.’ Regardless of when I showed up unannounced at their door, they dropped everything, and I was greeted as the returning prodigal.

Aunt Margie would heat the pot of coffee that had simmered all day over the pilot light, and we’d drink coffee and visit and visit and visit. Aunt Margie liked to talk as much as she loved the piano, maybe more.

My family still laughs at the art of disentangling from a visit to Aunt Margie.

I’d stand. “Aunt Margie, I’d better get back to Dry Creek.”

“Can’t you stay a little longer?” As I shuffled out the front door, she was step-by-step finishing (or unfinishing) a story.

As we walked to the truck, she grasped my hand.

As I carefully closed the cab door and rolled down my window, Aunt Margie kept talking.

Often, she’d put those beautiful hands on my door frame as I slowly shifted into reverse to ease away.

She’d be waving all the way to the highway.

I’d do anything to grasp those beautiful waving hands again. To hear Aunt Margie one more time, using her God-given talent to entertain and inspire others.

She was my Aunt Margie, and she was one of a kind.

I miss her and always will.

Playing on,

Curt Iles

Dry Creek, LA
Alexandria, LA