Meet Margaret Gibson!
Margaret waits for me in Jasmine’s office down at Fountain Ridge. When I walk in both are happy to greet me, Jasmine having just finished setting out lots of food to hand out for her weekly Care and Share event.
Margaret is quiet but eager to share about herself when asked, answering methodically throughout our entire discussion together. Everything always seemed to start out as a simple answer, and therefore a simple lifestyle, but deepened the more she talked or the more questions I asked. She is a fascinating and wonderful person with many hidden talents!
Growing Up in Maui
“How long have you lived here in Fountain?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she looks at Jasmine to help calculate, “I guess I’d have to look at my calendar!”
After going back and forth for a bit with Jasmine, we settled on six years.
“And have you lived in Colorado longer than that? Or did you move out here when you moved into Fountain?”
“I moved into Fountain two weeks after moving to Colorado.”
“Okay, well what brought you out to Colorado?” She gave me an exasperated look, like I just opened a can of worms with that question.
“Uh-oh, was it a series of unfortunate events?” I asked, smiling.
“I came out here originally because my grandson asked me to.” I learned that her grandson was in the military, stationed at Fort Carson, and asked Margaret to help him and his wife care for his son since her grandson was in and out of being deployed. In a sad turn of events, none of these plans panned out. She was able to move into Fountain soon after getting out here, though she thought she would be staying with her grandson. She doesn’t get to see her great-grandson much, either.
While you would think it would cause her to live at Fountain Ridge spited and jaded from how things turned out, that couldn’t be further from the truth. If there’s one thing that Margaret champions, it’s living each day as it comes and not getting too upset when things don’t go as planned. In fact, later on when I asked her for some principles she lives by this is exactly what she told me.
“Well, where did you live before Colorado?” I asked, hoping to get to a more cheerful subject. Although, come to find out later, Fountain Ridge has held many cheerful memories and friendships. Margaret has invested a lot of herself and has established many roots with the community and staff. But I didn’t hear that until later.
“I was born and raised in Maui.” She responded.
I look over at Jasmine and she smiled and nodded, “Yeah,” Jasmine followed up, “I want Margaret to take me with her when she goes back!”
“Is that the plan?” I asked, “to get back to Maui?”
“Yes,” Margaret said, “there’s a lot to juggle in making it happen, but I hope to get back there.”
“How did your family end up in Maui?” I asked, imagining that something specific would have to bring a family out there full time.
Margaret looked off to contemplate and then finally shook her head and shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know, we just always lived there.” Fair enough, I thought.
“Well what are some of your favorite memories of living in Maui?” I asked, expecting to have very fun and exotic answers, having grown up in land locked Colorado myself.
“A lot of people would be surprised, but my favorite thing were the horses and cattle.”
I was definitely one of those ‘a lot of people,’ I wouldn’t have known that cattle and ranching were that commonplace in Maui. I waited a few moments for Margaret to share more memories and stories about living in Maui, but instead I was met with just a few moments of silence, and then she finally looked at me as if to say, ‘next question.’
Needless to say, this was one of those moments where it seemed like a simple answer and short resident spotlight. But the more I asked, the more fascinated I became with Margaret’s life.
A Life of Horse Racing
“Well, I suppose that is surprising. I didn’t realize there was a lot of cattle on the Hawaiian Islands,” I said. “Had you ever been stateside before moving out to Fountain?”
“Oh yeah, I had horses that raced on the mainland so I’d come out then.”
“No way! You raced horses?” I asked, excitedly, “Did you just own the horses or did you train them, too?”
“No, I hired trainers,” she said, “But I had the ultimate say in how I wanted my horses trained and fed and so on. And I went to the races.”
“What was your favorite horse? Or is that like asking who your favorite kid is?” I asked.
She smiled. “Denny’s Return,” she responded with resolution. “And who was he?” I asked.
“My father was a well known horse racer. He had horses head over to the mainland in California to race at the fairgrounds. When I grew up and had my own race horses, I went out to California too. When people realized who my father was, Denny, they saw it fit to call my horse Denny’s Return since it was kind of like my father’s return to the track through me.”
You could see the pride in her smile as she told the story.
“So your parents raced horses growing up, you always had horses?”
“Well, my biological parents died when I was real young, and it was my adoptive parents that owned horses.”
“I see, and that’s when you started to like working with horses?”
“My mom let me get into it and gave me a lot of control and responsibilities.”
“That’s really cool, so it must have been a pretty smooth transition when you got old enough to own your own.”
“Yeah, I always owned them.”
“Even all the way up to you moving out here?” I asked.
“Yes, I left the horses I had with my son when I came out here. But I don’t think he has them anymore.”
Engaged in Her Community
“Did caring for the horses take up all of your time, or were you doing other things before coming out here? How would you fill up your time?”
She thought for a moment.
“We had a senior center in Maui that I was involved in quite a bit. I would help with transportation to and from the center, and I had a lot of friends there, so we would do a lot together.” From what I gathered, the senior center was a place offering events and games and things to do. It was more of a social space, not a place where people lived.
“I had one of my friends from there call me recently and tell me how excited she was for me to get back, that they’ve missed me so much. That felt good to hear.”
Earlier I had asked her what her days were like at Fountain Ridge, and her first response made it seem like she has a simple schedule. ‘I just go to Walmart and back,’ she said. But based on how involved she was in Maui and how close she was with Jasmine and other residents, I figured there was more to the story than that.
Connection at Fountain Ridge
“Well, I imagine you have a lot of activities that you do here, then! It seems like you’re used to staying busy,” I said.
After a minute or so of banter back and forth, contemplating the question, I had mentioned my interest in art, and even crafty things like sewing. She asked me a few questions about the products I use that no one would know but a fellow crafter.
“Are you a crater?” I asked, a smile on my face.
She nodded and said modestly, “Oh yeah, I like to do things here and there.”
“Don’t let her fool you,” Jasmine interjects, “I go shopping at Margaret’s place probably once a month.”
Jasmine walked the office space, “This is from Margaret,” pointing at a crafted door hanging reindeer. “This is from Margaret,” holding up a sewn blanket. “This is from Margaret,” holding up an ottoman or maybe side table but Margaret clarified she didn’t make that one.
Margaret laughed, “I have so many things in my place that I really don’t need to keep, and a lot of it is nice décor that I’ve made to go in the office.”
She told me about all of the pictures in her house in handmade frames brought together by finger joinery. It’s a rather intricate, artful way to bring two pieces of wood together, you have to be quite precise. Though Margaret will tell you it’s not that difficult. She wasn’t your weekend warrior crafter just making paper reindeer heads (though her reindeer was beautiful!), she was a serious craftswoman.
“What’s your favorite craft to date? Do you have one?” I asked.
“I stripped and rebuilt my Western saddle,” she said, a proud smile on her face.
“No way! Was it just getting aged and needing a repurposing, or did you have to adjust the sizing?”
“Well, so many saddles seem to not have a whole lot to them, both structurally and in general weight. I’ve always liked a saddle with some substance, and it gave me the opportunity to change up any of the measurements. That is one I will be taking with me.”
When Margaret isn’t crafting something together, it seems like she’s always in on the events of the week at Fountain. Jasmine took some of the kids out to the Parade of Lights in Fountain, and Margaret was there to accompany. Many of the residents know her. While we were visiting in the office her good friend and downstairs neighbor stopped in to chat for a while. She’s a reliable friend; someone who is always there to help out.
Perseverance through Adversity
As I learned at the onset of our discussion, it’s not all rainbows and crafts for Margaret. She has seen her fair share of adversity. While we talked about racing horses, crafting picture frames and saddles, and marrying her best friend, we also talked about the loss of her biological parents, that same best friend, and her dog of 22 years, Goofus. Each having their own intense ripple effects.
“How do you push through? What gets you through?” I asked.
“You just have to take it one day at a time, sometimes one thing at a time. There are things I had to handle when my husband died that I never had to until then. You just do the best you can and ask for help along the way.”