Meggan, Chad, Cara, Wendy, and Janine, having coffee at Shari's.
Meggan Parkinson died in a car crash Memorial Day weekend, 1997.
I met Meggan at Talented and Gifted camp back in 1986, and I immediately hated her. We were from the same town. We liked the same things. We strove towards the same goals. We competed for everything. We ended up as coeditors for the fiction magazine, and spat at each other like cats the whole time.
Then, we met, years later, through the Trail Pageant. And I love her. Meggan became one of my closest friends. She was like a sister to me.
We had a coffee klatch of sorts going one summer, Meggan and Chad and Janine and Cara and myself. After rehersals, after performances, we'd go to Sharis. Or Denny's. Or Art's. Or even to Rimsky Korsicoffee's--where we flirted with a waiter from Queens. We'd get coffee with lots of cream and lots of sugar, and maybe split a basket of fries. We wore the display menu pyramids like funny little hats. We swiped sugar packets to commemorate our trips, and smuggled them home in our bra straps. Mostly we talked. And laughed. And bonded. And wondered what our lives and futures would be like. It was summer, and we were young and free and filled with adreneline from the Pageant. And, through caffeine and grease and giggles, we grew closer than any group of friends I've ever had the priviledge of knowing.
We led the pageant kids on snipe hunts on the Inskeep grounds. Every year.
I worked at a bakery the summer we came together, and we would sit outside Eastham eating French bread in our bloomers, and do wild parodies of the clogging routines. Meggan flopping her hair around during a wagon wheel was something to see, indeed. Meggan doing ANYTHING was something to see. She was filled with joy and happiness. She was infectious.
There was an audition for James and the Giant Peach in West Linn, and a passel of us OTPers went. Part of the audition was a mass group improvisation. Meggan was a pregnant woman trapped in the Oregon Caves with a manaical tour leader and me, a novitiate--"pre-nun," Meggan said--who was trying to convert Meggan while Meggan was in labor. She wheezed and screamed and yelled all sorts of things one wouldn't normally yell at a "pre-nun." She was amazing. Funny and witty and quick. Improvising with her was unforgettable. She always could build a scene with a word or glance. She was always adding. She was wonderful.
We did silly, stupid things, Meggan and Cara and Janine and Chad and me. We went to bad movies like Fivel Goes West and Mobsters. We sang along as cartoon lizards belted out "Rawhide." We had silly catch phrases that peppered our conversations. "You're my dad," which just meant, "I really like you. You're cool." "Schwah," had no real meaning (besides being an upsidedown e), but we used it a lot. A lot of stupid little things to remember. Juvenille and silly and fun. Big smiles and guffaws and caffeine buzzes.
The backstage hijinx of the Trail Pageant are far too many to remember clearly. But I can't forget the "Yellow Rosebush Circle." Whenever Pat (for no matter what, Pat IS Maggie, and Ross IS Abe) was on stage after the attempted rape scene, and knelt, speaking about her rose bush, we would gather backstage, grip hands in a circle, and mouth along melodramatically. "My yellow rosebush." Meggan would be shaking her head disbelievingly. "He threw my yellow rosebush to the ground." Chad would look strikingly like Pat. "He'd like to destroy everything beautiful." Meggan was the only one who could keep some semblance of a straight face. "But he doesn't know how strong a rose cutting can be." Head high, arms raising up, Meggan had us all crying from laughing. "HE JUST DOESN"T KNOW!"
No matter how many times we did this, it was still fun the next day. And the next. It always ended in a peal of repressed laughter, and a big group hug.
Meggan had the best hugs.
Meggan was the only friend of mine to come visit me in D.C. during college. That may seem like a little thing to remember, but it means so much to me. She came to see if the world I was in was a world she wanted to be in. ANd all my friends out here who met her are grieving for her now. We called her Meg-GONE from Ore-GONE, because of the schwah thing...no one in DC would deign to say Oregon right, and so, when she used her name as an example of how the last syllable should be pronounced, she became Meg-GONE. We took her dancing and ate dining hall "food," and I showed her my life. It wasn't for her, but, as always, she was so accepting and supporting and wonderful.
A lot of stupid little things to remember. Juvenille and silly and fun. But more lasting, I remember her kindness. Her strong spirit. Her true goodness.
And, of course, her smile.
I wish I could in Oregon with everyone who remembers and loves her. But since I can't, I just wanted to share how much she meant to me, how much I will miss her. Her and her smile.
(Wendy A. F. Green, 1997)
At the Oregon Trail Pageant cast party, still in grease paint, Cara, Wendy, Meggan, and Janine
MEGGAN PARKINSON: A THEATRICAL JOURNEY
All the world's a stage And all the men and women merely players. William Shakespeare
We are here today to celebrate, on Center Stage, an actor who loved to perform. A ham from the time she took her first steps, Meggan loved to be in the spotlight. Well, Meggan, today you are the main character, the star of the show, and you can bet the reviews will be excellent.
Act One, Scene I. Meggan is 3 years old. She is given a suitcase of dress-up clothes. The actress is born!
Scene 2: Meggan is 7 years old. Every night after dinner, Kitsie is treated to a play, directed, of course, by Meggan, starring of course, Meggan, and Kendra, and other friends who had come to play. Her theater career was now in full bloom. However, these plays received "mixed" reviews. Some were acrobatic, some actually had a story line; some were quite, shall we say, abstract.
Scene 3 moves us to the Holcomb School Talent Show. We see Meggan plotting. You see, the kids were restricted to doing only one act and she was determined to find a way around such a repressive edict. One year Meggan sang Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, while wearing, of course, a not too teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini.
Scene 4: It is now audition time for the Spring Musical at Holcomb. Meggan always wanted the lead. But in the vignette now at hand, we find that this particular musical has more roles for boys than for girls. Our Meggan is convinced that with her hair pulled back, or under a hat, and by lowering her voice, she should qualify for one of the juicy male roles. Rejected again. (It is the scriptwriter's opinion that it is these early thwarts in her climb toward success, that fueled her rebelliousness.)
Act II - Our talented and gifted main character hits high school.
Scene 1 - The passionate love affair. His photos were all over her wall. She adopted his love for Porsches. She knew every intimate detail of his life story. Yes, she saw every movie James Dean ever made -- many times. (And knowing how Meggan searched for metaphors and irony in art and life, she would probably smile at the similaries in their deaths.)
Scene 2 - This is a huge scene. Meggan at age 15, auditions for and wins the role of Melinda, the female ingenue lead, in the Oregon Trail Pageant's 5th season in 1991. She was a wonderful Melinda, with a major scene-stealing smile. In fact, impartial observers were heard to say "when she smiles on stage, you can't see anything else." Patt, her director, is heard to say "she was a bright, confident light, assessing herself constantly, and always learning." A perfectionist. She wanted to be the best.
Scene 3 - The first kiss. During "Oregon Fever" Melinda and Tom, played by 24 year old, handsome Tony Sonera, share a kiss. Meggan confided to Patt, the director, that she was nervous about the big moment. So Patt calls a private rehearsal -- just Meggan, Tony, Patt and Stage Manager Joe Lynne Rader. Tony, however, was not told that Meggan was a kissing virgin. So the big moment arrives, Tony leans down, and Meggan begins to laugh and giggle hysterically. Tony says "You've never been kissed by a boy before." Meggan says loudly: NO. So Tony goes over to Patt and kisses her to show Meggan how easy it is. Patt encourages Meggan by telling her how lucky she is to get this guy to be her first stage kiss! Tony's second attempt was perfect, and by the smile on Meggan's face, it appeared to be something she looked forward to all 18 nights!
Scene 4 - Shows Backstage vignettes. We see Meggan, Chad, Cara, Wendy and Janine leading the Pageant kids on snipe hunts. We see these good friends at Shari's or Denny's, drinking coffee with lots of cream and sugar, and splitting a basket of fries. We see them posing with display menu pyramids like funny little hats. We see the girls swiping sugar packets to commerate the trip, and smuggling it home in their bra straps. We see Meggan doing a wild parody of a clogging routine, flopping her hair around during a wagon wheel step. She was filled with joy and happiness. We see 'The Yellow Rosebush Circle'; holding hands backstage and melodramatically imitating the words being said on stage, with Meggan the only one able to maintain the semblance of a straight face. She was infectious and fun. The lights fade, the smile remains.
Scene 4 - This is a transitional scene the scriptwriter put in for a change of pace from the dramatic. It shows Meggan at swim meets. In fact winning the Coach's Award for character, dedication and tenacity. It shows her going to State twice in Speech Tournaments. She became the District Speech champion in two categories: memorized serious interpretation with a piece about Jewish women; and memorized humorous interp. However, our focus shifts to a typical night before a speech tournament. Meggan is talking to her speech coach in mildly frantic tones: "But Mrs. Kelley, I haven't even chosen my piece yet!"
Act III - Meggan goes to college. As we have heard, her drama career grew in amazing ways at Scripps; with street theater in Guatemala; with improv in Zimbabwe; and some serious Alexandrian method in London, which changed her in signficant ways. She learned that, though she passionately loved theater and adored acting, she was never more miserable than when she was in a show. Hence her dream of directing was born.
She hated "cheesy" -- but yet was the first to employ it. She hated "sentimentality" -- but was very proud that "Eleemosynary" and her 10 minute Central American piece had moved people to tears.
The final act is the one that brings it all together. Her enthusiasm and passion for theater and drama in all its forms. Our love for her.
But lest we err in showing our star as solely two-dimensional, we must add those little scenes that made her truly one of us: Those would be: leaving her precious handwritten journal from Zimbabwe on the airplane; and folding her ticket to London in the book she was reading and putting it down, never to see it again. The stuff of drama. The theater of everyday life.
And so our play comes to an end. But the wonderful thing about theater is that the sights, sounds, songs, the memories and the feelings remain, long after the costumes and makeup have faded away. Meggan will always play Center Stage, steal the show, and always remain in the spotlight -- exactly where she loved to be.
Today we have many of the Oregon Trail Pageant family here. Those who have laughed, worked and played with Meggan, Kendra and Kitsie over the past 10 years. Each night, for 164 performances, we sang a beautiful song called Amazing Grace. I would invite all who have been a part of the Pageant family to come up and sing Amazing Grace once again.
In the Pageant, it comes at a point in the journey that is difficult. A place where a young woman seems overwhelmed by hardships and severe setbacks. During this song, somehow she finds the strength to raise her head and set her jaw, with a resolve to carry on. We dedicate this song to all who loved Meggan.
AMAZING GRACE All in harmony: Amazing Grace how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see.
Women only unison: Yea when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease. I shall possess within the veil A life a joy and peace.
All in harmony: Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come, Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home; And grace will lead me home.
(Alice Norris, May 31, 1997)
Meggan (and her smile), Cara, Janine, and Chad.
The service yesterday did a lot in terms of getting everyone together to celebrate Meggan. It took the confusion and dispair away but the sadness remains for the loss of such an amazing person. But her memory will always be amazing and beautiful.
Yesterday after the service Chad and I went the Parkinson's to visit and give our love. We were the first to arrive so we quietly waited. Soon it began to rain and then it rained harder and soon the most beautiful rainbow emerged. The most beutiful thing was that the end of the rainbow landed in the Parkinsons yard. I don't think I have ever seen that before. I would like to think that it was our love and memory of Meggan materialized and set before us for us to know that this was not an end.
It will take me a while before I can think of this time without tears but each day is better and I know my memories will never fade but always remain strong and positive.
Especially when I see a rainbow.
(Cara Lynn McCarthy, 1997)
A sketch of Meggan, by Kelly Green.
I had Bob scan a doodle I did at work this week & e-mail it to you. Maybe you can use it for the webpage. Here's the story behind it.
I was thinking of Meggan, and that naturally made me think of her smile. Before I knew it, I'd drawn a fair approximation of that bright smile. Eyes slightly uptilted - as if they too were smiling - and an elfin nose....I looked down and saw Meggan in that sketch. It's kinda cartoon-y, and I may be the only one who sees the resemblence, but it reminds me of Meggan, and that memory comforts me.
Just some Meggan thoughts: when I think about her loss, I'm saddened. My mind turns to all the activities and people's lives she'll never be a part of. But then I think about my memories of her life. She was so much a part of so many activities and she touched so many people's lives in such a positive way. Althought I miss her, I can't help but be happy when remembering her. I think that all of us who knew her share this. One last thought - at Meggan's memorial service every single one of the speakers talked about her smile.
(Kelly Green, 1997)
Cara, Wendy, Meggan and Janine, at Janine's house for a Christmas-time reunion.
15 October 1997
I've found some other friends and family of Meggan's online, and am working to bring more of their feelings to you.
The Oregon Trail Pageant had a benefit night for Meggan July 17, 1998. For details, see https://members.tripod.com/~WendyAFG/meggan.htm.
If you have any memories you'd like to ad to this page, please send them to Wendy Green (there's a mail link below).