100 reasons to celebrate
In her poem "Birthday Party," Peggy Freydberg wrote of celebrating the beauty of the day with friends:
"And when I bent to blow the candles out,
I did not need to make a wish for something better.
with one great whoosh of liberation,
I blew away ninety years of little lies.
And then I cut the cake,
and passed it,
saying thank you."
On March 6, Ms. Freydberg, composed and smiling, listened as library director Ebba Hierta welcomed the crowd who came to celebrate her 100th birthday at a lavish party in the Chilmark Public Library. There were flowers, cakes, a display of her books, portraits of her with her cat, and a guest book that quickly filled with warm salutations
"She's the MVP, the most valuable patron," Ms. Hierta said. "I can't think of anyone I've met who loves books more, who knows as much about books and contemporary literature as Peggy Freydberg does."
Ms. Freydberg, author of six novels, two volumes of poetry, one non-fiction book, and other poems and articles, basked in accolades and greetings from the approximately 100 partygoers who gathered to honor her. The town of Chilmark proclaimed March 6, 2008 to be Margaret Howe Freydberg Day.
"There's far too much that is wonderful going on here to express my appreciation properly; I don't think that adequate words exist," said the wordsmith in response.
"It's like standing next to a rock star," said Tamara Sloan-Anderson, Ms. Freydberg's granddaughter. She laughed and added, "You just knew she understood you for who you were, that she got you to your very core. She was a refuge and shelter for all of us, for all of our lives."
Ms. Sloan-Anderson read a letter from her sister, Emily, who wrote in part, "Thank you, thank you so much for all the vibrant, fragrant and dancing bouquets you have bestowed and continue to bestow on our hearts."
Recollections were shared, poetry read, and tributes made. Poet and stonemason John Maloney recalled building a stone wall with Ms. Freydberg's late husband some 30 years ago: "Nick and I were trying to figure out how to do the stone wall, and Peggy was in a tent writing. Her commitment and dedication was just unbelievable then and it still is today."
From the poem he wrote for the occasion, he read, "She drives to the library, mails a letter, feeds her cats - the words continue..."
"My personal goal is to be 100 and to look and be like that," said Susan Murphy, echoing the thoughts of many of those present. "She's upped the ante for all of us about what it means to be older."