Once long ago I asked Peg Gummere how old she was. She leaned forward and whispered, “Can you keep a secret?” I whispered back, “Yes.” She smiled, paused, and then said, “So can I.”
I never did find out her exact age. But today I did. Today I called and spoke with Peg. Her memory is a thing of the past, as memory is, but in the present Peg is as she always was, lively, kind, and completely interested in you. She had Marjory Benjamin, a woman who helps her, write down my name and number, thinking that her children might want to know I had called. Marjory told me next month would be Peg’s birthday. I said, “Really! How old will she be? “ Marjory said, “Ninety-five.”
Peg had great teachers, and a great education. She studied drawing with Kimon Nicolaides at the Arts Students League in New York, violin with Dr. Suzuki, and the Alexander Technique with F.M. Alexander. Like Alexander, she was also an avid rider. Peg could see, hear, and move. Her senses were wide open. Whatever happened to education like that?
In 2000, when Buzz Gummere, Peg’s husband, was 90, and Peg a mere 84, (now I know), they decided at the last minute to join us for our first Alexander Alliance retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. They found a flight, flew across the country, rented a car, drove for three hours, and showed up at Ghost Ranch just in time for class.
One night, sitting around a fire, under the stars, sipping on some red wine Buzz started talking about Alexander. Peg, as usual, slightly bowed her head, lowered her eyes, and listened intently. Buzz said,
“You’ve haven’t seen people wearing spats have you? Well, a British gentleman would most certainly have a set of those fine woolen things that they put on over their feet to keep their ankles warm in cold weather. Spats became a sign of somebody who was aspiring to be aristocratic. Alexander had a perfect British accent. You could not hear that he was from Australia. Here was a very polished person. Alexander was a very lovely person too, in a lot of ways, but underneath, he was a real wild man. That tension must have been very intense in him. Peg, tell us about F.M. from your point of view.
Peg: He loved horses. He rode till the end of his days. He was a live wire. He didn’t seem like an old man at all, even up to the late years. He was sparkling.
Buzz: What was that last word?
And, if I were pressed to find one word for Peg, that would be the word,