By Beth Mott
Margaret took a deep breath as she walked up the walkway of the O'Reilly farm.
"Don't worry," a familiar voice encouraged her. "It'll be just like old times - talking, laughing, a few practical jokes, lots of liquor. I'll even throw some dirty laundry around for old time sake." She turned back and smiled at him. Even after all these years she still loved how he used humor to try to lighten a tense situation. "Come on, Margaret." He encouraged, leaning around her to ring the doorbell. "We don't want to keep everyone waiting."
"You're right." She nodded and leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. "I'm just nervous about seeing everyone again. I mean, it's been ten years. What if we don't get along anymore? What if seeing everyone just stirs up horrible memories we would have sooner forgotten."
"Let's not dwell on the horrible memories, let's concentrate on the happy ones." He leaned forward and brushed lips with her again. "Besides, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's reaction to our news."
Margaret's eyes began to sparkle in amusement. "Now, that will certainly be worth seeing."
"I wonder where everyone is?" She commented after knocking for the second time with no reply. "Do we have the right address?"
"The mailbox at the end of the lane said 'Walter and Patty O'Reilly.'" her husband replied. "This should be it." He reached over and gave the door a loud, firm knock, shaking his hand gently after. Margaret grinned in amusement.
"Those hands were made for healing, not for knocking." She teased, taking his hand in hers and bringing it to her lips. Stroking the back of it with her thumb, she commented. "I always loved watching these hands at work. They saved so many young men."
Her husband grinned at her and joked. "It's a shame I couldn't have just cut them off and sent them to Korea. They could have performed surgery there and I could have stayed safe and sound in Crabapple Cove." She squeezed her hand tightly, his eyes dancing in fun. She grinned back at him, acknowledging the joke. Suddenly his face became serious as he remembered something. "Did you remember to bring that envelop that I had set out on the desk?"
Margaret nodded as she reached and pulled it out of her purse. Flipping it over, she tried to figure out what it was. It was just a plain white envelope with the initials 'E.H.' on it. If it wasn't for the fact that it was sealed, she would have been tempted to look inside. "What's in it?" She asked. She had never seen it before until he had placed it on his desk saying that it must be brought to the reunion.
"It's just a little something I made up for Erin Hunnicutt when we were in Korea." He took it from her and stuck it in his shirt pocket.
"It's a list of all the men that B.J. had worked on while he was there. I was hoping that it would help Erin to understand why he had to miss the first few years of her life."
Margaret's eyes teared up. "That was such a sweet thing to do."
He shrugged and smiled, "I'm just a sweet kind of guy."
She smiled back at him. "Don't I know it." They smiled lovingly at each other for a few moments.
"Mommy." a soft voice interrupted. Margaret looked down at the young girl who was clinging tightly to her hand.
"What is it, honey?" she asked.
"What are we doing here?" the child was looking around curiously.
"I told you, Becky. We're here for a BBQ with some of our old friends from when Mommy and Daddy served in the war in Korea." Her mother reminded her.
"From when you were a nurse and Daddy a doctor in that hospital." Becky asked.
"That's right, honey." her mother nodded.
"That's where you and Daddy met, right?" Becky asked, looking at her parents curiously.
"That's right, honey." her father smiled, looking at his wife lovingly. "That's where I swept your mother off her feet."
"Ha, you wish!" his wife scoffed, trying not to smile, despite the truth of the statement.
"Daddy." Another small voice piped up.
"What is it, Princess?" her father asked, turning his attention to the young girl he was carrying.
"Will there be any toys to play with?" The young girl asked.
Her father smiled impishly as his wife and commented, "Radar may have a teddy bear or two hanging around."
Margaret laughed, an amused look on her face. Then she turned serious and began straightening her oldest daughter's hair and clothing. Awkwardly she knelt down in front of her daughter and urged, "Now, Becky, don't forget your manners. You too, Beth. I want both of you to be good girls today. Make us proud of you, okay darlings?"
"Okay, Mommy. I will." Becky nodded solemnly.
"Me too, Mommy." Beth vowed from her father's arms.
"That's my girls." Margaret gave her oldest daughter a kiss on the cheek and then, with the help of her husband, struggled to her feet and turned her attention to straightening her youngest daughter's hair and clothing.
"Margaret, don't worry about them." her husband assured her. "They're going to be fine. They're perfect little angels - just like their father."
"Yeah right! Sometimes I think they're a little bit too much like their father." Margaret commented, trying to sound disgusted about it. "Especially that one." She nodded towards Beth who was clinging to her father's neck lovingly. "She's definitely 'Daddy's girl' that one."
"Is that such a bad thing?" he asked, smirking amusedly.
"Sometimes." his wife commented, smiling at him teasingly. "And speaking of their father, where did you ever find that shirt?" He was wearing the old blue and white Hawaiian shirt that he use to wear back in Korea. She hadn't seen it in almost a decade. "I thought you'd discarded that awful thing years ago."
"Sacrilegious!" The owner exclaimed in mock horror. "I can't discard this fine garment. It holds too many wonderful memories for me. And I have the stains to prove it."
"All x-rated memories, no doubt." his wife shot back.
Before her husband could voice a comeback, the door of the farmhouse opened and out came their former company clerk.
"Hawkeye! Major Houlihan! I'm glad you could make it!" Radar welcomed them eagerly into the house.
"We wouldn't have missed it for the world!" Hawkeye smiled as he gave his old friend a warm embrace. "How have you been, Radar?"
"Great." Radar replied. "How about you?"
"Terrific." Hawkeye smiled, looking at his family proudly. "Things couldn't be better."
Radar turned and greeted Margaret with a nervous smile, "It's nice to see you again, Major."
Margaret smiled in amusement. She doubted she'd ever be anything but 'Major Houlihan' to Radar. But she didn't blame him. She had been very hard on him and usually treated him as an inferior when they were serving together at the 4077th. Boy, did she regret being so hard to get along with.
"Radar, it's nice to see you too." She reached over and hugged their host warmly, much to his surprise. Was this the same woman you use to consider him as merely dirt beneath her feet.
Laughing nervously, he replied, "I'm glad you could make it, sir...ma'am." Then looking her up and down he laughed again and added, "Wow, is the Major expecting a minor?" Margaret shot Hawkeye a look. She knew exactly where that phrase had gotten its start. Hawkeye just looked at her innocently, though there was a hint of a smile tugging at his mouth.
A young lady stepped out of the kitchen and joined the small group in the entryway. When she stopped beside Radar, he put his arm around her waist and proudly introduced. "Hawkeye, Major Houlihan, I'd like you to meet my wife, Patty. Patty, this is Hawkeye Pierce and Major Houlihan." Hawkeye and Margaret smiled at each other over Radar's consistent use of 'Major Houlihan'.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Hawkeye, Major." She smiled as she shook hands with her guests.
"Please call me Margaret." the major encouraged with a friendly smile to Radar's wife. It was hard for her to picture shy Radar as married. But then it probably wasn't as hard as it would be for Radar to picture her and Hawkeye as man and wife, once he found out that is.
Hawkeye must have been having the same thought because he wrapped his free arm around her waist and said. "It's no longer 'Major Houlihan', Radar."
"Oh, you got married again, ma'am. Congratulations. I hope things go better than with Colonel Penobscott." Radar commented, "But you should have brought him with you. The BBQ was for 4077th staff and their families." Hawkeye and Margaret looked at each other and smiled. Radar certainly hadn't changed.
"I did bring my family, Radar." Margaret assured him, still smiling in amusement. "These are my daughters, Rebecca and Elizabeth."
"Oh, that's swell." Radar commented, looking at the two girls delightedly.
"It's nice to meet you." Patty smiled kindly at the girls who just looked at her and Radar shyly.
"Girls, this is your Uncle Radar and your Aunt Patty." Hawkeye told his daughters, smiling at them reassuringly. "Radar and your mother and I were good friends in Korea."
Rebecca just continued to stare shyly at the strangers while Beth turned and hide her face on her father's shoulder. Hawkeye laughed and tightened his grip on his youngest daughter. "Don't worry," he assured his friends. "They'll come around. They just have to get used to you, that's all."
"Why don't you follow me, everyone is out back." Radar invited, then looking at Rebecca he added. "My daughters are outside playing on the swings with Klinger's son, Paul and Charles' daughter, Clara. Maybe Rebecca would like to go join them."
"Would you like to go play on the swings, honey?" Margaret asked Rebecca. The girl shook her head and pressed closer to her mother's side. Looking at Radar, she said, "Maybe later, when she gets used to the new surroundings."
"That's fine." Radar nodded, leading the way to the back door. "We were getting worried that you weren't going to be able to make it." He told them. "Especially you, Major. I couldn't find you anywhere. Nobody seemed to know where you had disappeared to. Fortunately, Hawkeye knew, and agreed to pass on the message about the reunion. I was getting worried that you'd miss it." Turning to Hawkeye, he added, "It's really swell of you to help the Major with her kids. I'm sorry she didn't bring her husband, though. I would have loved to meet him. I hope he's a nice fellow. She deserves someone who treats her well."
Radar missed the exasperated, though still slightly amused look that Margaret and Hawkeye exchanged as he led them through the house towards the back door. Before they reached the door, Beth whispered urgently into her father's ear.
"Daddy, I have to go potty."
"Okay, Princess." Hawkeye smiled at her. Then addressing the O'Reilly's he asked, "Where's your washroom?"
"Upstairs. Second door on the left." Patty replied.
"I'll be right back." He told Margaret. "Beth and I have to make a little pit stop."
"Want me to take her?" his wife asked.
"It's, okay." Hawkeye assured her. "I can manage." He leaned over and kissed the side of her head. "Why don't you and Becky go and join the others outside and we'll be down in a minute."
"Okay, darling." Margaret nodded. She was dying to get off her feet, the coming baby was getting very heavy and she felt so uncomfortable.
"Follow me." Patty invited with a smile, leading her guest towards the back door. Radar had already gone on outside. "You look like you need to sit down."
Margaret nodded. "I do. I hate being nine months pregnant. I can't believe I'm doing it for the third time. The first time I swore that I'd never do it again."
"Until you held your baby in your arms for the first time, right." Patty smiled. "Then you decided that all the discomfort you endured during those nine months were worth it."
Margaret smiled. "How did you know that?"
"Because I have two little girls of my own." Patty smiled, "And every time I think of holding them for the first time, I feel like I want another one. It's such a precious feeling. Nothing else can duplicate it."
"Exactly." Margaret felt suddenly very close to Patty. They may have only known each other for a few minutes, but they shared a very close connection, that of having children, which is the greatest experience anyone could have.
"So, what are you hoping for this time?" Patty asked, pausing before the door that led to the backyard.
"I kind of hope it's a boy." Margaret admitted. "I'd like to give Ben a son. I know he would love to have a son."
"Has he told you that?" Patty asked, curiously.
"No, not really." Margaret replied thoughtfully. "Not in so many words. In fact, anytime I ask him, he just says that he wants the baby to be happy and healthy, that that's all that matters to him. But when he tells me or the girls stories about things that he use to do with his dad, I can tell he wishes that he had a son of his own to do those types of things with. I mean, don't get me wrong, he loves the girls very much. He brags about them to everyone, but I would still like to see him have a son too."
"Well, I must say, I'm surprised you made the trip in your condition." Her hostess commented as she opened the door leading outside. "When I was nine months pregnant with Jacqueline, I was in bed most of the time. I felt so horrible."
"Well, that's one of the benefits of being married to a doctor, I suppose." Margaret laughed, as she stepped out onto the verandah "You have your own personal physician with you wherever you go."
"Yes, I suppose." Patty nodded in agreement.
"Hey, everyone, look who's here." Radar announced excitedly. About a dozen heads turned to see who had just arrived.
"Margaret!" Colonel Potter rose from his seat and opened his arms to embrace his former head nurse. "How are you doing?"
"Great Colonel." Margaret smiled, hugging their old C.O. "How are you?"
"Never better. Retirement suits me just fine." Potter said, then looking her up and down his smile widened. "And would I be presumptuous in saying that I see marriage is suiting you just fine, too."
Margaret laughed and nodded. "No, you wouldn't be. It is."
"How many years now?" Sherman asked curiously.
"Seven." Margaret replied.
"Seven years! I can't believe it!" Potter smiled warmly at her. "I gather they've been good years."
"Very good, Colonel." Margaret nodded. "He's the greatest husband and father anyone could hope for."
"I'm glad to hear it." He said. "You deserve the best. Now, you're going to have to introduce me to this wonderful man so that I can personally thank him for taking such good care of you."
"I will." Margaret smiled. "I promise."
"Good." Then, looking down at Becky, who was holding on to her mother's shirt, he asked. "And who's this precious little darling?"
"This is my oldest daughter, Rebecca." Margaret introduced proudly. "Becky, this is Colonel Potter." The young girl looked at the older man and smiled shyly, pressing closer to her mother.
"How are you Rebecca?" Sherman asked the little girl warmly.
"Fine." She replied softly, still unsure of this new stranger.
"You're a very pretty little girl. How old are you?" He asked.
"Six." She told him, a little more confidence in her voice.
"Six, wow. You're a big girl aren't you?" Becky nodded in reply. "Why don't you two come over and meet Mrs. Potter. She's anxious to get to know everyone." He lead the pair over to where his wife was sitting, talking to Trapper and his wife. "Mildred, I'd like you to meet Margaret Houlihan, our former head nurse."
The older woman smiled warmly at the pair as she extended her hand. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Margaret. I've heard so much about you. I feel like I've known you for years."
"It's nice to finally meet you too, Mrs. Potter. The Colonel has told us many wonderful things about you as well." Margaret returned.
"And this is your daughter?" Mrs. Potter asked, looking at the young girl with a motherly smile.
"Yes, this is Rebecca. Rebecca, this is Mrs. Potter." Rebecca smiled at the older woman shyly.
"Why don't you two join us." Col. Potter encouraged, gesturing for her to take the chair beside his wife.
"Here, Margaret, take my seat." Trapper volunteered, rising from the chair. "Colonel, you sit beside your wife. I have to go ask Radar something anyway."
"Thank you, Trapper." Margaret smiled as she took the offered chair. "I really appreciate it.
"No problem." Trapper smiled kindly. "Excuse me for a minute." Walking around the group that was starting to gather around the Potters and Margaret, he came up beside Radar. "Any sign of Hawkeye yet?" He asked, looking around expectantly.
"Yes, sir." Radar nodded. "He's inside with one of the Major's daughters. He took her to the latrine."
"Radar," Trapper laughed, "This isn't Korea. It's not a latrine."
"You're right. Sorry sir." Radar laughed his nervous laugh.
"And knock off the 'sirs' will you." The doctor said in exasperation, "Or I'll remove your tonsils."
"Too late, sir...I mean, Trapper." Radar corrected.
Just then Radar heard the doorbell ring. "I'd better go get that. I'll be right back." He bumped into Hawkeye as the doctor was coming out the door.