Rural Living

Regrets Only

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

I have no idea why I am sitting here this morning thinking about regrets.    

Well, yes I do: I just saw the word “grumpy.” I thought of myself. And then, I thought of one of my great regrets.

I’m sure we each have a list of Life’s Big Regrets. Here are some of mine.

As a teen, I regret that I did not accept the full scholarship offered by Hollins University. What was I thinking? Remember, I was a teenager. I was convinced that I did not, and could never, have the wardrobe necessary to be an accepted member of the student body. Geez! Had I only known that, the fall I started college — at VCU, where wardrobes didn’t matter — there would be a sudden and dramatic shift in fashion. Goodbye, Peter Pan collars, A-line skirts, Weejuns in every color. Hello, jeans and sneakers.

I regret that I chose theater as my major, rather than journalism. Actually, that was my father’s decision. As a law-enforcement person, he hated reporters. He refused to pay for college if that was what I wanted to be. Well, we all know how that turned out.

I certainly have no regrets about traipsing off to Key West when I was 23. That flighty decision (Daddy’s words, of course) turned into one of life’s big adventures. My second day there, I met Mel Fisher and decided I wanted to dive for sunken Spanish treasure.

But working for Treasure Salvors eventually led to one of my greatest regrets. Mel couldn’t pay us in cash most of the time, so we got pieces of eight (silver Spanish coins), which we could then trade at Fausto’s Groceria for Cuban coffee and bread. That was all we needed, anyway, since we had “the supermarket,” that spot on the reef where grouper, yellowtail and Florida lobster hung out, just waiting to become dinner. Mel also “paid” us with Treasure Salvors stock certificates. They were worthless at the time, really; still, we stockpiled them like they were checks that might be “good” someday. After we found nine bronze cannons from the 1622 Atocha wreck, and lots of other gold and silver booty; after we went to Washington, D.C., and presented a cannon to the Queen of Spain; after seven years of the laid-back, hedonistic Key West life, I started thinking about moving to San Francisco. By then, doing comedy had moved to the forefront of my life. I sold my Treasure Salvors stock to a tourist on Duval Street one night. I do not recall his name. He may have been from Pennsylvania. He paid $3 a share for it. All the other divers were astounded at this windfall: “Margo got $3 a share from some tourist on the street!” No one had ever actually sold their stock for cash. Wasn’t I the smart one? 

Six weeks later, I was listening to the news in my San Francisco apartment, and learned that Treasure Salvors had discovered the “big pile” — the bulk of Atocha treasure we always knew was out there on the ocean floor. I called my friends. They were selling their stock to tourists for $300 a share. Ah, regrets.

I was a comedian by then, though. With that came my next great regret. I really, really regretted it the morning I learned Richard Pryor had set himself ablaze while doing drugs. I was in Beverly Hills that morning, because I had a wonderful “gig” on tap: I was to “open” for Richard Pryor that night. I would have been paid $800 for 10 minutes of comedy.

Time for another career curve. I managed to find myself writing something other than comedy for a living. I managed to find myself back in Virginia, working for The Recorder newspaper. And, I had somehow managed to win a first-place national award for reporting. The “big do” where the awards were handed out was at Disney World. I took my mother (Daddy was, sadly, gone by that time — I know he would have been proud, at last!) and off we jetted to Orlando. There was a big party for us that night. And that always brings to mind one of my greatest regrets. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were roaming about the party, posing for photos with us. I took a picture of Mom with Doc. But I failed to get a photo of myself with Grumpy.

Ah, life’s big regrets.


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