When I was a child we lived in Cottage Grove, Oregon, and for three of those years, between 1912 and 1915, I was considered an inveterate liar. If I was sent to the store- a fifteen- minute trip- I would be gone an hour, even if Mom had said to hurry back.
Mom’s first question always was, “Where have you been?”
And my answer was always the same, “Talking to a lady .” Mom would take a deep breath and say, “I saw you stand you tell the truth?”
I was telling the truth! Several times a week I talked with this lady. Her greeting was always times a week I talked with this lady. Her greeting was always the same, “How are you, Margit?” We talked of School, play, and people- some of whom I knew or had hard Mom speak of; others were completely unfamiliar.
Clothes weren’t important to me then, but I noticed the lady wore a dust cap, a jabot with a gold pin, and the whitest of aprons, When conversation began to lag she would blow me a kiss, and I would hurry home to a lecture on procrastination.
The last time I saw the lady I was in a dither to get home and told her why. She walked with me as far as the alley, She said, “I love you and any time I can help, think hard of Margit O’ Brien.” She put her hand on my shoulder, gave me a feather-light kiss on the cheek, and I hurried home.
Mom was at the door ready to step outside when I reached for the knob. Her usually rosy cheeks were paper-white. “Is that the lady you talk to?” she asked. “Yes,” I answered,” and sometimes she tells me about people know.” Mom had beautiful curly auburn hair and I thought of something the lady had told me. So I asked,” Mom, did you ever cut off all your hair, clear to your head, and did your mom call you John L. Sullivan?”
The color flooded back into Mom’s face and neck as she answered, “I sure did, and they called me John L. until my hair grew out. but… “She told me you did!” I said. Mom sat down in the nearest chair, shook her head and said, “I know, I know; that lady was my grandmother, but she passed on before you were born. You were named for her.”
My veracity wasn’t questioned after that, although the incident was never mentioned again. Nor have I ever seen the lady again. Still, I have felt her protective presence when I find myself in tight spots.
North Bend, Oregon