I Talked to the Lady

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.

 Margit Ryan 

North Bend, Oregon

August 1976


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