The time when the Avon Lady saved the day

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Do you have strong memories of small events in your childhood that seemed huge at the time? BoomerCafé contributor Erin O’Brien of Redondo Beach, California, is full of them. This one is about the time when The Avon Lady saved the day!

City Bus 5 always parked in front of City Bus 15, which always parked in front of City Bus 6, next to the parish hall. If Bus 5 was full, I knew to take Bus 15, which traveled the same route. Bus 6 was my classmate Jeanine’s bus, which went the other way.

old_bus_green_Snapseed

One day, the ride didn’t start well: someone was in my favorite seat! So after depositing my fifteen cents, I took a spot towards the front, standing, and scanned the crowd, as the driver pulled away from the curb.

After waiting for the scenery to look familiar, I realized the ride still wasn’t going well and figured I’d better say something. “Excuse me, Mister,” I politely addressed the bus driver, as I held on to the metal pole for stability, “but you’re going the wrong way.”

For reasons unknown, the driver sighed and muttered, and I thought I had offended him. He looked in the rear view mirror and called over three older students who had pulled the electric cord for their stop. After listening to the driver’s instructions, they ushered me off the bus.

Erin's Popeye lunchbox.

Erin still has her Popeye lunchbox.

As it drove off and the smell of exhaust evaporated, I stood quietly with my three guardians on the corner of an unfamiliar neighborhood, clutching my first-grade folder and my Popeye the Sailor Man lunchbox.

I suppose I should have realized before my ride abruptly ended that something was amiss when Tim and Tom weren’t in the back of the bus. It’s where I always sat, with the 7th and 8th-graders. However, the driver seemed to know what he was doing.

Something curious had happened after school, though, and I was beginning to piece it together. Although City Bus 5 usually parked in front, today Bus 6 must have taken its spot.

My three new friends wanted to know if I knew my phone number. Ironically, I knew my address, the license plate of the family car, and all my prayers by heart, but I couldn’t memorize a seven-digit number. The older students asked to see my folder, and I tried to remain nonchalant as they leafed through my papers.

Erin O'Brien

Erin O’Brien

One of the girls went inside the corner house with the phone number they found (which I realized might be handy to know from that point on) while the other girl and boy waited with me. What did one talk about in such an awkward situation? Up until this point I had maintained the appearance of playing it cool.

While we waited, I thought about what I’d say to my mom. Technically, this wasn’t even my fault, so I didn’t think I’d get in trouble. Still, I had to get my story straight: Bus 5 always parked in front…

After spending what seemed like a very long time reviewing my alibi, an olive-green car stopped in front of the four of us. The passenger door opened and, to my surprise, Mom got out.

From Avon … "Perfume in a vanishing cream base.  Apply lightly to arms, shoulders, and elsewhere on skin as desired.  Keep tightly capped."

From Avon … “Perfume in a vanishing cream base.
Apply lightly to arms, shoulders, and elsewhere on skin as desired.
Keep tightly capped.”

But she was crying. This was not a good omen.

She rushed towards us and said something to the older children through her tears as I looked up at them. But whose green car was that? And who was the lady driving?

Of all the days to get lost so far from home, in a bygone era when many families had only one car, and cell phones were only on Star Trek, I had picked the day the Avon Lady called on my home, and Mom relied on the kindness of strangers.

3 Comments

  1. What a beautiful story! As the mom of a 1st-grader, I cannot even imagine my little girl in that situation! I would’ve been crying, just like your mom. Of course these days, nobody would rely on a 6-yr old to get on the right bus! You were so brave to not shed a tear. Or perhaps just innocently unaware of any peril — other than getting in trouble?

  2. What a nice story. My school bus in the Chelan, Wash., schools I attended was always the last in the row. My problem was, as a serious student, I sometimes missed the bus because I was gathering up all my books so I could do my homework. I had a big notebook with a zipper around it for all my papers. I stacked the books on top of it and carried them all in my arms. It was before kids used backpacks — a great invention.

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