A DAY WITH MISS SULLIVAN by Suzanne Saunders
Living on Grandifloras Street wasn't so bad. It was a long cul-de-sac lined with quiet houses on each side. At the end of the street lived a woman named Olivia Sullivan. My mom told me Miss Sullivan had been an actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood. I had no way of knowing this for sure because I had never seen a movie with her in it. Although she never left her house, I did on occasion see her out in her front yard caring for her rose bushes. She seemed like a nice lady since whenever I rode by on my bike I would wave to her and she would always wave back.
One day she was out front watering her roses. I decided I wanted to talk to her, so I stopped to say ‘hello.’ "Hi, Miss Sullivan. Your roses look pretty,” I said.
To my surprise, she was friendly and open to conversation.
“Thank you. I’m glad you like them, but I have secret to share with you,” she said.
Curious to hear her secret, I said “Really? What is it?”
“Each one of them has its own name. I think naming them makes them feel more important,” she smiled.
I had never met any adults who gave their plants names.
“I had a cactus once that I named ‘Freckles.’” I said, “So, I like the idea of giving plants a name.”
Miss Sullivan laughed and said we must be kindred spirits. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I liked she thought we were ‘kindred spirits.’ I think it made her happy.
I told her my mom had said she was an actress in the Golden Age of Hollywood, so I asked her which movies she had been in. I had never seen any of her movies, and I wanted to watch one.
She smiled and thought carefully and then explained, “I’m flattered to hear that your mother thinks I was an actress, but I was never an actress. Actually, I am an archaeologist. However, I was in a few documentaries where I talked about my work. Do you know what an archaeologist is?” she asked.
“Sort of,” I said. “They dust off rocks, I think.”
“Well, there’s a lot more to it than that,” she said. And, then she told me archaeologists dig at sites where previous civilizations lived many years ago. During these digs, an archaeologist might find an ax, a plate, a vase, a part of a building, and sometimes bones. She said these items were called “artifacts,” and that these artifacts were very important for knowing the story of civilizations and the people who came before us.
“It’s important to know the past,” I told Miss Sullivan. “Once when I was digging in my grandma’s backyard, I found a bracelet that was all rusted with little flower charms on it. I showed it to my grandma and asked her if she thought it belonged to a princess, and she told me that, actually, it had belonged to a princess, the princess who grew up to be my mom.”
Miss Sullivan liked my story. She said that I had found a precious artifact. I told her that we could dig for artifacts together, if she wanted to. Miss Sullivan said she would but that her knees had become stiff from years of kneeling down at sites. I told her that she didn’t have to then. I didn’t want her knees to get worse.
Then, Miss Sullivan’s eyes opened wide as she asked, “Would you like to see some artifacts I have on my front porch?”
“Sure,” I said.
She showed me vases that had been made to look like the ones she had dug up from a site in Greece. She explained, “These are not the originals; they had to go into a museum. Instead, these are replicas, so you may touch them if you like.”
I touched them and told her they were nice and that her roses would look pretty in them.
Then, I had an idea. “Do you have a pencil and a piece of paper so that I can draw a picture of your replicas?” I asked.
She said ‘yes’ and retrieved a pencil and a piece of paper from her house. I sat down on her porch and drew the best picture I could of the vases, but in my picture, I drew her roses in them. When I was done, I gave it to her.
“That is lovely,” she said. “I will keep this, if it’s okay with you.”
“Of course, I made it for you, so it’s yours,” I smiled.
She took my drawing into her house. When she came back out, she had something in her hand.
“I would like you to have this.” She said as she handed me a coin. “I found it many years ago in my hometown. It’s what got me interested in becoming an archaeologist, so I took it with me to every dig I did. It’s been all over the world.”
“Miss Sullivan,” I said, “I can’t take your coin. It’s too special. You should keep it.”
But, she insisted that I keep it. “It needs to go to someone else,” she said. “I have too much stuff as it is.”
“Thank you. I will take good care of it.” I clutched the coin in my hand, thinking how lucky I was to have been chosen to take care of it.
I told her that I better go so that my mom wouldn’t worry.
But, before I left I asked, “Can I come back to see you, just in case I have more questions about archeology? I think I might want to become one when I grow up.”
“Of course, you can. I’m always here.”
I was happy. I had made a new friend.