Annie Nilsson's Recollections Continue . . .

A Matter of Personal Opinion

Shortly before my first marriage, I confided to the pastor of my church that my intended husband was a man of another faith. The clergyman seemed to be much distressed, and he said to me: "One cannot carry water on both shoulders; our religion is the best."

Had he suggested that ours was the true religion, I might not have retorted as I did; but when he said it was the best, I replied "A person can buy seven different kinds of excellent face soap. The manufacturer of each kind may claim it to be the best. But each kind does not suit every complexion." My pastor offered no further criticism.

A Strange Coincidence

Soon after my first marriage, I had an experience which, although it may seem trivial to relate now, made a deep impression at the time of its occurrence forty years ago. I was standing at the door of my house one afternoon when I noticed two women approaching from opposite directions. They passed each other almost in front of my door. These women were identical, as far as I could observe, in age, height, weight, complexion, color of hair, color of eyes, and attire. I had never seen either of them before. I have not seen either of them since. What they were entire strangers to each other was evident from the fact that neither gave any sign of recognition. Each was about thirty years of age and wore an orchid dress. Each had on the same kind of shoes as the other; the same kind of hat and the same colored stockings. Even the hair was of the same shade, and done up in the same manner. Both had blue eyes, and both walked with similar gait. Had another person told me of such an experience, I should have thought that person suffering from hallucinations.

A Premonition: A Fortune-Teller; A Death

When I was a little past thirty years of age I developed a feeling of unaccountable melancholy; try as I might, I could not resist it. A strange presentiment of impending evil seemed to pervade my whole being. This unhappy state of mind manifested itself in an awful despondency and hopelessness by day, and my rest at night was disturbed by frightful dreams. One night I dreamt my father came to me and said, "They think I am dead; but don't worry, it is not I." The next night I dreamt of a wreath. Very strangely a neighbor of mine told me the next day that she, too, had dreamt of funeral flowers.

Bewildered almost to distraction, I decided to go to a fortune-teller. I carefully refrained from telling my husband of my intention, for he was unalterably opposed to anything that bordered upon superstition. Approaching the clairvoyant somewhat timidly, I could not at first muster up sufficient courage to mention the real object of my visit, but started the conversation on the pretext that I wished to hear about an absent relative--quite a distant one--in whom I was not especially interested.

The fortune-teller soon disposed of my first question, telling me not to worry about my relation, because, she said, he would soon be back. The woman then said to me: "You are married to a man who works with a hammer and chisel. He is not insured, but you had better see to it that he gets insured for you are soon to be a widow. You have already spent most of the life you were allotted to be together. Unless you follow my advice your two children will suffer."

Now I had never seen this woman before; there was no possibility that she could have known, by natural means, anything of my personal affairs; yet everything she told me either was true at the time or came to pass later. My husband was a carpenter, a man of good physique and excellent constitution, who did not believe in life insurance. He was earning only fourteen dollars a week, and although this was fair wages at the time it was all consumed in our living expenses. We had two children, as the woman had said. Once or twice before this, I had suggested to my husband that he should take out an insurance policy, but I did not wish to be insistent over his objections. Nine months after my visit to the fortune-teller my husband died; and but for financial help from my father, my two children and I would have been practically destitute. We had been married only seven years. My husband was only thirty-three at the time of his death.

The Beneficence of Saint Anthony

The several years of my first widowhood, all attended by a constant struggle with adversity, were terminated by my marriage to a man with whom I afterwards spent many happy years. We enjoyed a measure of prosperity, and were well contented.

It has been my life-long custom to pray to Saint Anthony for guidance in worldly matters, and there are two outstanding instances among the many that I could mention of my prayers having been answered. One of these instances relates to a six-family house that my husband and I owned. Real estate was bringing good prices at the time, and we were undecided whether to sell our property to a man who had made a recent offer, or to hold it for a possibly higher bid. During our indecision I prayed constantly to Anthony. One night I dreamt that I stood amidst an almost endless array of flagpoles; from the top of each of them a long streamer was waving in the breeze, inscribed with the word: Sell! In every direction I looked I could see the words: Sell! Sell! Sell! Sell! We did sell the house, and at considerable advantage. Moreover, I am convinced that we could never again have received as good an offer as the one we accepted.

Having moved into another dwelling, I was scrubbing the stairs one day when I lost my much-prized diamond ring, a present from my husband. Time after time we searched for it, high and low, but could not find it. I was almost heart-broken, not so much for its intrinsic value as for the sentiment connected with it as a gift. I made a novena and gave a candle to Anthony, and my faith was rewarded. My husband found the ring on a table in a closet. It seems as if no human hand could have placed it there.

This life history is among those written by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940. Courtesy Library of Congress, Manuscript Division.

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