Cult–Martha Johnson


Fragile from the beginning, each morning she awoke singing. Painfully shy, before she could crawl she would scoot herself across the floor into the kitchen where I was preparing her breakfast. I knew to never overwhelm her with any direct acknowledgement of her arrival. A joyous greeting, “Hi, Beanie!” would cause her to collapse in tears. If I simply sang in a lilt, “Mama loves Beanie”, without looking at her, we could love each other in baby talk.

When she was three, “I don’t want you to be throwed away, Mama.” We held each other with infinite tenderness.

“Everybody doesn’t love me.” She was playing with little friends in the yard when she realized this for the first time. She ran to me to share her dismay. She was four. It broke my heart. “I do and I always will.” She knew. She knows now.

She cared for Daphne. She would stand next to the bunny’s hutch and sing to her. When she was eight, she gathered her friends around. They were The Summer Girls. I stitched matching red satin jackets.

Thirteen-year-old boys can be cruel. One day a dozen red roses showed up at her school from “a secret admirer.” She arrived home carrying the flowers. Smiling. She wondered who had sent them. “I thought it might be you.”

I knitted her an angora sweater, all the rage in the eighties, the envy of other girls. The designer jeans I stitched and embroidered fit to perfection. Strangers asked where they could purchase them. She was beautiful with a voice like an angel. Voice lessons. Recitals I attended bursting with pride. The world is better because she is here.

Gorgeous in her black velvet prom dress with the matching bolero, she sang at commencement, I Could Have Been a Sailor. She loved the pink silk dress for her first date. Young men came unglued. I saw it happen in Englund Marine where we went to buy some twine. Two guys in their twenties were to assist with the purchase. One could not speak; the other bravely checked us out. “Mama, they hover.” “I know.” No need to caution her toward compassion for them in their sorry state. That came naturally to her.

She went forth with the desire to make the world better. With love and tenderness she cared for mentally handicapped adults in the nearby group home. She drew portraits of each “special person.” They were displayed in the small restaurant where she was the pastry chef – lots of luscious cream puffs, rich cheese cakes with berries and chocolate decadence cake. She cared for others. She nurtured them.

Keith was most persistent. A red rose arrived every day with a sad attempt at a drawing he thought would impress her. He is a Scot. I stitched his kilt for their wedding. She told me things in secret. I was there when the baby was born and then the second.

“Grammy, you don’t love me with only half your heart; you love me with your whole big heart.”  William put a folding chair on the sidewalk down the block facing the street so I would be comfortable as I admired him riding back and forth on his new bike.

“Mama, move up here. They love you. They will help you care for Joey.” I needed to find a place that would allow pets.

And then Solihin; Charles is his real name. But there are no gurus named Chuck. There’s no mysticism, nor money, in Chuck. He offered seminars teaching a healing modality known only to him, “cutting edge medical practice” to heal all ailments, physical and psychological. Only a few thousand dollars per seminar and he would certify “practitioners” to use his modality to “make the world a better place.” The seminars included hypo-therapy and group sessions where each participant was coercively persuaded to disclose something personal, something troublesome.

Magically from his dead teacher, Solihin had received exotic hand mudras. They were used to retrieve long suppressed traumatic memories as well as past lives. She had been my maternal grandmother in a past life. Everything, everywhere needed healing. Practitioners “surrendered” to the Divine. They were superior to the unenlightened.

She stopped singing.

Using the new modality, she intuited a “weird energy” after I visited. She cleaned the place collecting something invisible in her arms and, from her porch, offered it “up or down” depending upon instruction from the Divine. I was a contaminant. The children needed protection from me. We were all confused.

In a guttural growl, “Get out of my house, fuckin’ psycho bitch!” I wept. The children cried. Though I reached out again and again, there was no path for healing.

Chuck, from his Turkish tax haven, approves.

I love Beanie. She knows.


Martha Johnson has lived on the Oregon Coast since 1972 with a few years in Portland to complete her MFA at Portland State. She moved to Oregon from Chicago. Old hippie. She writes to process her wild life. Not all transitions are gentle. Some hit like a freight train.