I’m so thrilled to share author Gail Cleare’s guest post today. Have you experienced something similar? Please tell us in the comments. And, be sure to check out Gail’s recently released novel THETASTE OF AIR.
When my mother died, my sister and I went through the papers in her safe deposit box. We found her birth certificate at the bottom of a pile of documents that lay underneath the velvet boxes that held my ancestors’ jewelry. But the name on the document was different from the name our mother always used, for as long as either of us could remember. The first name and middle name were switched, and slightly different. It was very odd, and we puzzled over it for ages. She never mentioned anything about this, and that alone is fascinating. Did she just forget, after so many years? Or was it a secret? Why did she change it? I wish I could have asked her how it happened, because there must have been a good story there. We’ll never know the truth now. My dad and all her brothers and sisters are gone too, and there’s nobody left to ask.
Except Mom, of course. Her spirit inhabits the antique china cabinet in my kitchen. It’s the same one she bought up in Maine one summer, brought home strapped to the roof of our station wagon, and then lovingly restored to mint condition in her basement workshop. I watched her work on it while I did my homework sitting on a stool pulled up to the ping-pong table. She wore elbow-length yellow rubber gloves when she refinished the lovely old wood, and her hair was tied back in a bandana. The inside of the shelves were painted blue to match the Royal Copenhagen china that she and my father had brought back from Europe. My nieces got the china, but I got the cabinet, and my mother seems to have come along with it.
Whenever she makes a remark, the glass doors rattle emphatically, or one of them swings open. It doesn’t happen often when life is moving along peacefully. She likes to comment when controversial family matters unfold in the kitchen, which is where we gather. Some of us can understand what she’s saying, while to others it’s only a distant whisper. A word or two in her voice at most, but her opinion arrives complete inside my head. Sometimes a shiver passes through us. She definitely makes her thoughts known.
Recently, she told me she approves of my new haircut. She always did hate it long, so I’m not surprised. When we were wheeling her into the hospital room when she was admitted for a severe lung infection, her final illness, she reached over and pulled down my shirt to cover my rear end and said, “Gail, I wish you’d get your hair cut like that nurse over there.” When I finally complied, she just had to say something.
My neighbor has an affinity for spirits, and she hears Mom quite often. The two of them got along, but my mother was always a little disapproving of my friend’s wild exaggerations and story telling. “She’s not fooling me,” Mom would say, grinning. Recently we were in the kitchen talking and the cabinet doors began to rattle. “What?” Kristin said, tipping her head to listen. She looked at me. “Did you hear that? What did she say?” I told her I only heard the cabinet rattle, maybe a truck had just gone by outside and made it shake. “No,” she insisted, “It was a voice. I just couldn’t quite make out the words.” We realized we’d just been talking about my granddaughter, and some problems she’d been having. That explained it, for us. Mom was adding her two cents, just like she always did.
Kristin’s mother died a few years ago too. Before she departed the earth, they made a deal. Her mother would do everything she could to come back and leave a sign. Surmising that it’s easier for spirits to move things that are light and airy, they chose feathers. But to make it more specific, they decided on blue feathers. Then there would be less chance of coincidence.
After her mother passed, Kristin was sitting with her father one day and she told him about the promise. Her niece was visiting too and he said to the little girl, “Honey, go outside and find us a blue feather.” Moments later, she returned with her hands filled with blue feathers, a dozen or more! “They were right outside the door,” she reported, as Kristin and her dad rolled their eyes in amazement.
Now my friend finds blue feathers whenever she’s been thinking of her mother, or wishes they could chat like they used to every day. We both feel strongly that these two amazing women are still here, in spirit, and they’re communicating with us. They had a lot to say when they were alive, and it really feels like they still do. The language and vocabulary have changed, but the messages are clear.
A few days after we found the birth certificate, I had a dream about walking through a house, someplace I had never been before, but which looked incredibly familiar. It was decorated in my mother’s favorite colors, and while none of the furnishings were identifiable as hers, I knew in the dream that it was her house. I felt like an intruder though, as though it was her private place and I shouldn’t really be there. I wondered what else I didn’t know about my mother, an intriguing thought. When I woke up, I wrote the first chapter of my new novel from Red Adept Publishing, THE TASTE OF AIR.
In the book, Nell rushes to her mother’s side at a hospital hundreds of miles from where Mary lives, to find out that she owns a cottage by a lake in a little town in Vermont, where she has obviously been secretly living on and off for many years. The first time Nell goes to the cottage, she experiences all the same feelings I had in my dream.
So by keeping her name-change a secret, and leaving the secret there for me to find after her death, Mom managed to help me by inspiring the dream that became the novel. Her love and nurturing live on, and I’m eternally grateful.
I received the first print copies of my book this week. The first thing I did after ripping into the package was open the china cabinet and put one on a shelf. Mom always loved to read, and I doubt that has changed. Hope she enjoys the story! I’m sure she’ll let me know what she thinks.
Thank you so much, Gail, for sharing this! I know your mom will share her thoughts on THE TASTE OF AIR with a rattle and a shake and you’ll know just what the message is. I’m sure she is proud! Congratulations and I can’t wait to get my copy!