388: Keepers of the Light

I invite you to listen to this song first.

I started singing You Light Up My Life, around the age of eleven. I think it was the only song I wrote down the lyrics to and memorized. That, and Away in a Manger. I used to sing songs at the tippy-top of my lungs, squeaking and squealing to anyone that would listen, including my downstairs duplex-landlords, who sometimes brought me indoors for cookies. I could tell when I sang, by looking in the observers’ eyes, that people didn’t think I sang super well or close to on key. I could tell they thought I was a lonely child searching for attention. I could tell that they were smiling in an attempt to help me feel accepted. But I couldn’t say all that. I didn’t think to say it. I didn’t know that everyone else, or most everyone else, didn’t think like me. I figured we all knew what was being unspoken. That we all just pretended we didn’t.

When I sang my heart out, I slipped into a fantasy world. I leaped across time and stood on stage. I imagined refuge in a bountiful light. I imagined being lifted and protected and seen. The song itself didn’t free me; nor did the audience observing. What freed me was the freedom I was—the capacity to be me. What trapped me was the realization that all about me others weren’t free.

There was a time where people approached me for my light. They were drawn to me. Something about me pulled them in. I know now it was and has always been Spirit. Then I did not know, and I didn’t wonder; I thought everyone had this; I thought everyone heard God and could see through people.

I remember going to the church around the corner, a Catholic cathedral where I never once attended mass. I was drawn there, at times, the little girl I was, with her un-brushed hair and with her big searching eyes. I would swing on the monkey bars in the church playground over and over, until my hands blistered. Then, if I hadn’t already entered, I’d walk quietly into the empty church and just breathe. I felt safe there. I felt connection. But I didn’t know why. The candles, the light of the candles, they spoke to me, as did the colors of the glass windows and the movement of sunlight through the grand space. I wasn’t frightened. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t anywhere. I just was. Sometimes time stopped and I traveled into the future where I would walk in as full-grown woman and be, with the others, I would be.

I wasn’t a religious child. I wasn’t even spiritual. I was magical. I believed in magic everywhere. I believed everything, each and everything. I believed in everyone around me. And I loved everyone. I trusted them. I gave myself freely: my attention, my time, my love. I had an over-flowing abundance of love. And I was me. There wasn’t anything about me that I had created. I radiated from within.

Something about me, or perhaps something within me, gave me the incapacity to be anyone but me. This gift of being authentic was beautiful. But because I trusted and believed others so greatly and so freely, when they told me what they thought, I believed them. Because if they were beautiful and I loved them and they were perfect, then they must know, they must have the answers.

I believed when they, the others, told me that I was just a child and didn’t know things. I believed them when they said life was hard. I believed them when they cried and cursed what was wrong and unjust. I believed it all. And I began to see that I lived in a world entirely complex in its simplicity. I began to see that I held all the secrets of love and joy, but that none could see them. I knew how to laugh and how to make other people laugh; and I did so without intention or want; I just was joy.

Then came the passing of days, when I learned my joy was not enough. When I learned that my heart, no matter how big, could not make a difference—at least I thought. Soon as my friends grew older, they changed. Their views became more broken and fragmented, their opinions stronger, their hatred taking shape. Divisions were made, as I watched, fingers pointed, sometimes at me, but mostly at others. And everyone started playing this part that didn’t make any sense; except that their ways kept people, for the most part, in an imaginary role of control.

I began to see that love was divided and measured. I began to see that love came and went, as did people. I learned that love didn’t mean love; what some called love actually meant conditions and fleeting moments of spiked emotions of some sort that didn’t feel or look like love at all. I learned that whatever shape I took, I could receive part of this love, that wasn’t love. But since I couldn’t find the other love anymore, the one I held in the backyard during slumber parties and collected, as the others laughed with me, without cause or pause for judgment; since I couldn’t find that love anymore, I took what I could. It never felt right. It felt false from the start. It was false love created by my want for connection and the growing emptiness I had inside.

My actions seemed to define me. I seemed to become who people thought I was. It didn’t matter how much goodness I had inside me; no one could see it, unless they chose to. No one. And when they did think to see the goodness, it was because I emulated them; I showed them a part of themselves they liked, or wished to like. I showed a commonality or I complimented them by my presence or in my spoken words. I collected false-love this way: pretending to be who they wanted me to be in an attempt to connect. To say I played, would be false, as there was no joy in this. To say I fought, would be false, as there was no friction. It was a space and place that I am incapable of defining or marking. For how can I define a place in which everything was false—the only thing real my want to fill the emptiness of falsehood?

This falsehood permeated much of my life, far into adulthood. A falsehood that eventually blinded me as well, to my own inner light. I had to snuff my light to continue to exist. I was given no choice.

I had to extinguish who I was, if I ever wanted hope of connecting. At least this is what I conditioned myself to think. I learned to track the actions of another to determine my next move. I could tell from every flinch, every switch of voice, every motion. Responses were my indicators. Reactions my compass. I stopped feeling inside my own body. I became numb to my needs; everything was masked in my effort to predetermine how to respond to the responders. For I could see in their eyes the judgment, the dislike, the wondering. I could see so much that they wouldn’t ever say. Particularly their thoughts about me, or about the way they perceived me. I knew they thought what they dare not say. I knew there were all these connections going on just in seeing me. I was being categorized and dissected and figured out. It’s not that I thought I was that important, it was that I thought they were. I think all along I knew they were a reflection of me or at least a mirror to my own experiences. I knew we were one and the same, but didn’t know how to define the feeling. And so I would watch, until I laughed and joked, trying to squeeze the joy out of someone whom had seemed to forgotten where he or she put it.

Mine, my joy, was always there, right in me, never gone. Even with all the poured in sorrow, I had this joy. It was always growing and blooming. There was always hope. It seemed no matter how much the others responded in a way that carried the potentiality to sting like thorns, that I still kept my hope. There was this unstoppable faith. Something in that song about the light through the window, about the light itself; I knew this. I saw the light n my dreams and I heard light in the whispers. I knew my destiny. I knew my calling. But this too, I was often told was wrong. I was made in form divinely perfect, but undoubtedly I frightened people. And this brought me to a place of confusion, so very great, I dare not venture there even in thoughts and rememberings.

For how could I, one held by the angels and light, have been so terribly flawed? And why did all around me seem to be such blindness? I searched and searched as a child—in the trees, under the school buses, in the grassy fields—for reprieve. I slipped into my imagination. I hid in the shrubbery and shadows documenting my own thoughts. And I came to the conclusion I was someone made wrong; though even this, deep down I knew to be untrue.

In time, I learned to conform. I learned to tuck away the voice of truth and the rays of light. For I believed the misery of disconnection to be far worse than hiding my light. And so I hid, for a very long time. And though I was a keeper of the light, it dimmed.

And here the dark found me. So very freely, as if beckoned by the very ache of my soul. I walked forsaken to my self for decades. I learned, through my mind, to hear the lies before the truth. I heard the negative talk, and I collected this, for if I did not believe them, I could not be with them, and then I would have to be alone. In order to connect, I had to believe what others said about me. If I believed in my light and my angels, and in my very soul, than I would be without the company of humans. I would only have the invisibility of my hope and joy—and alone whom would I share anything with?

Eventually, the lies became my truth. My whole truth. I was what others created me to be. And then a shift happened, in which they were what I created them to be. I began to see like other people. I began to believe the lies. I began to think that yes, only my point of view counted. That yes, I am in control of my world. And yes, I am the most important and special. I began to be a love-leech collecting falsehoods. Love, love, love ME! I demanded. Love me through validation. Love me through listening. Love me through answering back how I expect and want you to respond. Outcomes became my life. Hope became my misery. I latched onto the yellow brick road of illusion. I thought, if I was just good enough, and right enough, and had all the answers I would WIN! I would be LOVED! This is what I was taught. This is what was walloped into me. This is what I ATE because nothing else was offered.

Until the pain of emptiness became so great that I knew I was wrong. I knew that life was not meant to be like this. I knew somewhere inside my little girl protecting the light was dying to come out.

For me this has been my greatest gift: my affliction.

My very agonizing pain was what set me free. The very discomfort that kept shouting within of the falsehood was my greatest joy. I was given a lantern since birth. And I walked four-decades pretending I was not, in hopes of gaining false love.

And now, as I step back, very much the little girl I was, with my lantern bright, I see I kept this light hidden for a purpose. I suffered for a reason. I suffered because everyone else was suffering. I didn’t retreat because I was so different after all. I just retreated a bit later along my path. I just retreated knowing I was retreating. There wasn’t anything different about me, except I was born awake. I was born with the affliction that is both my teacher and my cross to bear. I was gifted the wisdom at a young age, and through this affliction I was formed and made, through this affliction my lantern was fueled. I see this clearly, more clearly each moment I am here.

I see that we each have these lanterns, and that for some of us it hurts more to hide them. But we all have them. For some of us we know we are hiding them: this is the affliction.

I see now that I am struggling to turn up the lanterns of all, when all I need do is turn on my own.

In so many ways, in every way, I am that little girl, with her joy, with her lantern strong, standing on the hillside and beckoning my friends onward. Only this time I can see. I can truly see. I know now my once perceived greatest weakness is my greatest comforter. I know my need to be love, my need to shine, my need to be free is the only need I ever choose. I know that in my affliction I am made whole. I know that in my wholeness I honor each and every soul. For in the embracing of what has always been and shall ever be, I have embraced the world. I have embraced the light.

image_1362606773492295

Related Post: Behind the Curtain

267: Cats and Dogs and Penis Envy

I awoke before four in the morning today with words and images twirling nonstop in my mind. I felt like a giant lollipop being dipped in the swirls of sweet wisdom.  Although I was sleepy, and wanting to fall back into a deep slumber, I was made awake, wrapped spiritually in what could essentially be called a lesson review of sorts.

The images and thoughts came swiftly, and with a touch of deliberate humor, ended with memories of my first college course, where I sat a plum-faced, shy freshman girl, surrounded by upper classmen. I had signed up for Psychology of Human Sexuality Course on a whim, having had no clue that the course would actually be about real sex!

I giggled this early morn, as the lesson dancing in my head wrapped up, and I was reminded of the term penis envy, a popular belief back in the early days of my schooling: the thought that many of women’s psychological insecurities are caused by their subconscious desire to have the same package as men.

I chuckled inside at the memory of class, of going around in a circle, and each of us female members of the group describing our degree of envy. Back then, I was so malleable, still am, that any belief system set upon me, I innocently absorbed as truth. Thusly, I went around for many years thinking I wanted to grow male stuff.

Today, in the wee hours of the morn, as the lesson began, with my mind’s eye, I saw numerous dogs and cats posed in various ways in their silly hats and wearing their silly expressions. And then I saw a massive amount of other animals, starting with the more common American pets of snakes, turtles, and hamsters, and ending with pigs and rats, and even monkeys. The debate came to my mind between cat lovers and dog lovers, and then I saw how silly the debate was. I saw that as a society we created these pets as our favorites, and then divided the camps. I thought about why they were our favorites: cuddly, responsive, expressive, fairly clean and predictable, sensitive, and perhaps even thoughtful.

And then I thought that the love of dogs and cats was all by choice, that as a collective we could easily have chosen a pig and a rat as our favorite pets, that instead of cats and dogs that pigs and rats could be there in their place…perhaps in another time or universe.

I began to visualize the various poses of pigs in their holiday wear and with their big eyes, and with captions written across their photos. I could see the rats too, all decked out for the season, with jingle bell vests, and more. It wasn’t such a leap out of our current reality.

In truth, much of what happens is all about what we as a whole choose to make our reality.

Then I realized that the expectations we have upon animals do actually affect the behavior of the overall species. With millions of people thinking dogs are awesomely friendly, no wonder they walk around with goofy grins and wagging tails. I imagine that if the collective believed all natural brunettes were brilliant, fascinating, and someone to aspire to be, I would walk around with my bum shaking a bit too, with goofy smile to boot.

I began to wonder what would happen if we replaced all the cats and dogs (temporarily and in theory only) with two other animals. I visualized the majority of pet owners with a snake at their side, cuddling during a television show, with the turtle tucked under the covers with their owner at bedtime.  And the thoughts didn’t seem so farfetched; for with enough conditioning and collective belief, we have the potential to mold any species’ behavior.

I had intense laughable visuals of a pet owner holding their ant farm during a movie or even housing a bee’s nest in their home and keeping a window open for free access to the fields. I began to see how anything was possible, if enough people believed or accepted a norm. This is evident from culture to culture, when considering what animals are revered, accepted as pets, or eaten for supper.

These thoughts led to the concept of ownership, and the fact that most domesticated dogs are entirely dependent upon their owner. I imagined what that dependency must feel like for dogs, how they must wonder when the food will come, the fresh water, the walks, the grooming, the holding, the words “good dog.” How they live their lives essentially as a prisoner to their master’s behavior, wherein the pet is entirely dependent on what their owner does.

I began to think that perhaps this dependency could cause some dogs a type of sadness, as I believe was in the case of my Goldendoodle, Scooby. For the first couple years of Scooby’s life, Scoob appeared mostly sad and withdrawn, until we brought home another dog. Then his spirit lit up and he seemed to come alive. But then he fell into another sadness spell, shortly after we moved to Washington, and he had less of a yard for roaming. He began to crave walks, and beg for walks, and on the days there were no walks, he sat in the corner forlorn. Scoob also despised all dog food. Most of his days he set about to steal whatever people food he could from out of the sink or atop the stove—like some grizzly bear at a picnic. He was adorable, but primarily a sad pup. Being empathetic to animals, I always sought to cheer him up, through fur massages and rough housing with a stuffed toy, even dancing to music. Still, he seemed to feel as if he was trapped in a life I ordained for him, that I ran, that I created.

This thought led me to the idea of the human experience, that we, too, as a people, have our own masters: our accepted beliefs; and that in truth, the only thing we can control, as many ancient teachings state, are our thoughts.

I suppose my Scooby didn’t have that capacity—to control his thoughts. Instead all he could see at certain times was missed opportunity. Even on the days we walked, he longed for more. Perhaps he would have been the happiest on a ranch estate. Perhaps if he’d had the capacity to daydream, that is where he went, to the golden fields where he could run until his legs gave out beneath him. I like to think that is where he is now, with a perpetual wet-nosed smile upon his face.

From here my thoughts turned to the social taboos of societies. It was at the age of eighteen, in that human sexuality college course, I first learned about how a society actually creates what is socially acceptable. I remember pondering about the collective creating ideals of rights and wrong, popular and unpopular, and loved and unloved.

The way my professor explained social taboo, forever stayed in my mind. The professor asked the class to visualize a planet in which it was socially unacceptable to eat in front of another person; to imagine a place where you were only allowed to eat in private or with a special significant other, a world in which people ate in the dark of their bedrooms, even under the covers; a place where chewing in public was seen as vulgar and disgusting, and punishable by law. My professor explained about how the body opening of the mouth was only to be used for practical purposes in public: for breathing, drinking, and talking. Laughing was a risk, for the mouth might open too wide.

This other world’s eating taboo he then compared to sexual intercourse and the naked flesh taboos of this world.

I remember then that a light bulb turned on in my mind. It was in that classroom I understood that much of what I was told and much of what was modeled were based on a collective’s culture and belief system, and that I was living in a world with unpredictable and shifting values.

In theory what was a norm that day and what was deemed taboo at the same moment would shift with the passing of time. I remember feeling extreme discomfort. I recall analyzing the current taboos of the time, particularly mixed-race marriage and homosexuality. I concluded that in time people’s views would shift, and as a whole our outlook and perception would change, that the unacceptable would become accepted, or at least move in the direction of the majority accepting.

The reality of the collective establishing truth boggled my mind. I could see clearly how I was a part of the collective and even though I was aware that I lived in a society that created truths and rights and wrongs, that even with my awareness I was continually molded by these created truths. I was in essence powerless.

I wondered where the truth really rested, how I could reach it, and how would I know.

I recognized that at a certain level, beyond conscious awareness, I was affected by what others accepted as truth. I recognized ultimately I was affected by what others thought. Living on this planet, the collective belief system was to a degree always to be a cornerstone of my own belief system—their reality, my reality; their conclusions, my conclusions.

I innately knew, I wouldn’t be able to fully grasp multi-dimensions, the supernatural, and the magic of the world, until the majority accepted this as a possibility, but that even then, whatever was believed and grasped onto by the whole could and would once again shift.

I was a dependent part of an intricate and mind-blowing mechanism, no less and no more, and entirely unable to escape. In a sense, I was my dog, my Scooby, waiting in my chair to see what the masters did.

It wasn’t until this morning, through all of these aforementioned thoughts that manifested in a span of twenty-minutes, that I recognized what was happening to me with more clarity: a shift was occurring.

More and more people were expanding their awareness and understanding of the illusion of the world and the power of thought, and thusly so was I.

november-walk

257: Thankful for Naked People

Surprise:

This was  a wonderful, wonderful surprise.  (Click to find out) After a heavy week of processing and feeling less than desirable, and looping and having little sleep, I found this link on my statistical page of my blog. Sigh. The words are truly divine timing for me. I am ever so thankful for this kind woman’s heart and honesty. Thank you!

Yesterday’s post had some interesting photos. A couple of people commented, including my husband. I am curious if any super highly intuitive people got what I was trying to convey artistically. If you didn’t, you can pretend you did, because I’m about to tell you.

For me, the emotion conveyed and pouring through my blood, in both the poem and in the letter to my Lord, was the extreme pressure I feel in being human, particularly in the way people judge one another based on a variety of reasons, including conclusions drawn by collective perceptions and experience. My photos, to me, were conveying a false me. An illusion, you could say, of a person who would be mistook as perhaps mean, shallow, conceded, lustful, angry, or desperate and needy. I was attempting to convey a photo that did not represent my light side, but my shadow side.  I personally love the photos, as they are gutsy, real, and a part of me I haven’t let out of the bag until now. Meow! Scratch! Scratch!

With that said, I was going to pose naked for this post….but thought that might be stretching the limit.

I was at my masseuse today, processing and processing, and talking poor little Sue Happy’s ears off. That’s what I call my masseuse, because her name is Sue and she is perpetually happy. I was so into my heavy talk and deep thoughts…super deep, like the…. (now that sounds provocative!) As I was saying, I was into some deep stuff, like the potentiality to change the view I have of a relative based on the truth that we each create in our minds a perception of a person; so that if each person were looking at one person, say a woman, then each perception of said woman would be different based on who was viewing her. In other words, there would be several versions of the same woman existing simultaneously based on the observer, with not one single version being the right perception . And if I could thoroughly grasp this concept, and the illusion of perception, then I could feasibly adapt the perception of many of the other people looking at the woman, and merge that adapted perception into my current perception, minus the non-beneficial thoughts, in order to recreate a more positive and healthy version of said-woman.

Yes, I said all that at super high-speed, in one huge sentence.

Patient, loving Sue Happy.

Sue Happy did say my feet were the most balanced she’d ever seen them. That’s saying something. I immediately thought of the gut-wrenching, desperate-kneeling, and wailing I did in the shower yesterday; and thought perhaps that my virtual throwing up of said self was the secret to balanced feet.

I didn’t say that to Sue; nor did I say I was talking fast as a result of the Mocha Coffee.

Anyhow, my point was, I was being super, super deep and serious, and quite complex for most bipeds. And that is when I decided I needed to shift the energy. Luckily, I know how to crack myself up, and I know how to think quickly. I had this great idea come at me all at once for a Thanksgiving post. Something off the wall. I would post a short story of the nude beach and make the title: Thankful for Clothes.

After some consideration, I withdrew that initial thought.

It was Thanksgiving after all. I then came to the conclusion that a more enticing title for the holiday would include the word naked. Of course the following song immediately popped in my head.

Only they were naked. And that really made me laugh. I envisioned all the naked people dancing to this song on the nude beach. And I was instantly healed from all the trauma of the nude beaches! No…not really. But I did have a good laugh. Naked jiggly-parts, and all.

Here is the short story. For the sake of honoring my mother, I did take out several descriptions I had of her breasts. This did affect the overall artistic touch of this story. But even I know when to draw the line: NO description of your mother’s boobies on Thanksgiving! I assumed boyfriend’s butt-crack was okay. Hope I didn’t ruin your pumpkin pie!

Thankful for Clothes

Ben turned back. “Good day, Pretty Ladies.”

Ever cautious, I replied, “Thank you.”

Ben winked and then turned around and snapped the cap of a beer bottle off with his teeth.

“We look like one of those families on television, with our car piled up with blankets and food, and our smiling faces,” said Mother.  “Like the Brady Bunch.  Or what’s that other show?”

“The Partridge Family,” I muttered.

“Yeah.  More like them.”

I rubbed my bare feet between my dog’s tight curls and pulled a string from the seat cover.  Ben’s daughter, Shara, giggled and kicked her legs up and down.  Her round little belly protruded out from her top, exposing what looked to be the tie of a latex balloon.

Ben cleared his throat. “You know we went out of our way to get ready.  It probably took us a good hour just to pack up the car, not to mention the time we had to wait for you to finish going to the bathroom and find Justice’s leash.  I hope you appreciate all your mother does.” Ben finished, flashed a half-smirk, turned away, and patted Mother on her bare knee.  They exchanged a knowing smile.  I grabbed my stomach and threw up.

 

The rest of the story has been removed, because I wanted to keep it private. 🙂

 

255: The Fig

A lovely blogging friend commented that she can see both peace and sadness in my eyes.  I think I was born with the sadness. I don’t know from when or where, but it seems to have always been in the depths of me.  As far as the peace is concerned, that is something that has taken extreme dedication, focus, and prayer to acquire.

This is a short story from the many writings I did in efforts to heal myself. I believe I shared this piece before but cannot remember. I spent a period of four years writing. I collected some 265 typed pages in the form of a manuscript, much of which I have shared on this blog. People have inquired about the idea of me writing a book. I used to be hyper-focused on becoming a published author, so much that it became my goal and identity. With time, I came to a deep inner peace about my works; I understood that the passion for writing a book, though a necessary passion at the time, came from a place of ego and self-want. I am not attached to publishing any longer, especially not attached to gaining monies or recognition. I pray continually for humility and what is best for my higher good and those of others.  I maintain an energy of release when I write: the release of stagnant energy, the release of want, of validation, of need. I write purely in hopes of being a light and answering my calling. I put intention and healing vibration behind every word. In most of my writing there is a distinct rhythm. This rhythm is intentional, and filled with my love. If I heal along the way, that is a wonderful bonus. What is more important to me, at this point in my journey, is giving to the world. That is what life means to me.

The Fig (Based on True Events)

By Samantha Craft

In some ways, during the first year at our duplex, our home served as a transitional stopping point for strangers:  a person would arrive and rent out our spare bedroom and then, as if they’d landed on the jail space on the board game of Monopoly, after a few rolls of the dice, they’d move on.

Our first roommate, kindly Jeff, a man in his early twenties, arrived a few months after Mother and I had moved in.  Sprouting a fantastic full head of cherry-red clown hair, Jeff was entirely intriguing—from his gigantic gold-rimmed glasses to the smooth glass eye with an iris-blue center he’d pop out from time to time and let me examine up close in my hand.  Jeff had a puttering V.W. Bug that jerked and spat and carried us to fancy places like the local Taco Bell and the red-boxed television booth at the corner Lucky grocery store where I could watch Woody Woodpecker cartoons.  Sometimes, my favorite sometimes, Jeff carried home his work case laden with the grocery store price numbers, each type housed in its own tiny pull out drawer.  They were a hard flexible-plastic, nothing I’d seen or touched before.  These clear drawers and the miniature treasures inside each drawer out rated any old doll house in my book.

For a very short while, Ruth, an eccentric plump puppeteer with wiry-white hair, lived in our home.  She also had a case, but a much more impressive wooden one which housed her enormous stringed-puppets. Though the puppeteer wasn’t with us long, I fondly recall her performing puppet shows with her life-sized floppy marionettes out on our front patio.

 

The rest is in my book 🙂

 

Post 251: Holy Water

This story is dedicated to a dear blogging friend Kindred Spirit, who made me giggle at mention of my experiences being ordinary. Here’s one for you Bro!

Holy Water  

by Samantha Craft (based on real life events; some events altered.)

My dog Justice curled up beneath our coffee table gurgling and gnawing at his backside.  I sat cracking open smiling pistachios.  A few paces away, Mother faced our antique German cabinet, her look overcome with concern.  “You know what?” Mother asked.

My eyes sought out the angles of her body, falling on her slight hips and then her tense shoulders.  I responded softly while setting a pistachio between my teeth, “What, Mom?”  Mother turned.  I met her eyes with a curious stare, recognizing at once the nervous thickness in her thoughts, and then swept a cluster of pistachio shells across the table into a small concise circle. I waited.

Mother faced me with the full of her body, the ends of her tangled hair resting against her bulging collarbone.  “I think there is something wrong with the cabinet.”

From the corner of our living room the massive mahogany cabinet stood stoically surrounded by a hodgepodge of second-hand furniture, appearing like a polished soldier amongst a gathering of dusty-faced peasants.  The cabinet’s aged glass reflected an opaque wave of Mother, as she made her way to the couch near Justice and me.  “There’s something not right about it; that’s all,” she said.

I stretched my legs beneath the coffee table and rubbed my toes through the fibers of the carpet, trying to brush the topic away.  Nearby Mother tapped her newly-polished fingernails on the dusty coffee table. Looking down at Justice chewing away at his backside, I remembered the story of how Mother had crashed through the ancient glass front of the cabinet when she was a teenager, after tilting her dining room chair back too far.  I preoccupied myself by calculating the age of the present day pane of glass, and then thought about my mother’s father, denture-wearing, fiddle playing Grandpa Willy, wondering what he looked like now, figuring how many hours it would take to drive for a visit.

Lighting up a cigarette, Mother inhaled deeply, and then blew out.  “I think the cabinet is possessed,” she offered casually.

I bit down hard on pistachio shell and gave out a nervous little laugh.

Mother grinned.  Two fingers embraced her cigarette and pressed against her lips.  I thought about Buddy One, my imaginary ghost friend; he hadn’t moved downstairs with us to the bottom duplex.  Mother picked up a stack of green-backed tarot cards and set them on a table to her side.  “With all your dreams that come true and the noises and voices you hear, even that ghost friend of yours, I can’t help but think something is causing all of this.  And when you think about it, that cabinet has faced your bedroom in the last four places we’ve lived.”

I took in a deep breath, grabbed a day old glass of lemonade and drank, taking the bitter with the sweet, not knowing if I should laugh or cry.  Scenes from Casper the Friendly Ghost and The Exorcist flashed before me.  How I longed for a brother or sister to elbow me in the side and say, “Don’t worry.  It’s all pretend.”

Before supper, Mother appeared at my side with her orange-flowered overnight bag and tossed a grocery sack my direction.  I peeked inside the bag to find a yellow onion skin stuck to the bottom.  “Fill this up,” Mother said. “We’re going.”

The sun was low on the horizon when a woman with wispy-white hair and a whimsical Muumuu opened her front door.  Justice lapped at my tennis shoes and cowered behind my knees, while I tugged on his leash, trying to steady his body.

Minutes later Justice and I followed Mother, as she huffed back to the car with sober steps. I knew beyond a doubt that the combination of Mother’s somber face and conspiratorial tone, blended in with the tale of the spirit in the cabinet, had led to our early departure.  Her actions were indeed strange, but not without merit.  I myself had experienced the dreams which came true; Mother’s theory was as good as the next.  Reflecting on my dead bird and hustling down the dirt walkway with Justice, I counted myself lucky to have a parent that cared.

The next path Mother led me up was a granite-crushed walkway.  This time Justice remained in the car.  After we reached the front door of an expansive ranch-style home and Mother rapped a brass knocker, the door opened to a delicate aroma of roses and a middle-aged man in a paisley tie. The man wiped his hands on the pockets of his denim apron.  “How can I help you?” he asked, his dark blue eyes sweeping the neckline of Mother’s low-cut shirt.

Mother straightened her posture and pushed me forward. I flashed a broken-tooth grin, focused downward on my lavender-starred shoelaces and began counting the stars.

“Is Barbara home?”  Mother asked.

“Sure, just a sec…. I’ll run and get her for you.”

Mother’s knuckles were whitening as she gripped my hand.

Barbara appeared wearing a dramatic aquamarine scarf and holding a wooden spoon.  She looked surprised to see us.  “Is everything all right?  Did something happen at the office?”

“Oh no, that’s all fine.”  Mother paused and gave me the evil-eye. “Keep still.”     Shrinking from Mother’s words, I stopped shuffling my feet on the woven doormat, cast my eyes sideways, and clenched my fists.

“Actually, you see, we need a favor.  We can’t stay at our house tonight,” Mother said.

“Oh?”

“We need a place to stay.”

A frown creased Barbara’s brow.  “I don’t understand. Is everything all right?  Is there something wrong?”

Mother leaned towards Barbara. “Well, you see.  I know this sounds extreme, but I have some evidence that…” Mother stopped to clear her throat.  “Actually, you see there is something in our cabinet.”

Barbara stepped onto the porch.  “What are you talking about?”

I stepped backwards and hid behind my mother’s back.

Mother put her hands on her hips.  “What I’ve been trying to tell you, is there is a spirit in our cabinet.  And you see we need a place to stay; but only for tonight, that is—just until the exorcism.”  Mother looked down as if she were embarrassed by her own words.

Giving an odd glance and shifting back, Barbara moved through the entryway into her house.  She closed the door until only her face showed.  “This isn’t a good time.  I’ve got dinner on the stove and we’re expecting company.  I’m sorry.”  With that the door shut completely and a cool wind swept across the porch.

Sometime after sunset, sitting in the backseat of the car, listening to the song Don’t Cry Out Loud, I stroked Justice’s hairy chin and thought by all fairytale accounts Mother should have already made some headway—made a step past someone’s threshold.  After all even the Big Bad Wolf blows down two houses before failing and two of the three Billy Goats pass over the bridge without consequence.

After a quick stop at a gas station for cigarettes and nine dimes into the pay telephone later, Mother eyed the rearview mirror as if some entity might be on our tail and weaved ahead through the darkening night at a frightful speed.  The car jolted and bounced, climbing over a scattering of rocks, until we landed on a wide gulf where a blur of an ash-colored tomcat disappeared behind the porch swing.

Inside the house, Mother sucked an extended puff from a cigarette. “Every time I try to get my life in order something happens.”  Her lower lip jutted upwards and she let out an exaggerated exhale.  The smoke reached my eyes, my nostrils, my lungs, and I let out a sequence of coughs.  I sneezed into my hands.  Justice’s ears perked up from under the coffee table.  Mother’s dark-haired friend nodded and the conversation continued, meandering from relationships to work, and back again to the haunted cabinet.  I curled on top of a lumpy couch and closed my eyes.

In the late morning mother and I arrived at our duplex and sat on the small patio near the front entry. A priest, donned in a traditional high-white collar and long black robe, emerged from around the corner carrying a weathered briefcase across our dew-wet grass. Looking like she hadn’t slept in days, Mother rose from our front porch and extended her hand.  After a few pleasantries, Mother unlocked the front door and led the priest inside our dark living room.  After following them inside, I sat in the far corner watching them both: my gaunt mother and the stately-looking priest, with Justice’s breath hot on my face.

The priest, wasting no time, took out a miniature glass bottle from his leather case. He unscrewed the bottle, recited a few biblical verses and sprinkled water on and around the base of the cabinet.  After reciting a prayer, he twisted the lid back on, opened his case, placed the bottle inside, snapped the case closed, and looked at the two of us.  “I hope that helps,” he said.

Mother reached into her jean pocket, pulled out a folded bill, and handed it to the priest. “Thank you so much, Father. You’ve really helped us. I don’t know what we would have done without you.”

The priest nodded his head and tucked his briefcase under his arm. “You and your daughter are welcome to our church anytime.  We are just around the corner.”

I rose up off of the carpet and calmed Justice with a brush to his head, nodding politely at the priest.  The priest smiled, waved, and rang out a pleasing God Bless You and then showed himself out the door.

With the priest gone and the evil spirit banished, Mother disappeared into her bedroom, while I remained in the dark staring out at the cabinet.

The story had not ended like I’d expected.  No green-faced monster had popped his ferocious spinning head out from the depths of the cabinet.  No lightening bolts had appeared.  In fact, there wasn’t any evidence of anything out of the ordinary at all.  There were no answers or explanations.  It was as if I was stuck in the middle of some long storybook, unable to flip back to the beginning and start over and equally incapable of proceeding forward to the end. After all the running away and hype, all the embarrassment and fear, there was nothing to show in the end.  Only Mother’s deep snores trumpeting from the backroom and Justice licking up the trickling drops of holy water.