The sound of the school bell buzzing causes me to jump in my seat. Next I hear Miss Jones half yelling my name, “Misty Hawkins, what’s gotten into you?” I quickly blurt out, “Ma’am?” Looking at me with a furrowed brow, she follows up with, “I had to call your name 3 times before you heard me. Where is your head?” Feeling my body heat rise as my complexion quickly made its way from a cafe au lait color to a deep scarlett, I shyly answered, “So sorry ma’am, I don’t…” And then she let me off the hook by saying, “Class dismissed!” and giving me a quick “watch yourself” warning glance. I apologized once more before leaving because I genuinely liked Miss Jones. She gently touched my arm, smiled, and said, “Don’t worry, it happens. I was your age once.” As I walked away I thought, she might have been my age once but I doubt she had a secret as big as mine.
I had been named for my secret. Misty means cloudy or covered by mist. I was given this name by my Yaya. She’s my mama’s mother. I call my dad’s mother grandma. I was given the name because I was born en caul, meaning some part of the amniotic sack or in my case, all of the sack and its contents were intact when I emerged from my mother’s womb. This is rare anywhere, only happening once for every 80,000 births. In my mother’s family it’s not only rare but a cause for celebration. For them, en caul babies are said to be born with the veil, which means they will be granted some rare psychic gift. The fact that I was born with my veil fully intact had mystified all who were present for my birth, which took place at home because I entered the world so quickly. Of note also, my mother’s Aunt Tilly, mostly called TT Tilly who acts as a midwife in Cajun country, just happened to be visiting that weekend. When the fluid filled sac around me came rushing out of my mother’s body I’m told everyone gasped and began crossing themselves. My mother’s family is Catholic along with practicing the vodun religion. When she saw everyone crossing themselves she panicked thinking something was horribly wrong with me until TT Tilly picked me up with a broad smile and her eyes all aglow. Half delirious from the pain of labor Mama had no idea what she was looking at. The only thing that kept her from screaming in horror was the triumphant look on TT Tilly’s face as she raised up the strange blob that was supposed to be her baby. When Mama slowly asked, “Is that my baby?” with a desperate and confused look on her face TT Tilly quickly explained as she went to work freeing me from my cozy protected orb. “It’s okay, your baby been born with the veil, that’s all. That’s a good thing, a real good thing! She gone have special powers.” Tilly was expressing our family’s belief that en caul births are generally seen as lucky or good things, though that has not always been the case. Reports from darker times tell of babies being burned as witches following en caul births. My en caul birth remained a secret among the women in my mother’s family from day one because of my father’s conservative Christian beliefs.
My mother is descended from a long line of vodun, also referred to as voodoo practitioners with psychic abilities, my father is a fire and brimstone pentecostal preacher and his family believes the same. Most people find it hard to understand how two people from such different religious backgrounds could even begin to think about getting married, and yet, my parents did. I am living proof of their love and I have grown up hearing the tale of how they met and fell instantly and madly in love the moment they laid eyes on each other. He had come to her small town in Texas running a tent revival, which her family had no interest in attending but had no problem with the many townsfolk who did attend. My father typically ate dinner with one of the many families in town. These dinners always consisted of multiple delicious foods which he truly enjoyed. As they were entering town he had noticed a small country store that also sold food to go. A large sign outside advertised, “Fried Bologna Sandwiches.” From the moment he laid eyes on the sign he knew he had to have a fried bologna sandwich before leaving this lovely little town. They had been his favorites when he was a boy and he hadn’t enjoyed one for years. He intentionally kept one night free so he could work on a new sermon while enjoying a fried bologna sandwich along with an ice cold soda and some cookies. My mother was the store cashier that day. According to my father, she was so beautiful he had trouble speaking at first. She thought something was wrong with him but he finally managed to get it together and say a few words to her. She too was smitten, but able to keep her wits about her. He invited her to the tent revival and she went, to the horror of her family members and shock of the townspeople. After all, everyone knew that my mother’s family had been practicing some form of voodoo since their ancestors had set foot on American soil from Africa. Like most Africans, they had learned to enmesh their sacred voodoo rituals within the rituals of Catholicism for the sake of keeping themselves and the religion alive. But there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were still faithful to their ancient religion.
When the revival left town a few days later my mother’s family figured that would be the end of it. They were wrong. My father returned to visit whenever he could over the next 2 months since the revival remained fairly close. When it came time for the revival to leave the area they both agreed they couldn’t live without each other so they got married and my mother joined him on the road. My parents decision to marry only 2 months after meeting in spite of their opposing rigid beliefs just shows how madly and completely they loved each other. At that moment, they only cared about being together, not how they would deal with the complicated religious differences that would pop up. From what I could tell, my mother set her religious beliefs aside and became, from all I could see, a dutiful pentecostal preacher’s wife to my father. We traveled with the tent revival up until I was six years old. They tried to leave the tent revival when I turned five so I could start kindergarten in the town where we would live for the rest of our lives or at least until I graduated. Unfortunately there was no post available for my father at that point, so my mother convinced him that it was okay to let me start kindergarten with her family in the small Texas town where he had met her. He was somewhat concerned about her family being voodoo practitioners but Mama successfully argued she was raised in it from birth until she married him and it hadn’t hurt her. Did he honestly think a year was going to corrupt me?
I had been spending summers with Mama’s family since I could remember so going to live with them for a whole year was like being told I had to go spend a year at a summer camp where I loved all the food and activities. I always went home a little fatter than they sent me, so Mama and Daddy chastised me and Yaya about my eating too many of her cakes, cookies, and candies. They knew I had a mean sweet tooth and Yaya always made sure she had some of my favorite sweets on hand. The year with Yaya was good, but not as good as the summers because only a few of my cousins were there. Most of them were home til summer because of school. The biggest difference that year was that Yaya started talking to me about my birth and teaching me about my birthright. I had never really heard about Vodun before that year and most certainly didn’t know I had been born with the veil or that I was destined to become psychic. Yaya broke it all down to me in words that my kindergarten brain could comprehend. Yaya gave me many gifts throughout my life but she gave me the most important one that year. She went out of her way to make sure I fully understood what it meant to be given the gift and responsibility of having psychic powers. She put emphasis on teaching me to ignore what I saw on TV when it came to psychic powers. Yaya said most of what’s on TV and in the movies about psychic powers is pure bullshit! Without her lessons I would’ve been absolutely horrified when I grew up and started seeing movies like “Carrie” and “The Exorcist”.
Yaya had told me she had her first psychic experience shortly after her first menstrual period. She told me that seemed to be the time of awakening for women in our family. When I asked,
“But Yaya, how will I know when I’m having my first psychic experience?”
“Why Baby, I can’t tell you that. Everybody’s gift shows up differently.”
“Differently?” Whaddya mean Yaya? How did yours show up?”
“No Baby, I can’t tell you how mine showed up. Then you’ll expect yours to show up like that and it probably won’t. Just trust me, you’ll know when it comes. Everyone always does.”
Now here I am, a week after my first period and I’m sure I had my first psychic experience in the form of a dream three nights ago. It was so vivid I could have sworn it was real. I was walking to school along the same path I take every day with the same group of kids from the neighborhood. I have a few good friends I hang out with but I only know most of the kids by face. We cross a railroad track on our way to and from school everyday but it’s no big deal. I’ve never seen any kind of train on that track before, during, or after school. But in my dream, not only was there a train, it was a fast moving train. It came through with such speed and lack of warning that several of the children were caught unaware. Most of them scattered before the train got to them, however, there was a blonde curly haired boy with bright blue laughing eyes in my grade who became startled and tried to turn back rather than run forward like the others. The thing is, our eyes connected just before he disappeared behind the nose of the monstrous locomotive he was trying to outrun. I was yelling no, don’t turn around! I woke up terrified in a dead panic, thinking it had really happened. I actually cried with relief when I realized it had only been a dream.
That had been two nights ago. I felt so connected to the blonde curly haired boy after the dream that I made it a point to learn his name the next morning. Mitchell, as I learned he was called, was not only a fun loving young man, he was also quite intelligent. He wasn’t with his usual group of friends this morning so I figured he was probably absent. Then I heard my name being called from somewhere behind me. Not recognizing the voice, I turned quickly to see who it was. To my surprise there came Mitchell, running towards us all smiles. At that moment I thought, “Oh no, what have I done? Was learning his name a mistake? Does he think I want to be his girlfriend or something?” Then a cold shiver went down my spine! As he got closer I recognized the clothes he was wearing. They were the same clothes he had been wearing in that awful dream! I couldn’t help but turn my attention to the railroad tracks. OH MY GOD! There it was! A freight train! What was it doing here? Barreling down the tracks, just like I had seen in my dream. My attention flew back to Mitchell! I had to find a way to keep him from setting foot on that track. I instinctively knew that if he did, his young life would end right there, TODAY! I had a matter of seconds to come up with a plan so I was a nervous wreck. My friend Earlene was talking to me and couldn’t figure out why I was staring behind me not responding. Then she said, “What’s wrong with you? Are you havin a breakdown or somethin? Then I thought, that’s it! I knew exactly what to do! As soon as Mitchell got close enough I fainted, into his arms. I had learned enough about him in one day to know that he wouldn’t walk away from anyone who had just fainted without first trying to help. Plus, I had a plan B in case he tried to leave. It involved my refusing to release Mitchell’s arm and crying hysterically until I knew the murderous train had passed. Fortunately there was no need for plan B as the train passed while Mitchell was gently laying me down on the ground. The train had been sent through our town on those tracks when it was rerouted around a broken down train. Someone didn’t know our tracks had been out of service for years, which could have led to countless other issues considering the fact that the tracks hadn’t been properly maintained for countless years. Parents were upset because nearly every child in our town crosses those tracks while walking to school and there had been no warning that a train would be coming during a time when children were crossing. They most certainly would’ve arranged for special crossing guards had they known. Everyone agreed, it was a miracle no child had been hurt or killed. The railroad flat out refused to dismantle the tracks but agreed to erect some sort of barrier to keep future employees from accidentally rerouting trains through our town without ample warning. A barrier that had to be dismantled would at the very least give folks pause before sending trains in our direction.
I tried to play the fainting spell down by claiming I had skipped both dinner the night before and breakfast that morning. The school nurse wasn’t having it. She called my parents who in turn rushed over to the school filled with concern. I was more embarrassed than anything else. Now I was known as the girl who fainted upon seeing the train. I wanted to tell Mama right away but I couldn’t with Daddy and the nurse there. They wouldn’t have understood if I had tried to explain that I pretended to faint because I knew Mitchell would be killed by the train if I didn’t. And I knew it because I had seen it in my first psychic dream two nights before. Nope, it was better for me to just lie there like I couldn’t explain what had happened. Once we got home and I got Mama alone in my room I practically burst with the news. After all, I had saved Mitchell’s life and she was the one person I could tell. I expected Mama to be excited for me so when she wasn’t I felt hurt. When I asked why she wasn’t excited she said, “Because I know there’ll be times when your gifts won’t be enough to save friends and family members from harm or just plain old disappointment. She pulled me close and hugged me tighter than I ever remembered while saying, “When that happens, promise me you’ll talk to me or somebody who understands your gift rather than blame yourself or take it personally. You’re my baby and I don’t wanna see your life ruined behind your gift. Our family’s seen it more than once, which is why we’re so careful. You understand me?” Her eyes looked so sad they made me want to cry. It didn’t take a psychic gift to understand they had seen something that caused serious heartache.
Knowing I had fully come into my gift Mama said it was time for us to pay TT Tilly a visit. I didn’t know why but I loved visiting with TT Tilly so I didn’t complain. It was important enough that we flew in to see her so we didn’t have to waste the 8 hours it took to drive each way. When we arrived, rather than take us to her house, TT Tilly took us to a beautiful house in the woods where several women were waiting. They were different ages and colors and their hair was adorned with all kinds of flowers. I immediately asked Mama if I could put flowers in my hair and she said, “absolutely, you are the guest of honor!” What I didn’t know then, but found out later was that we were there to celebrate my coming of age and coming into my gift. TT Tilly said this special secret ritual usually happens after a girl’s first period but before she came into her gift. In my case the timing was a little bit off, but it was okay. I enjoyed being showered with attention and spending time with all the women and girls that evening. In the end it felt good knowing I was a part of this group of women who understood and accepted me and my gift.