She was born on January 6, 1929.
That girl child was “born with the veil”.
Folklore that stretches from old Europe to the Louisiana bayou will tell you that a child born with a veil will have the ability to hear and see spirits, and has the gift to foresee the future.
That child of the second sight, was my Grandma Helen.
She is the woman behind the old world lore that I celebrate here on Mondays with you. The stories and practices that she taught me as a little girl are things that I continue to pass on here, and in that way, she gets to live forever.
In the last two weeks of 2012, I got an unexpected surprise.
I hadn’t seen him in almost 15 years. And after a few phone calls in a 24 hour period, there he was, at the end of a curving wooden dock, standing on his boat, in a river surrounded by old mossy oaks…. my Uncle Warren.
He’s been following this blog. He said I was a good writer. I almost started to cry.
Tucked away in the starboard bow of his boat was a box. He dragged it up to where we were sitting and lifted the top of the box…
and the old ghosts of the past rushed in.
There they were. The faces of my ancestry, looking at me through time, snapshot after snapshot, in old photos I’ve never seen before.
All of these worlds and moments in time, waiting to be discovered in this box.
Uncle Warren shared his stories of my Grandma and my Grandpa. He told me the story of the veil, that I never knew about until now. He only knew one other person in his lifetime thus far born with a veil, and that man was a sailor, who kept the “veil” in an amulet around his neck.
The box of photos made me feel closer to all of them. They knew I’ve been writing about them. This is how they answered. It was the natural continuing of a conversation.
They said, “Here we are…..”
I’m celebrating my Grandma for her birthday week, and I wanted my first Magic Monday of 2013 to be dedicated to her.
So I’ll leave you with a story, one that I’ve kept close to me my whole life:
One Spring, when I was small, my Grandma Helen took me down by the lagoon. We sat on the old dock together, the murky waters just a few inches away from the bottom of my sneakers, as she brushed my hair. She was always fussing with my hair and telling me stories, and I’d sit there hanging on every word.
When she was done, we walked back up to her house and she pulled my hair out of the brush. It was like a little puffy cloud of my blonde strands. She put it on the outside window sill and lifted me up to see it.
“That’s your gift to the birds to make their nest with. Watch….”
And we sat down by the dock and waited and watched for what seemed like hours until a little brown bird hopped down and took it in its beak.
My Grandma turned to me and said, “You stand tall and proud, Little One. Baby birds are going to sing their first song nestled in your hair.”
And I never forgot that.
It made me feel like I was a part of the great mystery of life.
It made me feel bigger than my little 4-year old self.
To this day, I leave the strands of my hair out for the birds to build their little homes. By now, generations of baby birds have grown up to sing their songs in my hair.
Every year when I do this, I think of what my Grandma Helen said to me that day down by the lagoon. She left me with so much, and those gifts can be passed on across the world, to all of you who read this.
I am grateful for that.
And her story continues….
Happy Birthday, Grandma.