Mammy was the family saint. She always had a smile, a cheery, chatty story, and a deep peace. But she was also profoundly intuitive, perhaps even psychic.
As a child of the late 1800s in eastern Pennsylvania, my grandmother’d enjoyed the “Key Game”……one blindfolded, spun around, then sent – still with the blindfold on – to find the key hidden by the room full of players. And, who could say how she always found it, every time, and quickly.
Yes; Mammy was a source of comfort and encouragement to a vast extended progeny, primarily through daily, hourly prayer. But, she was also quite superstitious. Long after putting aside the deck of cards when, as a young girl, she converted to the life of a Christian, she retained several “beliefs”.
One of them concerned omens. Mammy always knew that, if a bird fluttered by your window, you needed to stop and pray for the safety and protection of all your loved ones. And, this, along with other signs, she took as seriously as she did a direct answer to supplication when it came her way.
In the days before my mother died of cancer, lying in the hospice bed brought into her room at home, a crow appeared in the back yard. The bird was lame, unable to fly, only walking slowly across the yard. This omen was impossible to ignore and, in spite of my fragile faith, I knew my mother would soon pass.
Decades earlier, our dog, Nero, had been a lively part of our family. The day I’d come home and was met by an eager wagging tail and a face, that face still branded in my memory, of a beseeching, sweet animal who wanted to chase the stick, me too busy at that moment, bounding instead into the house – at that very second, something told me that this would be the last time Nero would ask me to play. Sure enough, two days later, our precious dog was dead of a flipped stomach, my pleas that she be lifted by someone strong enough and carried to the vet ignored by everyone.
The year my beloved father moved in with me, I’d searched for a daytime caregiver to supplant my efforts while at work finishing up the school year. One girl I’d been directed to contact by a woman who overheard me in the drugstore. She came so highly recommended that I could not ignore the opportunity. But, the day she showed up at the front door and I looked into her face, there was a grey shadow that crossed her countenance. A sensation passed through my chest and out the other side. Though I couldn’t know at the time, she would be the prime suspect in a household theft discovered days later, with only my 94 year old father as witness.
Last Christmas I took a trip south, to visit my brother and his family and to check out the baby grand piano that was waiting on hold for my perusal. Upon entering the dealer’s showroom, I removed my sunglasses and looked around at the setting in the lobby. In a few minutes, the salesman with whom I had spent many email exchanges preparing for this moment appeared. Lean, taller than me, balding and bow tied, he extended his hand. As I reached to grasp it, my sunglasses fell to the floor.
Bending down to pick them up, I had yet another of those infinitesimal moments. The same feeling I’d had so many times before tore through me like a fleeting current, so brief so as to be almost undetectable, as if my body intended to process and discard it before my mind could react. This was yet another sign, and another foreboding.
And, typically, I disregarded the omen. Following the salesman into the room, I would subject myself to a power of persuasion so overtaking that months would pass before I would fully grasp what had happened to me.
Today, I sit facing a legal scene that will likely take weeks of my most precious thought hours, impacting my productive quality and every aspect of my more nourishing anticipations. And, I can’t help but look at my Mammy’s face, in photograph and illustration, and feel her gentle admonishments, and implore her intercession one more time on my behalf. And, I ask the Almighty for an even bigger sign the next time, one that might slap me right in my tracks and make me feel the pain. Far better a momentary hurt than half a lifetime of regret.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
5/1/15 all rights the author’s. Sharing allowed upon request. Thank you.