I posted a request on Facebook, asking friends to share stories for Halloween.
Several people privately messaged me, requesting I share again something that happened to me a while back. I’ve only publicly shared a small part of this story, which caused some who knew of my loss to make assumptions. This always bothered me — made me feel fraudulent. What happened wasn’t what they might’ve believed because they only knew part of the story.
Back when I shared this originally, my daughter was still in school and didn’t want me to include this first part that involved her, so I didn’t. That part is important in that it gives a name that is needed. Celeste gives permission now.
From the time she was small, Celeste seemed to pick up extra channels. For instance, when she was about two years old, we were driving home when she announced, “Grammy left a present! Lots of colors!”
We arrived home and sure enough — a package. Inside was every color of magic marker imaginable. Grammy had been passing through town and impulsively left the gift without saying a word to anyone.
When Celeste was three, we were seated in a restaurant near two women who appeared to be mother and daughter, along with a boy about 18 months old. Celeste fixated on them for a while and then sucked in her breath, like she was preparing to let out a wail, but didn’t. She looked terrified.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
“They hurt that baby, Mommy,” she said. “They hurt that baby. Hurt him. Hurt him all the time.”
She launched into a they-hurt-him! kind of chant. There was no calming her. Even at her loudest, Celeste wasn’t that loud. People by the counter couldn’t hear her, but those in our section could. The women with the little boy could.
A normal reaction would’ve been for them to give us the stink-eye or maybe assure Celeste they never hurt their boy. Instead, they scooped him up and left their barely touched food behind, racing off like the police were headed their way.
This sort of thing didn’t happen every day, thank goodness, but with enough frequency and accuracy that I came to quietly respect her pronouncements
When she was four, I learned I was pregnant. I decided not to tell her until I was further along. That decision was pointless. She walked right up to my stomach and said, “There’s a baby in there.”
She said the baby’s name was Mackenzie and she would regularly have long and animated conversations with my stomach. When I was nearly six months along, Celeste walked up to my belly and said, “Hey! Where’s Mackenzie?”
“She’s right there, honey,” I said, touching my belly.
“No, she’s not.”
I’d not had any issues, but wanting reassured, stopped by my obstetrician’s office to hear the heartbeat. There was none.
Several months later, Celeste addressed my midsection again.
“Mackenzie! You’re back!”
I hadn’t even taken a pregnancy test, but she was right. About 12 weeks later, she announced Kenzie was leaving. The entire scenario was repeated one more time after that.
When I learned I was pregnant a fourth time, I said nothing to Celeste and she said nothing to me, at least for a while. I’d catch her staring at my belly, her little brow furrowed, but she kept whatever she was thinking to herself. Finally, she spoke.
“That’s not Kenzie,” she said.
“Who is it?”
“I don’t know. Not Mackenzie.”
I carried that baby to term, and we named her Camille. If Celeste was aware of any abnormalities, she said nothing. When Camille was only four months old, she was diagnosed with acute spinal muscular atrophy. She died two months later. There would be no more babies for me.
In the years since, Celeste’s abilities have quieted, which I’ve learned is common among those who exhibit such skills early on. Now 22, she has good intuition — taking her foot off the gas moments before a police car appears, for instance — so perhaps she still carries a bit of the gift.
I suspect many of us do, if we’re open to accepting. Luckily, being her mom left me open. Otherwise, I might not have understood a gift I received.
It happened back around 2009, when the gold-selling trend took off and I began working weekends as a buyer. One day, the other two gold testers and I were set up in a conference room at a local hotel. My customer had left, and the other testers were busy with their clients — a mother, around 60 years old, and her daughter, who was about 30.
With them was a little girl, who was perhaps 5 or 6. She was wispy-haired and thin, with big eyes and hollow cheeks, much like me as a child. She was seated quietly in the front row of empty chairs, staring at me.
“Can I talk to you?” the little girl asked.
“Don’t bother the lady,” her mother said. “She’s working.”
“It’s fine,” I said. The girl approached, shy yet curious. I expected she wanted to play with the magnets or look through my loupe. I was wrong.
“I know you,” she said in a strong and unwavering voice, staring at me intently. “How do I know you?”
“Maybe I look like one of your teachers.” She shook her head no. “One of your neighbors?”
Another shake of her head.
“Leave the lady alone, honey,” her mom said. She turned to me. “That’s not like her. She usually never talks to anybody.”
“But I KNOW her,” the little girl insisted. Her voice took on a sense of urgency. “I don’t know how I do but I do, and I think I need to hug her.”
I could see she had tears in her eyes. “Can I hug you?”
Her mother looked alarmed, as did the grandmother.
“It’s OK,” I assured them.
The girl ran around the table and flew into my arms, wrapped herself around me monkey style. I held her tight. She felt immediately familiar to me in a way I can never explain.
I knew her, too. I absolutely, positively knew her.
“You’ve held me before,” she said.
“I think I have,” I said. “A long time ago.”
“But not for long,” she said.
My throat was so tight by then that I couldn’t talk, so I just nodded.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be your little girl,” she said. She pressed her face against my shoulder, and I held her for what was both only a few seconds, and a lifetime.
Her mother hurried around the table and peeled her off me.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into her,” she said.
“She could sense I needed a hug,” I said.
But it had been more than a hug. It was more like a visit.
I asked her name.
“Mackenzie,” she said.