When You Write A Memoir Your are dealing with Real People
When you write a memoir, you are dealing with Real People. So now I had one mission: As soon as my book would come out, I would travel all the way from Hawaii to Holland my mother, to tell her face to face of her presence in the book. A presence that is from my perspective, my perspective as a little child. In the prologue I talk about my sensitivity as a young child when I would talk to ‘the man in the tree’, that I somehow knew to be my uncle, my uncle who never got to live and who would present himself to me now and then.
“Here!” I hear the voice again. This time, its tone is impatient. I see a figure appearing between the thick branches. Like mist or a cloud of smoke, a face emerges about halfway up the tree, right above the birdhouse. It is a man, somehow familiar. My body feels softer as I stare curiously at the vague presence.
Then I see him coming out of the dark blue sky, straight through the cedar, through the clouds. I see him coming into my room, right through the middle of the open window. There’s a soft buzzing sound from the almost invisible wings, like a fairy, as he comes directly toward me. I stretch out my little finger, and he quickly folds his wings as he lands on my finger, so that there’s only a little bug left. The little green bug, crawling up to the top of my finger, has fragile little feet, tentacles sticking forward, and a triangular shield on his back. Its smell is so overwhelming that I don’t know if I like it or not, but I am intrigued.
“Mom, come!” I yell, and I hear the fast clicking of her heels on the hard white tiles. The smell has me tumbling back into unfamiliar memories, reminding me of something I cannot grasp. It’s so present, so big.
My belly tingles with excitement. My breath breaks into a fast pace. A sense of soda bubbles in my veins. Everything bubbles on the inside. It hits me in a moment. This presence, this figure, this face presenting itself now in this little animal is showing what makes it familiar. Even though we’ve never met, I recognize that he is my uncle. My mother’s brother who never got to live. Who she never even met. And I know him, with all that I am. I tumble deeper and deeper into old memories, like horses running around us in wide fields.
“Mom!” I keep yelling. “Look, Mom!”
She comes hurrying in and kneels next to my bed.
I stare for a moment at her red-painted lips. “Look, Mommy, look!” I point at my left finger. I am sure she can see it too. I am sure she will get it and see all this little creature is.
I put my finger in front of her face, right in front of her eyes. I turn the bug slowly around and open my mouth, marveling at what I’m holding. Her blue eyes gaze at the top of my little finger. Her long eyelashes blink quickly. I tell myself she will recognize him — just like I do. She will hear the whispering like I do and recognize it as almost family.
“Oh, what a stench!” my mother says in disgust. “It’s a stinkbug.” She grabs it in one move and puts her thumb and index finger around it. She crushes it with her red nails, throwing what is left through the open window.
My mouth drops open. I freeze, a cry silenced in my lungs. I feel myself screaming a deep and silent “noooooo!”
“Come, let me tuck you in.”
“But, Mommy, that bug is — ”
“Just a bug,” she declares.
And that was the beginning of the denial of my sensitivity and my extrasensory perception.
Two weeks ago I was back at my mother’s house in Heerenveen in Friesland (the Netherlands) I had waved with the book already and had put it nicely up on the shelf, determined to prepare her. Exhausted from the jetlag, I took a nap that first afternoon on the couch in the living room. When I woke up, my mother was staring at me, frozen, with her mouth open. “I read your book,” she said in a monotonous voice. The way she said it sounded like she read, in fact, the whole book. And I thought; ‘ohhhh, noo!’ But then she said: “How did you know?”
“About the baby? About oma’s baby that was born fully grown and developed, but not alive? How did you know? It is true! It is true Christel! It was the saddest thing. Nobody ever spoke about it, and certainly I never told you. How did you know? I am blown away by it. And I love your book already.”
I didn’t know what I was expecting when presenting the book to her. Certainly not this huge validation. I never asked her about the truth of my perception; I never asked her if that uncle really had existed, for me he had just been real throughout my childhood. To now after all those years, after forty-something years, get the confirmation from my own mother is huge. It made the 14000 of travel instantly worth it, as if finally all the times I did get ridiculed for my perceptions got validated, and above all how it opens the door to all the extraordinariness in the rest of the story. (Forty-Nine Days, A Sensuous Journey in the Modern Afterlife)
Ohh, and I forgot to say: at the same time this happened, my daughter found a little bug in my mother’s yard and said: “Look mom!”
Always LISTEN to your Children.
Christel Janssen is the Author of Forty-Nine Days, a Sensuous Journey in the Modern Afterlife. Find her here. Or join a writing retreat on Kauai.