My cousin, Mona* was expecting me in Virginia Beach during the week. I opted to have a few days to myself and do some exploring before visiting her on her day off. I’ve been to Virginia several times before as a child and I’ve always had fun family memories here. I decided to hit the beach.
When I arrived at the coast, finding free parking for my van was too much of a hassle. I caved in and paid five dollars to a Catholic Church that rented out its parking lot to tourists during the week. Though the weather was very warm, I had no intention of swimming. Instead, I walked all along the boardwalk to take in the scenery. I saw families riding together in rented bikes, lovers holding hands, and children running around in the sand. It felt good being surrounded by so much energy and joy. I came upon carnival rides, including one of my favorites, the swinging Viking ship, which will turn your stomach inside out. I considered buying a few tickets, but the zeal quickly passed me. I don’t want my stomach turned inside out… I guess I am a grown up now! I wandered off the boardwalk and window shopped at many of the interchangeable souvenir shops in town.
The next day, I visited Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.). Edgar Cayce is known as “The Sleeping Prophet” and “The father of Holistic Medicine”. He has given psychic readings to thousands of clients while in an unconscious state where he would diagnose illnesses and foretell the future. Visiting A.R.E. was a big deal for me because I’ve been interested in Cayce’s work as a Christian psychic, prophet and healer since I first heard about him on the show, Unsolved Mysteries in the 1980’s.
I attended their free, guided tour of the visitor center, watched an orientation film and enjoyed two spiritual lectures: Holistic Healing and Spiritual Awareness. Edgar Cayce believed Virginia Beach was one of the safest places in the world to live because he felt it would be naturally protected from dramatic climate changes. It was pointed out to us that (unlike other towns in close proximity) the area has yet to be devastated by hurricanes. This wasn’t hard to believe. Virginia Beach, by the water has a very peaceful, dream-like, spiritual vibe to it. The breeze from the ocean was always warm, soft and regenerating.
Before I left, I decided to walk their outdoor Labyrinth to meditate on a concern I had about Beau* and the direction of our relationship. I found myself growing suspicious of him. Though we talked twice a day, something wasn’t right. Questions about him and about us flooded my brain and overwhelmed me. This is normal when you’re away from your man for so long, right? Before I entered the labyrinth, I took a deep breath and with the warm ocean breeze guiding my back, I meandered along its snakelike path. I recited the Holy Rosary a dozen times to quiet and focus my anxious mind. Within 30 minutes, I reached the end and gained clarity but not comfort.
Edgar Cayce was quoted as saying, “You are your own best psychic.” As a very intuitive person, I understood. However, it didn’t stop me from seeking out the services of a psychic reader affiliated with A.R.E. I was second guessing myself and needed confirmation that there was, indeed, a sword hanging over my head.
I met Gwen* at her office across town. She invited me to have a seat in an armchair angled closely towards hers. She had a pen, pad and pendulum ready. I asked her if it was okay to record our session and she was fine with it. I took out my phone and activated the voice recorder app. She asked to hold something that belonged to me. I handed her my keys. I decided to refrain from volunteering any information during my reading and save my specific concerns for last.
It’s understood that no psychic is 100% accurate, but the things Gwen picked up about me were on point. I asked her about my soul’s purpose (a question A.R.E recommends readees ask). “To bring joy wherever you go… wherever you are planted. It doesn’t matter if you’re at your job, at home, or just out gettin’ a burger that’s what you do.” She said with a husky Southern drawl. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not. Whenever you enter a situation or room, the energy just lifts…. People respond to you.” No, I haven’t noticed this… I was puzzled because most of the time, I’m rather low-key. Then I remembered strangers and random people I’ve met over the years making a point to tell me the same thing, that I have a “good spirit” or they felt really good being around me. I’ll take it!
I asked her about my family. “You get picked on a lot.” She said plainly. I surrendered to the fact that she wasn’t speaking in the past tense. “That’s right, I’m the scapegoat.” I confirmed. She continued, “The reason you’re the scapegoat is because of that special energy you carry.” “Really?”, I was surprised. “Seriously. I’m from the smoky mountains of east Tennessee. We had chickens running free in the yard during the day. What amazed me was that there would always be one chicken that would stray farther out in the garden than the others. She was probably looking for juicier worms somewhere else. The rest of the chickens would attack and peck her because they considered her different! You’re different. They perceive you as weak, when you’re actually very highly evolved… and tough. They can’t see that, so they turn on you.” She explained. Gwen went on to say that in the last couple of months, my “perceptions” have been getting stronger and stronger. This also struck me as true… This is the most spiritually intuitive I’ve ever been since I hit puberty. She advised me to continue listening to the Universe (i.e. God) when it speaks. As for my concerns about Beau*, she eased my mind by assuring that he deeply loved me.
Later that night, I touched base with my cousin, Mona and made plans to visit her the next day. I got a little lost finding her place, so she was waiting outside for me when I pulled up to her condo. Boy, was she was eager to meet Eunice! Mona is jovial, quick-witted, fiercely independent and boldly assertive… traits not uncommon for women on this side of the family. She’s also good-looking. With large, wide-set eyes, high, dimpled cheeks, and square jaw line, she has a resemblance to Helena Bonham Carter. Every time I see Helena Bonham Carter flash across the screen, I think of cousin Mona, her dark facsimile.
She rushed up to me and gave me a big hug. I happily gave her a nickel tour of my home. Mona’s daughter (a gifted violinist) was on a music tour in Europe with her college class. I was offered her room to stay in and made myself at home. When I was growing up, I would see Mona and my other cousin, Margene* (from Richmond) once a year. They have about 10 years on me, so I was never able to hang out with them as an equal. My aunt (who was the same age as them) would join them on local excursions and have all the fun instead. Sometimes, they’d take me along… but it wasn’t “big girl” fun!
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my cousin. Maybe, the last time I’ve seen her was at a funeral. We sat in her beautifully decorated living room and did a lot of catching up. We talked about our not so great marriages and life after our divorces. “The women in our family have no luck with marriage.” She said with a bluntness that was softened by the lilt of her Jamaican accent. “We’re just too hard-headed and strong-willed.” She continued. I didn’t want that to be true, but I nodded my head in agreement because maybe it was. I see myself as easygoing, having a softer temperament than most people I know and I don’t consider myself “a feminist”. However, I have come to recognize that there is something unyielding in me that cannot be dominated or compromised. Perhaps we are daughters of Lilith and not Eve.
My great grandmother had 11 children. With the exception of one, all of her daughters (including my grandmother) had tragically broken marriages or a string of unfortunate romances. The boy children, however, seemed to have escaped this curse with good wives and intact homes. But, maybe this is because these women were raised in a third world culture where parents treat female children far more harshly than males.
Mona made plans for us to visit my great aunt Gladis* in Hampton, 45 minutes away. We drove in her car and had a discussion about our family’s past and there were jokes and laughs sewn in between. We both hashed out old family secrets before moving on to share our disappointments. I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who felt abandoned and betrayed by kin at my most vulnerable hour of need. For her, it was a life-threatening illness… myself, a divorce. I quickly realized that my experience wasn’t unique to just my immediate family. I was now able to stand back and see that all the dysfunction that I endured (even into adulthood) had little to do with me. My familial misfortunes were part of a much bigger problem! I found this both comforting and disturbing. Through faith in God, Mona was able to forgive all the wrongs. I, in contrast, remain less magnanimous.
We pulled up to our aunt’s house and she invited us inside. Her lovely mirrored living room looked exactly as I remembered it as a child! Strangely, it did not look or feel outdated. It was as if time moved on, but didn’t. After some catching up and joking around, we headed out to have lunch at a near by restaurant. Before we ate, Mona cued for us to pray grace. After seeing people publicly praying in restaurants everywhere, it was my turn!
We returned to Aunt Gladis’ house after lunch and retired to her youngest daughter’s bedroom, which was converted into a den. It was, in reality, the family museum. All of the walls were covered, top to bottom with framed photos of our clan, spanning six generations. I even spotted my own picture, a high school senior portrait!
Aunt Gladis gave me four old photo albums to look through. One of them had black and white pictures that were from the 1950’s and 60’s. It felt like I should be handling the pages wearing white cotton gloves. Most of the people in the album I didn’t recognize, but I did get a glimpse of Aunt Gladis’ life as a young nurse living in England. Roughly half of my large family immigrated to the UK since Jamaica was once under the British crown.
There was one photo of her standing outside her apartment building in a white, buttoned-up nursing uniform. She had perfectly styled curls, meticulously arched eyebrows and (what I could imagine to be) deep, crimson lips. It was evident that she had a certain maturity and poise that is rarely seen in young women nowadays. As I continued through the album, I managed to recognize some of my great uncles during the “Madmen days” whose dapper suits and youthful good looks nearly startled me!
Mona and I returned to Virginia Beach to relax for the rest of the evening. She offered me her washer and dryer to do my laundry and I gladly accepted. At the end of the night, I went to her daughter’s room to retire. Looking around, it was easy to tell that this room belongs to someone bright, cheery, and full of life… someone who was raised happy. She was in Europe living her dream, a dream that her mother lovingly supported since she was a young child. Destructive patterns of the past doesn’t have to control a family’s future. I have hope.
Side Note: My great grandma and grandma loved watching The 700 Club! In their honor, I went to a taping at CBN studios while I was in town. You can see more photos on my FaceBook page!
*Names changed to protect the innocent and infamous.