I remember the year I got the Ouija board. It was my 10th birthday, All Saint’s Day, and the day after Halloween. Spirits were everywhere! The box was mysterious, the contents simple. Just a board and a plastic triangle used to direct the hopeful fingers to the requested answer to life’s questions. My sisters, friends, and I spent hours spelling out the names of the boys we would marry, lighting candles and waiting for the spirits to blow them out, and screaming when a breeze through an open window brushed our skin. Sitting in dark closets tricked us into believing it was night though the sun was still high, and slumber parties became séances. If brothers or neighborhood boys knew the board was being used, you could count on sticks being tapped against windows and strange noises coming from the yard.
I longed to believe that it was possible for my deceased mother to enter the room, touch me on my shoulder, and let me know she was always watching. But I never felt her physical presence and came to realize that the board was indeed just a game…shared anxiety and nervous energy moved the triangle across the letters. When I bought a Ouija board for my daughter Julie, I was unprepared for the backlash from the parents of her friends. Mothers called to express their anger that it was in my house and wouldn’t allow their daughters to participate. I wanted to scream, “IT’S A GAME!” but held my tongue and buried the board in the attic. A good friend was convinced I was keeping evil in the house and reminded me it was there when my marriage came tumbling down. Really? Did it actually have power? I do believe that spirits are all around us, believe that the universe is shared, but I was not convinced that a piece of particle board was capable of harnessing their presence.
I came across that old game during my recent move and held it momentarily, wondering if I should pitch it. After all, the triangle was missing and my fingers did not tingle when I traced the letters. I also paused and wondered if tossing it was bad karma. I was about to move into the first home I could call my own in close to 10 years. Maybe instead of pissing off the spirits, I should light some candles and sacrifice a virgin to a full moon! As I carefully packed away the board, I decided that a recent invitation to an upcoming “medium party” was timely. For 20 bucks, I would get a 20 minute session with someone who could communicate with the dead! If I believe that spirits are present, why shouldn’t I believe that there are those among us who are gifted with being able to listen?
As excited as I was, I was also skeptical. Having visited my fair share of bar stool psychics, I had limited expectations. I was aware of the tricks, the way a psychic can get you to expose information so that you feel it came from them. “You have a dog?” may seem like an innocent query, but if you respond in the affirmative, you are described as kind, patient, loving. If you deny any love for critters, you are likely to be told that some special pooch is about to enter your life. I’ve been told more than once that my great true love is just around the corner, but here I sit alone on another Friday night! So, I kept my expectations low and hung on to my skepticism while I waited my turn.
After a brief introduction, I sat down across from Jane, an average looking woman who appeared normal. No turban in her hair, no long flowing dress or dozens of bangles on her wrists. She gently held my hand as she prayed to her “spirit guides” to give me what I needed. Looking me in the eye, she quietly stated, “There is a woman standing behind you. Does the name Jean mean anything to you?” With that question, it took less than three seconds for the tears to begin and for me to know that this woman was indeed able to sense the presence of the spirits.
Few people know of my love-hate relationship with my given middle name of Jean, and most of them are related to me. None of them were at that party. My mother had her reasons, which I will never know, for cursing me with that name. She shared her own middle name of Ann with my two sisters, but gave me Jean. I dumped it when I got married, did not pick it back up when I took my family name after the divorce. Of all the names that Jane could have plucked from the air, none would have told me my mother was in the room as much as “Jean.” Jane went on to say, “She loves the roses.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement, and I silently nodded as I thought of the four fresh cut blooms I have left at her grave each Memorial Day weekend for the last 20 years: one for each of us she loved.
What followed still has me spinning. “A gentleman has entered the room….Mike?” Again, of all the names Jane could have come up with, she just happened to know my dad’s name? He was worried about me, but happy I was moving back to the town that he loved. He was soon joined by two women, who, when described to me by Jane, could only be my other two guardian angels, Aunt Mary and Aunt Winnie. Jane knew details about them that could not have been discovered by a Google search and I smiled as I envisioned them all together.
At no time did I feel the physical presence of these lost loved ones, felt no hand touching mine or brushing the hair from my face. I know they are here with me when I barely avoid a car accident or only get scraped when I fall off my bike. If a friend calls when I am lonely, or Julie has a success, I am convinced my spirit guides are doing their job. Sitting in the room with this unassuming woman, I was blessed to have Jane give me reason to hold on to the knowledge that I am watched over and loved.
I was unprepared for Jane’s last intervention. “Would you like to ask a question?” Not having anything planned, I quickly spit out, “Yea, did they like the book?” Jane looked quietly at me. “Do you mean the one you wrote?” I smiled as she did not know I was an author and silently nodded my head. She sat back, closed her eyes, reflective. When she opened them, she smiled and said: “Pride is an understatement. A thousand angels are singing.”
That broken Ouija board is packed away at the bottom of a box in the garage, along with a thousand other memories. I’m settled into a home that holds no ghosts, but filled with photos of those guardian angels. As a kid with a game, I hoped and prayed for a sign that my mother was in the room. I didn’t get it back then. But on this night, I did. On this night, Jane shared her gift and in 20 minutes she gave me 20 reasons to confirm my belief in a shared universe. Yet, one question lingers. Should I take back the name Jean?
Susan Emmerich is the author of A Girl on a Bike: Musings on Life, Loss, and Hot Flashes, now available from Second Wind Publishing and amazon.com She can be found riding her bike around Cleveland OH making observations on a most interesting life.