The Psychic

psychic cartoon We went sightseeing at the Baltimore Harbor last weekend. It was a warm Sunday afternoon, and lots of people were out, meandering around the shops and stalls on the plaza. An old woman in a straw hat sat under an umbrella between the fire juggler and the arborist.   Beside her a large poster board read, “Psychic readings $5 and up.”

“Let’s do that,” my sister said. I was surprised that she would suggest something so woo-woo, but I was game. We had some time to kill.

Leslie The Psychic told me I was creative.

“Good start,” I thought.

Then, she asked me what I did. “I’m a writer,” I said. “I’m writing a book.”

“What’s it about?” Leslie asked. If she’s a psychic, isn’t she supposed to know that?

“About me and my daughter.”

“Your daughter doesn’t like this book,” Leslie said.

I nodded. How did she know?

“Where’s your daughter now?” Leslie asked.

Leslie was quickly losing credibility with me.

“She died,” I said. Leslie should have known that.

“Have you thought about the cover?”

“Well, my daughter was an artist. I was thinking about one of her paintings.”

“No.” Leslie shook her head. “Put that on the back. You need to put something on the cover that will make me want to grab that book off the shelf in Barnes and Nobles.”

So, now Leslie’s a psychic and a marketing expert.

“She doesn’t like everything you’re writing. You need to put something on the cover that she will like.”

“Fair enough,” I said.

“Your cover should have clouds, because she’s in heaven. And you should be walking along a beach.” Leslie drew a cartoon of a cloud and a stick figure on the back of her business card and handed it to me.

Not exactly what I had in mind. Leslie couldn’t draw very well, either.

“Your book will be a best seller,” Leslie said.

Well, that’s reassuring.

“Call me,” she said. “And God bless.”

Boys in the Bushes

boysinthebushI picked up Ariela’s painting yesterday. It was in a juried show at the Peninsula JCC. She called this one “Boys in the Bushes.”  I was told the judges liked the playfulness in the image and the energetic brushstrokes.

Ariela entered the contest before she died. She would have been excited to know it was accepted. It was priced on the high side. I didn’t want anyone to buy it. I’m not ready to sell any of her work. Someone wanted to purchase it. They asked twice.

I don’t know the backstory for most of her paintings, but I know the story for “Boys in the Bushes.” She and her friend Emily were attending the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass concert in Golden Gate Park a few years ago. They decided to leave the concert early rather than use the handicapped accessible port-a-potties. Yes, the stalls were big enough, big enough for a wheelchair to roll right in. But, neither Emily nor Ariela could hold her breath long enough to avoid the intense odor. When Emily noticed two boys relieving themselves in the bushes, she pulled out her camera. Ariela thought this extremely funny.

Winning Ticket

airplanes-work-1Friends invited us to spend an extended weekend at a resort north of Puerto Vallarta. “The change of scenery will do you good,” they said. We hadn’t boarded a plane and taken a trip together, just the two of us, since 1992. Ariela was in pre-school then. Her teacher stayed with her for the four days we were gone.

We planned another trip several years later, not long after we moved back to California. Ariela must have been about eight. I won the trip in a raffle. I never win anything, and I’ve taken enough statistics classes to know not to buy lottery tickets. But this was a raffle for charity, so I bought my ticket and held the stub in my hand as numbers were called. My legs were trembling so much I had a hard time standing and getting up to the stage to collect my winnings. Four days, all expenses paid in a beautiful hotel on the beach in Cabo San Lucas. Round trip airfare included.

I was a giddy, little kid, giggly with excitement. Sure, I was nervous about leaving Ariela, but I was determined not to spoil our getaway with worry, my normal default position. “She’ll be fine,” I coached myself, knowing that fine was relative for Ariela, and nothing was ever really fine.

Our plan was to leave Ariela with her babysitter, a young woman who had been with us for over six months. I was packed two days before the trip. A few last minute errands, and I would be ready to go. I was driving home from the store. My cell phone rang. “Ariela had a seizure,” the babysitter said. She started to sob. She had seen seizures before but nothing like this one. Her terror tore through the phone. I knew we couldn’t leave Ariela alone with her or with anyone else after that.