Family first. Family always.
“You heard from yo’ momma, yet?”
I didn’t answer. It wasn’t one of those kinds of questions. Every year, she’d start asking it exactly seven days before her birthday.
“If you do, don’t let her get in yo’ head. Ya’ hear me?”
She stood staring at me for a spell ‘fore carrying on her morning cleaning.
“You know how they work. Start coming to ya when you let your guards down; when you feeling soft toward ‘em. You start missing their physical presence and then they start. ‘Come see me,’ they say sweet as sugar. ‘I wanna be with you, too’. You know how they work—you got them same ways,” she said shaking the bundle of white sage harder. “Yes, Ma’am. She’ll have you down in them waters with a gun in yo’ mouth, like her good for nothin’ ass daddy don’ her.”
Her voice broke, and she bowed her head. She held her free hand out to me, and I stood as ordered, bowing my head, too.
“Holy Mother, the Creator of All Life, I come humbly and in submission to yo’ ways. Holy Mother Chava, I beg of you to protect this child and her gifts. Keep ‘em of the light, and not succumb to the darkness. May she know enough hard and enough love. Let her always honor the power of three and the divinity of her womanliness. Amen?”
She always asked.
“Amen,” she concluded and went back to smudging white sage leaves on the windows and doorways.
My name in Keziah Catoire and I am a fourth generation—that I knows of—Intuitive Empath. Mine is the gift of dreams. Some nights I look forward to sleeping, but not ev’ry one of ‘em. My momma’s dead, but it’s like she ain’t. She woke up on my PawPaw’s sixtieth birthday and drove out to the water’s edge of Isle à Jean Charles, where he was laid to rest. She put his forty-five in her mouth and pulled the trigger. Some drunken offshore men taking a shortcut through the native graveyard found her body with half her beautiful face blown off. My Grand-Mère wasn’t even surprised.
“She was too soft for her gifts,” she said to the policeman who brought the news. She bowed her head but shed no tears. I’ll never forget that morning. Mimi closed the door and flopped down in her favorite chair. I think her shoulders shook. Maybe she cried then. She cocked her head and looked at me. A weak smile shivered ‘cross her lips. “It’s the way of this life, Cher. Don’t you feel no ways shame? When you came along, we all knowed, somebody had to go.”
It was my PawPaw, in his grave, who she turned all her fury towards. “She wanted that man too much. And wa’nt nothing more he could do for us. He did his part, and he ain’t have nothing more to offer. I told her in so many ways and so many times. He knowed she wanted him something fierce. He shoulda stayed ‘way,” she said in a faraway tone. She stood, wiped her hands on her apron and went out back to her quiet place. She put a mighty cursing on his family and took great care not to include her offspring.
My Grand-Mère Izelle, who I called Mimi, was indeed gifted. She was a solid kind of woman. She was a darker skinned French Creole, with a glorious head full of corkscrew curls, and copper colored eyes. Save a few strands of honey blonde streaks, her hair matched her eyes and they blended seamlessly with the metallic undertone in her face. The never-ending copper made her look like a bonafide spirit. Those eyes were see through at first glance, and then turned to shiny, new pennies. Folks say my Mimi was born with a veil over her face and that lil’ piece of skin gave her a knack for understanding what folks really meant when they said what they said.
Yes indeed, Izelle Catoire knew exactly what folks wanted; what they yearned for. She knew them well and saw them clear. Mimi used her gift for light. She was easily the most sought after matchmaker in the Parish and for a sizeable investment she’d get you or your people a fitting match, but that was all she was into. If someone came ‘round looking for her to do some harm or break up an already established pair, she had the sweetest way of putting them in their place.
“I ain’t into no mess. My gifts are from the Most High, and I’aint got no intention of using ‘em for the most low. I’on break no hearts, now. You go on in peace, and may the merciful Creator keep you,” she’d say with a sweet smile; then curse them something awful when they was gon’. She’d keep the consultation fee, too! Mimi kept impeccable records of her matches, her money and her grudges—so she wouldn’t soon forget.