Verona’s Birthday Present to YOU
NOVEMBER 1, 2013 Last Day to download a FREE E-Book off Amazon
& a special birthday excerpt from HIGH
This excerpt from HIGH: The Way of an Eagle is when Verona learns the story of her birth from her Irish grandmother (she calls Newma). I took the quatrefoil picture in St. Nicholas Cathedral in Galway, Ireland two years ago this month:
“You know the story of your birth, right?”
I knew I was born in Galway when my mother rushed across the ocean to see her dying aunt, my Newma’s sister, Claire. I came three weeks early. I told her what I’d heard: How at the precise moment Aunt Claire died, my mother went into labor. “My mother told me that I was born as Aunt Claire died.” Mean- ing, it’s no secret. Newma and her other sisters told her to name me Claire, but the woman with the normal name—Cheryl— thought it would be too creepy.
“Do you know what day that was?”
I wanted to say, Who doesn’t know their own birthday? but thought it would sound too sarcastic. “November first.”
“Well, of course you know the date. I’m referring to the day. It’s a special Holy day.”
Day? Date? What’s the difference? I say, “I’m not sure what you mean, Newma.”
“It’s the feast of All Saint’s. The second day of Hallowtide.” “You mean the day after Halloween?” Having my birthday right after Halloween meant that all my birthday parties were masquerades. My parents insisted that it made sense to combine the two, which meant where most kids’ birthday parties meant balloons, candles, games, and presents, I got princesses, werewolves, witches, and ghosts. Instead of streamers, I got cobwebs and bats and spiders. When I pointed this out, my mother said I should be happy I wasn’t one of those kids born on Christmas. Who’d want her birthday upstaged by someone who’d been dead for two thousand years?
“Halloween, the modern way to say All Hallows Eve or Hallowmas, falls on the ancient Celtic feast of Samhain. This day historically marked the end of the harvest, the end of the light days and the beginning of the dark days. It was a time to remember loved ones who had died, and a time to slaughter the beasts. But you were born early in the morning of All Hallows, which we now call All Saints Day.”
“That’s interesting, but not a secret. What does that have to do with my visions?”
“After you were born, you mother, poor dear, was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Not just because of your birth, dear, but because she so loved her Aunt Claire. The doctors gave her medicine to assure that she’d sleep like the dead. That’s when I took you.”
She took me? “You took me? Where? Why? I’ve never heard about this.”
“I brought you back hours before she woke up. She never knew. If she did, there’s no telling—”
“But, Newma. Why did you take me?”
“Darling, you were born on All Saint’s Day. It’s a known omen. Being born on a high holiday like that means you’re special. I took you to be blessed, to be consecrated to God.”
Now I know why this was a secret she had to keep from my mom. My mother and Newma had had many fights over religion. When I was only seven, my mother fired my Newma from babysitting me after school because, in my mother’s words, she was filling my mind with superstitious nonsense. Newma and I were both brokenhearted, but my mother insisted she never try to influence me again. That’s when Dad started working from home. “Where did you take me?”
“I bundled you in the hospital blankets and hid you under my mac. It was quite a circuitous route to the Cathedral, and it was storming so bad and you were such a wee thing, I prayed the whole way you wouldn’t catch your death…”
“St. Nicholas’ Cathedral?” I remembered passing this cathe- dral many times when walking from the shops of Galway to the waterfront to feed the swans.
“Aye. The priest, Father Burns, God bless him, died the fol- lowing year after a terrible bout with lung cancer. But that’s a story for another day. At the altar he waited, smelling like the bar he’d just come from, with one of the nuns who cleaned the church, Sister Agatha—or was it Agnes? Either way, the poor dear’s face was a maze of scars—like she’d fallen into a fire.”
“What did they do to me?”
“Well, I unwrapped you and handed you to the sister. I don’t think you were sleeping, but your eyes were closed. She set you on the altar. Father Burns prayed over you, then dipped his thumb into the holy water and blessed your forehead. That’s the usual way. But then he did something that made me think he’d gotten himself fluthered.”
“Drunk. No secret, the good father favored the Jameson.” Newma got quiet, like she was remembering something and wanted to get it completely right.
“Yes? What did he do?”
“He dipped his forefinger into the holy water again and touched your eyelids.”
“They don’t usually do that?”
“No. The sister gave him a look when he dipped his finger, wondering what he was doing. Then he touched your eyes and made the sign of the cross over you. Your eyes flashed open, and at the same time, a great light beamed from an old quatrefoil on the wall, one that’d been there forever, but I’d never noticed. The light surrounded you, like you were cradled in it, embraced by warmth. You reached for something only you could see, and the light disappeared…”
“Father pulled his hand away and Sister blessed herself, but we were staring at the quatrefoil on the wall. The source of the light.”
“Why? What was it?”
“It was an eagle.”
We both got quiet for a long time.
“What do you think happened?” I finally asked.
“Father Burns said it was a flash of lightening that reflected off the eagle quatrefoil. But when Sister pressed him, he couldn’t explain why he’d touched your eyes. I remember the sister smiling like she knew something, but wasn’t inclined to tell us. I was more anxious to get you back to the hospital before your mother woke up than to try to figure out what had happened. After all, it only lasted a second or two. I thought, maybe it was just the lightning. But now… these eagle visions. Verona, you’re right not tell your mother. She won’t understand. Find someone else to confide in—someone whose heart isn’t closed to the supernatural. Because that’s exactly what this is. Supernatural.”