Magical Thinking

Magical Thinking

            My mother believed in magic. Saint Anthony and the Virgin stayed with her long after she left Sister Angelina and the convent school in Westwood, California, where she lived for ten years of her adolescence. Though she stopped “practicing” before I was born, those quick little prayers of hers seeped into my childhood memory. Even now, I might call out for a saint to find what is lost and more often than not, the Holy Family’s name is taken not in prayer.

            What my mother did observe was spiritual examination from a mystical confluence of numbers and signs. Devoted to astrology, she insisted on sending me alerts of my future from whatever part of the globe she was living. For twenty years, London’s Daily Mail was my regular source of what was going to happen to me next. Little clippings, inserted in the tissue thin airmail letters of correspondence, pointed the way. Once, for Christmas, I received a twenty-page chart with astrological drawings of exactly what each month of the new year held for me.

            I can’t deny that there were times in my life that a little magical thinking helped. Just to know that things were “looking up” despite Mercury being in retrograde gave me a positive outlook. I asked her once: how was it that everyone born in October had the same future. Maybe it was after this heart felt query, she spent a small fortune on a chart that was based on my exact time of birth and the longitude and latitude of New York City. 

My mother wanted to know the birthday of every boyfriend, and, of course, once I was married my husband’s future was a constant source of revelation.

            A stranger would say they are Gemini, and my mother would raise her eyebrows, sigh, and begin a quick assessment, with a little advice tossed in for good measure.

Astrology was always there, but for a while numerology was added. Tarot readings lasted several years. Finally, it was the palm that begged for her devotion. 

“The right is what you are born with, the left is what you make of your life,” she always started. She would curl my hand into hers and look for creases below my pinky finger. “You will have two children, she pointed to the folds. Holding my palm open, she looked for mounds and crosses that signified wealth. “There, you see,” she said, as she directed me to one line or another.

I often watched her take the hand of a new acquaintance, turning it over in hers, and begin to read. They were enraptured. No one ever pulled away. Maybe it was her touch as she traced her finger across their palm, or maybe it was that they were getting so much attention and energy from her.

It would be interesting if we, unknowing sleep walkers, have destinies  based on the latitude and longitude of where we were born and what stars were in a certain position in the heavens at the hour of our birth.  

“Pisces – With a great dose of idealism, you often imagine that the world is in the palm of your hand.

My mother was born on March nineteenth, Pisces on the cusp of Aries or rebirth. She died ten years ago in June at the age of eighty-six. On the first  anniversary of her death, a robin crashed into our patio window. Unfazed the bird lingered on a branch and then moved to the railing of our deck. It waited until it was duly noticed. That might have been a coincidence, but the following year, and for two years after that, on the same date, a robin flew against the window and appeared to be expecting me to recognize her.


This essay is being published in the print anniversary edition of Beyond Words International Literary Magazine (November 2021)

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