I got scoliosis when I was a teenager. I ended up seeing four doctors about it, two said to operate, two said not to. The one who finally convinced us was the one who said that if they didn’t operate I’d be dead by 40 because my ribcage was rotating so fast that it would eventually puncture my lung. For most girls the growth stops on its own. Mine didn't. When I turned 40 I was depressed at that milestone until I remembered that I might have been dead instead. And not the kind of dead that I am when I
The summer before seeing all those doctors my family went to our place in Paris. My grandparents lived about ten minutes away and knew a woman named Marguerite, who was clairvoyant. Marguerite used to visit and scare the crap out of me and my sister. She told us that she got her powers to see into the future from an old cat who showed up at her apartment one night. The cat then turned into a sea captain and told her he was giving her infinite power but she was to pass it on before she died. Then he turned back into a cat.
My mother took me to Marguerite's apartment once. I only went because I was hoping the cat would start talking or listing to starboard. It did not. About a year before Marguerite died, she told Grandmère she could give her the gift of seeing into the future but my grandmother turned her down. I asked her why and she said that she didn't want to know which of her family or friends was going to die and on what day.
One of our American friends, Carole, used to come by Grandmères with her mother and if Marguerite was there, Marguerite would mutter "pauvre Carole" (poor Carole) under her breath. I asked my mother why she was doing that and my mother said that she must have seen something really bad in store for her. Ten years later Carole committed suicide. Pauvre Carole indeed.
My mother would ask Marguerite about my scoliosis and if I was going to be okay. She would put her hands on my back and say to my mother, “She’ll be fine.”
Marguerite would often take my sister and me to La Cimetière de Montmartre, which was close to where we lived, by the big white church on the hill. Do you think the cat in the Montmartre cemetery photo below could be the sea captain just wandering around? Yeah, me
I got stopped by a cop this morning. He said, “Lady, you can’t park your car here.” And I said, “Oh, like the spaces between these graves are going to be used for something else.”
At one point mom and Grandmère took me to a man who did something called The Laying On Of Handkerchiefs. I can still see the waiting room with all the hopeful and ailing sitting upright in their chairs, fiddling with their jackets, quieting their children as they anxiously waited. They all had handkerchiefs folded into neat piles and placed on their laps. When it was our turn, the man took the handkerchiefs we had brought and did some abracadabra stuff and laid them on my back. I have no idea whether that practice is still going on but since Europeans are particularly steeped in tradition, probably.
My grandmother was a superstitious woman who believed in clairvoyants and cartomanciens, people who can tell the future by reading playing cards. She taught me how to read cards and I made a nice piece of coin off that whenever I was broke because I was really good at it. I actually saved one man from a Sicilian mob hit.
I remember another superstitious trick Grandmère taught us. If we had a dinner guest or a drop-in who wouldn't leave, we took salt and a broom and threw the salt on the floor in front of the entrance and then swept it outside. We used it over and over and over. It never ceased to amaze us that this simple gesture never failed. When I moved to New York, it was a little harder to do since my front door could be seen from the living room, whereas in Paris, the front door was in the entry hall and hidden from the main rooms, where the guests could see us. But I still did it. When I moved to LA it was the end of the Sweeping Salt Trick. Wall to wall carpeting.
End of chat.
Paris, France Montmartre Clairvoyants Cemeteries Cimetiere de Montmartre