Decades ago my mom would go to Coney Island with her family. They would just go to the beach and hang out. They wouldn’t go on any rides as my mom would get sick on them. They wouldn’t go into the water as she didn’t know how to swim. She would just hang out on the beach and stare into the sun. Then one day she got into the water. She went in slowly. Then she panicked. She started to drown. My aunt, a little fireball at 4’11”, dove into the water and pulled my mother out.
My mother was forever grateful to her sister. So much so that she named me after my aunt. Although, I am Mimi and she is not. I am grateful to be named after my aunt. She is a fighter; always has been. She is good-hearted and has a funny laugh. My laugh, as I have been told, is quite unique. I am joyful. Why wouldn’t I be? My mom was saved early on and I was brought into the world.
Besides being grateful to my aunt forever more, my mother also believed that she had been close to dying. She always remembered that sensation and was frightened and motivated by it. She never wanted to get near the beach water again. She didn’t want to me go anywhere near the ocean water. She was severely frightened when I told her that I had to pass a drown-proofing course at boarding school in order to graduate high school. She would ask me each week how the class was going. I didn’t dare tell her of the time I had to swim in the 12 foot deep pool with my hands tied behind my back. If I had there was no way she could ever sleep and she probably would have found a way to go and pull me out of the school.
As a result of her extreme fright at nearly dying, she also felt that it had opened up her to being able to see ghosts. There are many that believe that if they have a near-fatal experience they reach a state of being in which they are attuned with the other-world. She believed in the existence of ghosts and she believed she could interact with them. I grew up believing that if I looked in a mirror at night, I would be able to catch a ghost staring back at me. The way popular culture talks about having a “spidey sense” (imminent danger), my mom talked about having a ghost sense. My mother was’t alone in such a belief. Over 33% of Americans believe that ghosts exists. If you watch late night television you would think that percentage is more like 80% considering the high number of television shows dedicated to ghost hunting.
My mom believed that there were many nice ghosts similar to those in Beetlejuice. She would, at times, look to them for ways to go about living in the shared space. In one apartment in the South Bronx, my mother was convinced that an elderly female ghost would hang out in the corner of the living room. I thought I once saw this ghost but I also had 103 fever and was in extreme pain.
I didn’t necessarily believe my mother’s ghost stories. Ghost stories were certainly entertaining at times. While skeptical, I loved the ghost stories and they have stayed with me. I was her companion and she was mine. I only wish we had once gone camping and shared these stories over a campfire and maybe had caught a ghost in the wind.