My mother was a fortune teller, clairvoyant, reader of palms, cards and might even have had a few chicken bones hidden away somewhere. She had been plying her trade for many years around all the local markets and fairs telling gullible people their future!
The first thing that I remember is being in this tent contraption stuck at the back with her all dressed in a gypsy costume in black with beads and a headscarf, sitting at a table talking to people. I might have been in a stroller or a crib, it doesn't matter now. Later on I can definitely remember playing with my toy cars, brmm, brmming quietly while she mumbled some nonsense out of sight.
The tent which was tiny had just two chairs and a card table covered with a velvet throw on which her tools of trade; the regulation glass ball, tarot and playing cards together with other paraphernalia. On the outside of the tent mystic symbols of the planets and other weird signs were sewn and at the entrance was a painted blackboard and easel stating "Olive the Oracle."
Later on as I grew older and wandered around I took more notice of her clientele. What a bunch of hopeful suckers they were. Of course some came just for fun, giggling teenagers hoping for a hint of impossible romances or careers. Others though, seriously needed help, a young married mother hoping for clue to her future offspring, people looking for happier times and yet others who came for reassurance. Then there were those who had a secret fear of illness either for themselves or loved ones. They didn't say as much they just assumed my mother would know what was troubling them and offer a solution.
She in her turn would prattle along, voicing generalities and quite often miss the point, miss their grief, miss their anxiety and be unable to read their minds. But I could!
Sometimes as I sat there just out of sight I could sense when one of the customers really had a problem. Men rarely came to the tent, but once one did sit down and asked her to read his fortune. He must have noticed me at that point, playing with Lego or some other toy and just for a moment our eyes met and I read immediately that he was in trouble over money and was getting in difficulties. Mum however was ranting on, smiling at him, reading the cards and telling him what he wanted to hear about being bold and adventurous. Meanwhile I was screaming inwardly, "Sell now, before it gets worse." How did I know that? I saw it in his eyes.
Another time a sad looking woman came in and asked about her future family and how many babies she would have. This time mum held her hand and traced her finger over the lines on her palm and told her something positive every time, but couldn't see if they were going to be girls or boys, perhaps one of each! At that point the woman noticed me playing and smiled a weak smile at me. I wish she hadn't. Her eyes said it all, her husband beat her and she suspected he was having an affair. She just wanted children as an insurance. Why couldn't my mother see all that too it was as plain as plain to me.
The only time I felt she did right when a mother brought her little daughter in with her. "What was her little girl going to be? " she asked. Luckily my Mum reached over to the little girl and touched her cheek, then held her hand and told her that she thought she would be a ballet dancer. The little girl was delighted, clapped her hands then she spied me playing with a Transformer toy. Our eyes met and I knew at once she was dying so I looked away again quickly.
Those days have long gone now, with the tent and the fairs and the customers and their vain dreams. As I grew up I was given the name "shifty" as I would never look people directly in their eyes. I once thought of being a customs official but that was only a foolish whim. But there is one person whose eyes I can look in quite closely and they are yours. When I look into them I am overwhelmed, I see the love you have for me, your need for me and that undying trust. I know without a word between us when you want me to touch you, I know when to laugh with you and when to weep. I have learned that it hurts to look too deeply in others eyes, except yours.