Some of the people I feel closest to and some of the people I admire the most only vaguely know that I have an affinity for the paranormal. Indeed, some of them might not be aware of it at all, unless they have started reading my blog.
It has been there throughout my life, from a very, very early age. Through my youth, I spoke of it only rarely because well, in the beginning, I was a toddler, and I didn’t know enough to talk about it. I just observed that things that I noticed, my parents didn’t. So it went unsaid. And then, it was the 1970s (and even the 1980s, although this story doesn’t cover the 80s). As much as the culture seemed to be one of “anything goes”, America really wasn’t a very accepting culture back then. And of course, I went to church, in search of something (that I never found), so that experience put a filter on my mouth about the truth of what my life was like.
As far as my memory goes, my first awareness of the paranormal was when I was three, when we lived in The House in Front of the Tomb. (You can read more about The House in Front of the Tomb if you look in the archive under February 2019.) But really, my life in the paranormal must have gone back further than that.
Dad told me that when we lived in “the house on 38th Street” in San Diego, my brother and I both spoke about Shorty. Shorty the Ghost, we called him. I would have been three or more likely two years old. It may actually have been my brother who spoke of Shorty, and perhaps I only copied him, as younger sisters do. Regardless, Shorty got the blame for lots of things that happened, like the window slamming shut. I do have blurry memories of living in that little, oddly designed, narrow bungalow with a bathroom that one could only enter from my bedroom or my brother’s bedroom. I also remember that something terrified me at night when we lived there, so I would patter down the hallway and climb into bed with my parents. They managed to wean me off of that habit by playing calm music on the stereo to keep me company.
My connection might have gone back even further than that, to when I was born. I was born in Hawai’i. Our sweet little plantation-style house sat just inside a base, a mile or so away down a lonely road near the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones. This sacred site is located in the piko, or the navel, of O’ahu. We had to drive by it and past Whitmore Village to get to or from our home. I cannot help but wonder if the energy from the Kukaniloko Stones bled out and down the road, or perhaps we carried some of it with us in our little VW bug every time we passed it.
It could even go back to my day of birth. Who knows? The Hawai’ians have a method for making sure that their young respected the ‘āina, or land. Historically, they would do this by burying a child’s placenta, forever connecting a person to the land so that they would always have a home. I am not Hawai’ian. However, Mother told me that the Labor and Delivery and Nursery ward was filled with Hawai’ian aunties, there to love on the new keiki who came into the world. I cannot help but wonder if somehow, these ladies took care to bury the placentae of the new babies as a way of ensuring that the haole grew up to respect their land. I don’t know if that happened, but I can tell you that to this day, no matter where I have lived, Hawai’i has been home in my heart, and my respect for the ‘āina and the history and the culture of the Hawai’ians runs deep.
We moved from Hawai’i to San Diego and then to Okinawa, where our lives settled into the House in Front of the Tomb. I was three. I didn’t know any better — three-year-olds are completely unaware of cultural taboo — so when the babysitter was (not) watching me, I used to go to the tomb to play, with no thought of disrespecting the Okinawan culture. I would come home with my fingers blackened and smelling lovely from playing in the ashes of incense that someone had burned to remember a loved one. (On a side note, I wonder if playing in the ashes at a young age is why I always loved the story of Cinderella?)
It was during this time that my first vivid memory of the paranormal appeared. I had been asleep in my little bedroom, when suddenly I awakened in the middle of the night, wide awake and suddenly conscious of the fact that I had decided to incarnate. I had even picked my parents. I would also astral travel in my sleep, though I didn’t realize I was doing it, frustrated that I would be at one of the local candy stores, reaching for candy from a shelf, but my hand would go through the desired item.
When Mother went to work, we needed a babysitter, and so a girl was hired to come in, Miko, who was half American and half Okinawan. She was…not…a good babysitter. She would turn her eyelids inside out and chase me around the house, which terrified me. She would lure me into a closet, shout “Boogeyman!” at me, and then shut me in. Mostly, she didn’t bother watching me. Once, she had taken me away for the day, and after the day had grown dark and I wanted to go home, she grudgingly walked me back, but only as far as the tomb. From there, she made me go the rest of the way alone. Past a tomb. In the night. And I was three. Miko was a bad person.
And one day, at that same tender age of three, I grew tired of it. I stood outside behind the house, just outside the screen door, seething and glaring through it at her.
I felt someone with me, so I gave into the urge to look up. There stood an elderly Okinawan man, dressed in a plain gray kimono and wearing a tan Kubagasa hat (traditional headgear in Okinawa made from dried leaves from the Chinese fan palm and bamboo). I had seen him before at the tomb. He looked down at me. His face was guarded, but it seemed to me, somehow, that he understood that Miko was awful. He said to me with a heavy accent, “Tell her she’s a bakatare.“
I didn’t bother to ask what it meant. I figured he was the authority here, since he was the oldest. So I opened the screen door and informed Miko. “Miko, you’re a bakatare!”
She jumped up from the sofa, her face livid with anger. I looked up uncertainly to the man to see if I had done right, but he had vanished altogether. Knowing suddenly that I had called her something unpleasant, I took off, running down the street, but I didn’t get farther than the corner when she caught up with me, grabbed me by my waist, lifted me, and beat my hide.
Anyway, those are my first experiences with the paranormal. They have followed me all my life. I have always been frightened of the dark, frightened of hallways (I think I sensed the buildup and movement of energy in them), and have experienced many other ghosts in my life and other paranormal oddities such as glitches in time. I will save those other experiences to share another day.
Huh! A thought just occurred to me. I wonder if that Okinawan man was the ghost who pulled my mom’s middle toe for two years! (Again, see the entry for The House in Front of the Tomb.)
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