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According to legend and prophecy, this child would possess the second sight.
It is April in Alberta. Three days’ worth of snow accumulates on the front walk. The snow keeps falling, and the robins sing their song of spring and confusion from the heavy branches of the snowy cherry tree in the backyard. Peat pots filled with soil and seeds are lined up in a window in my daughter’s bedroom—the sunniest corner of the house—and the first sprout appeared yesterday: the shoot of a pumpkin plant, its skinny green neck unfurling in our warm bright house in this winterspring. Steve has gone backcountry skiing, and Sylvie decorates Easter eggs at my parents’ house.
Ben sleeps. This morning he tromped through the living room singing the song of a new walker: guttural, euphoric and drooly. In two weeks he will be one year old. The story of his birth is part myth: born in the caul, the midwives say, which means my water never broke. When I pushed him out he arrived still held in the amniotic sac he’d been swimming in inside of me. The sac was intact—strong and translucent—and the midwives punctured it with their fingers and peeled it away in one quick motion. He was wet and wriggly in my arms. He started to cry and then hunted for my nipple, his little mouth puckered and strong.
Earlier, crouched on the floor between contractions, I’d asked my midwife if I should be worried that my water hadn’t broken. “No,” she said. “It’s rare, but sometimes it doesn’t. Supposed to be good luck. Sailors say a baby born in the caul will never drown.” Some days after Ben’s birth this curious prediction stayed with me, and so I looked up “born in the caul” and discovered a whole world of prophecies. A baby born in the caul will always be able to find water underground, know when weather patterns will change, predict plentiful food supplies. They are destined to be witches, midwives or kings. They possess the second sight.
Faced with a rich history of omens and fables, I felt a kind of poverty about my own cultural tradition. I am Canadian, and my lineage traces back through a mishmash of mostly European ancestors. My parents raised me to have faith in myself, not a singular deity. And my experience of elder figures sharing their wisdom and stories is limited to summer holidays visiting my grandparents on the west coast. My history with history is a flawed romance. With no one tradition to draw from, what is destined for my little caulbearer?
Sylvie slept through Ben’s birth. The next morning she padded down the hall to our bedroom. When she came through the door I said, “Sylvie, the baby came out of Mommy’s tummy!” He was swaddled and tucked in bed between Steve and me. She was cautious. She walked to the bed slowly, but when she caught sight of him her face opened like a window.
One baby, two babies, now we are four. Magic weavers, story stealers, we are what came before.