LOVE/HATE: NO, MY WRITING ISN’T MY LIFE, IS IT? by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro
Yes, I’m a phone psychic who lives in Great Neck, NY, and Miriam Kaminsky, the heroine of both my novels, Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) and Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012) is a phone psychic from Great Neck NY, but please don’t mistake me for her. Yes, like Miriam, my hair is reddish and curly and my eyes are pale blue and turned up in the corners like my Russian grandma from whom I inherited my gift, but I’m not Miriam Kaminsky. My novels are fiction, not memoirs. I just need the stability of a few “real” things to ground me so that my imagination can light up like a flicked Zippo. No matter how much I try to explain that I’m not Miriam, people have begun to call me by her name and I’m so tired of correcting them that I have begun to answer to it.
But what about my daughter, a deeply private person, who feels as if my fiction has thrown her under a big wave and yanked her out to supposed safety onto a crowded beach with her bathing suit half-off? Yes, my daughter is tall and willowy, and has long, dark, curly hair like Miriam’s daughter, Cara, and she went to an Ivy League school like Cara, but she isn’t Cara. She never ran away from home with a hoodlum when she was a teen as Miriam’s daughter in Miriam the Medium, and although she does have a daughter, my granddaughter isn’t psychic like Miriam’s. Yes, my daughter had terrible arguments with me about my being a psychic. Who could blame her? In elementary school, a kid swiped one of my business cards from my office, brought it to class, and my daughter had to deal with chants about her mother being a “witch.” Mostly she was upset when her friends would huddle around me to ask if a boy they liked liked them back. A daughter’s friends should just be interested in her, not her mother! She was the one who earned them, not me. My daughter is part of a big book club, but she’d never recommend my books.
“It’s my life in those books!” she says, even though it isn’t.
“It’s Cara Kaminsky’s life!” I argue.
“Well, nobody’s going to believe that.” she says, and they don’t.
I tell myself that mothers and daughters, each pressing for selfhood, would fight over something else if not writing. My proof is when my daughter’s toddler, who calls herself “the toddler,” screams at her mother for putting a diaper on her because even though she isn’t fully toilet-trained, she knows her older sibs don’t wear diapers or when my daughter has to put snow boots on her instead of the ballet slippers she’s devoted to. And as “the toddler” gets bigger, so will the rifts.
No matter what I tell myself, I still am bummed (and so is my daughter) that the core of my fiction springs from my psychic life and I would either have to stop writing or learn to accept this and trust that my daughter will as well.
One day she confided, “Mom, reading your books are just like talking to you. It makes me feel less lonely for you.”
Maybe, in my hereafter, instead of having to pay a medium to reach me, she’ll pick up one of my books. And wouldn’t that be the best legacy of all?
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is the author of Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) and Kaylee’s Ghost (RJS Books, 2012.) She has chronicled her psychic work in The New York Times (Lives) and Newsweek (My Turn). Articles have been written about her gift in Redbook, The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times Long Island Section and in the Dutch magazine, TV Gid. Aside from her psychic practice, she teaches writing at UCLA Extension. You can find her on twitter @rjshapiro.
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