COUSIN LULA’s GIFT by Rita Bay

As a young girl my grandmother and her younger sister often visited their married older sister. One of their stays coincided with a visit from Cousin Lula from “up the country” which was probably a couple of counties north of Mobile. Cousin Lula was a tiny old lady who had a certain “gift.” She could talk to the “spirits”—and they talked back. She claimed to be able to place her hands on a table, ask a question, and the table would rap out the answer. (one rap = A or No, two raps = B or Yes,  and so on).

Of course, Gramma and Aunt Mary believed none of it until one evening when Cousin Lula was convinced to demonstrate her gift. She sat at the dining room table with everyone gathered around and placed her hands on the table. The family asked a few questions and the table, my Gramma swears, actually moved to answer. Convinced that there was some kind of hoax occurring, Gramma and Aunt Mary both sat on the table and dared Cousin Lula to do her best. When the table lifted despite their combined weights, Gramma admitted to making a quick exit out of the dining room with her sister following close behind.

After they finally got up the courage to return, Gramma—never one to look a gift horse in the mouth—asked if there was a treasure in the house. To her delight, the table rapped our “yes” and said that it was near the fireplace in the kitchen. When the demonstration was finished, Gramma and Aunt Mary rushed to the kitchen. They started prying up the floorboards around the fireplace, even though the house was a rental and their older sister wasn’t especially happy with them. When unexpected guests arrived, however, they were ordered to stop and put everything back in place. They weren’t allowed to pursue their quest for treasure later and the incident was forgotten.

Was there a treasure or had a room full of people been deceived somehow by a little old lady? Well, decades later—after Gramma was married, her husband’s family home where she lived was located one block from her sister’s old rental house. When the house was being torn down, a box filled with gold coins was discovered near the fireplace in the kitchen—just where Cousin Lula said it would be. When she told the tale to me as a child, Gramma swore it was true. Mama swears she heard the same story from others who were present—and Mama doesn’t lie.

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