My three year old looked solemnly at me last night, and said, “When I lived before, Mummy, you weren’t my Mummy. She was different and her name was Ella.”
It’s not the first time she’s spoken about her ‘past life’, and not the first time shivers have run down my spine at hearing her discuss her apparent previous existence.
Maggie has been increasingly been talking of her past life over the last two months or so; it started with little throwaway comments like ‘when I lived before’, or ‘it wasn’t like this before’. She would ‘recognise’ places we were driving through even though we were pretty sure that she hadn’t been there previously. But as she has become more articulate, and is able to describe more, so her stories have become more significant and, dare I say it, realistic.
“My name was Olivia. My Daddy, John. I had three sisters; Lavender, Grace and Rosie. My brother was little Jonny, like my Dad’, she tells us, keenly, and earnestly. “We lived together, in a big house. I didn’t go to school, I stayed at home. I had to be nice, and not get cross, and do things at home. My sisters and I played chase in the garden. I was taller then. Sometimes I had to look after my little sisters, like once when my mummy and daddy went to a wedding.”
We are careful not to prompt, but it’s hard not to because it’s so fascinating. We want to test the things she says, to prod and poke and find out more so that we can look things up and get an idea of what she’s talking about. We ask open ended questions like, what did you wear? Where did you live? What was your name? Where did your parents go? She always has an answer, that feels weirdly plausible. When she was little she wore quite a long dress, it was a bit princess-y with gloves, and brown boots when they played outside, they had to go to travel to China for a while but came back after a ‘some years’ and lived in the big house.
She also talks very frankly about dying. This started with comments like ‘if you die Mummy, I won’t see you again’. Then it became “when I died, I didn’t see my mum again.” Now she tells us that she died when she was little. There was a car crash at night, in the fog as they drove through a wood. Her whole family died in the crash. She can’t remember exactly how old she was when it happened, but she was just a bit bigger than her eldest cousin who is twelve, but not a ‘bigger girl’ than that. The next thing she knew, she was Maggie. And she likes being Maggie more than she liked being Olivia. She misses her parents, but it’s okay, because then she got Kate and Matt. Us.
I know. I know what you are thinking and of course I’m thinking the same, a lot of the time. She has a massive imagination, and she’s always playing ‘in’ a game. She’s no doubt picked a lot up from the television, or from books, or things her sister says and talks about. But then there is that thing. You know when people say that someone they know is an ‘old soul’. It’s that, the old soul thing. It’s hard to explain but she doesn’t feel ‘new’. She reminds me so much of my Granny though, maybe it’s because of that that she feels like an ‘old soul’. Her eyes are as big and deep as lagoons and she has so many phrases that feel ‘older’ than she is. My brain tells me logically it’s rubbish, but my heart believes her when she gets cross with me saying it’s her ‘madey-up story’. Could there really be something there that means that she has lived before, that her story isn’t just a story, but rather a memory that she has recalled and is telling us now?
If you look on the internet, there are pages and pages of children’s ‘past life’ accounts and a strong belief by many that children have the ability to tap into a previous life and remember in a way that adults don’t, or perhaps just forget over time. I don’t know what we believe really, other than when we ask Maggie if it’s just a story she likes to tell us, she insists it’s real, and that it’s a secret that grown ups don’t understand.
Maybe, just maybe, Maggie really has been here before; this little ‘old soul’.
About Kate Dyson
Founder of The Motherload®. Wife, mum to two girls, two cats and shit loads of washing in baskets that sit around the house waiting to be ironed. It never happens.Hater of exercise, denier of weight gain, lover of wine. Feminist.
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Image credit: Kate Dyson