by Kelly Everding
If you’ve ever watched Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal, a reality TV show that helps children who suffer through the uninvited attention of ghosts, you know that a common theme runs through each show: fear and helplessness followed by eventual acceptance, empowerment, and confidence. And that is basically the theme running through Michael Bodine’s Growing Up Psychic, although Bodine adds a healthy dose of humor, self deprecation, and a little bit of rage to the formula. In this compulsively readable memoir, we learn about Bodine’s introduction to the shadowy world of the dead starting as a six-year-old in 1960s-1970s Minneapolis, Minnesota, along with his more famous older sister psychic/healer Echo Bodine. Theirs was not a typical childhood, as creepy visitations jolted them out of their picture-perfect upper middle class lives and deposited them soundly in the world of channelers, mediums, crystal gazers, and the like. Much like the children of Psychic Kids, Bodine resented the weirdness and was afraid of what his friends and others outside his household would think of him and his family. “I just wanted it to be normal. I was tired of the people, the church, the noises, the smells, the things moving around. I didn’t want to talk about reincarnation, life after death, or poltergeists. . . . I wanted to look at someone and not see colors all around them. And it would be nice to come home from school and not have one of my family members possessed.”
Bodine’s humor and snarky voice leavens the terrifying things he experiences throughout his childhood into young adulthood and beyond. His ambivalence borders on disbelief, even with the proof right before him. Regardless of the cool aspects of his gift (such as Jerry, a boy spirit who attaches himself to Michael—although this friendship turns a bit ugly later on), Bodine fights these powers tooth and nail, eventually succumbing to alcohol, drugs, and delinquency to escape them. The family pretty much falls apart. His mother, a stalwart embracer of the paranormal and gifted psychic in her own right, invites the strange psychic community into her home, but finds that she can’t keep her marriage together. When Michael’s father leaves, the money eventually dries up and the Bodines are reduced to a comparatively poor existence. At the age of fourteen, Michael entered into addiction treatment at a place called Pharm House. When he returns home from one such meeting, he explodes, “I don’t want this shit. . . . If it’s a gift then where do I exchange it? If I can’t exchange it, show me how to block it out.”
Despite the psychic camps, possessions, ghost busting (well before the movies came out), and his self-destructive tendencies, Michael Bodine somehow comes out the other end a successful psychic, a consultant to the stars (this book features a great introduction by comedian Lewis Black). He eschews any new age-y or spooky clichés, but rather favors blunt assessments, emphasizing his grounded and genuine personality. Michael’s just a normal guy who helps people with his exceptional—and nonreturnable—gifts.
Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2011 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2011