Photo:The Husband and I are thinking about paint for the house, and that means that there are little color swatches just like this all over the house for us to contemplate. Some of the little sheets, though, have been falling off of the wall and disappearing. I saw to The Husband “I guess you really like blue, hm?” and he says “Oh, I thought you were the one who took the other ones off…” A mystery is (sorta) afoot!
My quiet thoughts are on the realm beyond today. All this week, I’ve been thinking about the ghosts in the house. When one of the lights flickered in the hallway yesterday morning, I thought that there was a new presence in my life… and I was expecting a phone call with bad news. Ursa Major noticed the flicker as well, and he noticed that I noticed it. “What’s wrong, mommy? Is something wrong with the light?” I scrunched up my face in contemplation. “No, not necessarily. Mommy doesn’t know what that was. Mommy has some suspicions, but Mommy doesn’t really know.” I explained that mommy’s of southern birth have a little bit of magic… that we see things and know things… but that said magic must mature with age. I’m happy to say that I received no news yesterday. The flickering bulb wasn’t a disturbance in the force… just simply a flicker of current the hallway. But it brought it back to the front and center of my mind—the ghosts who follow me wherever I go.
Aside from my Christian faith (or maybe in addition to my Christian faith), I believe in spirits, ghosts, or a connection with ancestors from the beyond. I believe that there is the presence of ancestral spirits who are with me all day every day. I can feel my grandfather with me when I’m cooking, telling me to add this or that, or wait a little longer for something to brown. I can see his smile of satisfaction when something comes out of the oven perfectly. I can feel my great-grandmother’s disappointment when my floors are dirty, and I can feel her push when I get up off the couch to wipe up something or move something. I can see my paternal grandfather’s eyes narrowing when someone says something to me that is an obvious lie. I can hear him whisper, “Does she think you have the word ‘stupid’ written across your forehead?” I could hear their collective steps walking behind me every time I took a degree out of a college dean’s hands and crossed a stage in triumph. And just when I think I’m going to lose my mind with these little boys, some ancestor makes them smile or laugh or do something that makes me forget that motherhood is a frustrating occupation. I walk with God and I try do live by his tenants, and I know that he loves me (a post for another time), but I also know that there are others around, too.
So when my carpenters told me in all seriousness that a spirit resides in my house, the spirit of the man who built this place some 100 years ago, I believed them. I knew it to be true. There is a spirit in my house, and he lets me know that he’s here.
Mr. Cole, the patriarch of the family who lived in this house for 100 years, may not be in the house all the time, but he’s certainly watching over it. I think that he helped me find it, and I think that he helped us get it when the process got bad and we thought we weren’t going to make it. When the work was getting done and we were making decisions about what to do to make improvements, I think that he was listening in. Sometimes at night, when the radiators are on, there is a clanking that comes from the dining room that strongly resembles the sound of a man hammering. Right now, The Husband and I are thinking about what colors we want for the house, and we’ve posted different colors on different walls. Slowly but surely, certain color pallets have fallen off the walls at random times while others have hung tight. I can just hear him saying, “You didn’t really think you were going to paint this room purple, did you?”
I’m excited about my new ghost. I don’t think that he’s here necessarily for me or for the boys or for The Husband. I think that he pops in to see how we are treating his house, making sure that we are people worthy of it. I think that as long as we’re here, giving the house the reverence and care that it deserves, he’ll look upon us favorably.
It’s both a wonderful and scary thing to walk around with a trail of ghosts behind me. I wonder about what opportunities I’ve earned and what others some ancestor cashed in a favor for on my behalf. Is that a silly thing to wonder? I tell people often that a few ancestors pooled their favors together to get me into grad school. I’ve often expressed that I think I disappointed them with my performance—I didn’t continue on for my doctorate, I wasn’t particularly impactful during my year there, and I’m not so sure that I used my time wisely while I was there. It isn’t to say that I didn’t study or perform well—I got good grades and I got a job, for goodness sake—but did I do enough? Was their investment in me worthwhile? In my moments of sadness or frustration, when I’m angry or even lazy, I wonder if they are shaking their heads at me in disappointment. Here was the one who we were excited about, yet here she sits, being a brat! How much my great-grandmother, a woman who scrubbed floors in white homes in segregated Maryland, must scoff at me and scorn me when I’m frustrated about something trivial! Then again, I know that she smiles at me when she sees me pick up the same damn toy for the 100th time this week, or when I get that boy to preschool on time even though he woke up late, or when I trick them into eating that spinach by sneaking it into something I know they’ll eat. I’m not sure that I live my life for the purpose of pleasing my ghosts… but to know that my actions may well honor them or make them happy brings me a feeling of warmth.
Are there ghosts in your life, reader? Do you know them? Do you feel them? Do you think me odd for having a few of my own? My quiet thoughts are about the ghosts that move around everyone’s homes. Are we a world filled with ghosts? Will we, someday, become ghosts ourselves? What do the words “fate” or “luck” mean to you? Do we earn everything we have in this life or is there something more beyond us all?
On this Friday, the first Friday of Spring, I wish you the assurance that something warm is coming. And something green. And something that smells sweet and inviting. I wish you the opportunity to step out into the world and smell the wet soil and hear life being brought back to the world. I wish you a bird just outside of your window singing only for you. I wish you the stem of a flower bursting forth from the ground or a red bud on a branch of a tree you always walk past appearing purely to give you hope that the warmth of life is returning. I wish you a plate of something fresh and crisp served with something warm and cozy, artfully and lovingly prepared. I wish you a cracked window with the screen down, allowing sweet, sweet spring into your home. I wish you an unexpected smile, a hello sorely needed, a hearty handshake or a lingering hug. I wish you the friendly encouragement of something beyond your vision and understanding, bringing you one step closer to where you want to be. And joy. Always joy.
Until Monday, take care.