While the littles and I were visiting my dear Aunt a couple of days ago, they came across this in her play closet and pulled it out for me to see.
Suddenly I was our Princess’ age, and I held out my hands, barely able to say the words, “Hand it to me. Please.” But I did eke them out, and she handed it over. My hands, the same ones that held it over thirty years ago, immediately set to work solving the puzzle without my brain really putting any work into it. I had done it so many times before, so long ago, that the memory of how seemed to be in my fingers.
And then it was done.
I asked my Aunt how long it had taken me, still dazed and overwhelmed with the memories that came up unexpectedly.
She laughed. “Let’s go with 87 seconds.”
I’ve still got it.
I did finally let my littles play with it.
In those moments of first seeing it and working the puzzle out, I was transformed back to this place, my Granny’s house. And once again, my heart ached with the longing for that place, that time, when things were simple and my worst fear was losing one of Granny’s matchbox cars in a frog house or…..nope, that’s it. I loved everything there from waking up to Honeycombs and milk to sleeping on a pallet made of her old quilts in the living room with my cousins. I miss it, her, those days.
So much so that yesterday I found myself taking a quick detour. I turned left off the main road and drove up that old dirt road, the same one I first rode my bike solo on. And there, in the midst of some overgrown grass, was one of the houses that built me. I got out of my vehicle and stood, not wanting to go any closer and disturb the memories that are tucked away inside. I just looked and remembered. I could almost hear the sound of children playing and cows mooing and Granny calling us in for dinner. I could feel the warmth of the sun through the window and from the old heater at our backs.
Today, being Halloween and all, some folks like to talk about ghosts and “haints,” as some of my favorite writers call them. Folks like to tell scary stories and sit on the edge of their seats until there’s nothing left to do but scream, run away, or pass out.
Growing up, we used to tell the story of the 13 steps over and over during this time of year. There were others that were passed around from one to another, but as I grow older, I know that ghosts are real.
The ghosts of the past–the memories of times there at my Granny’s are very real. If I had opened the door to that house, had it been okay, I might have seen us gathered around a Monopoly board on the floor, my three older cousins and myself. I would have heard us challenging each other to do the puzzle, and the one with the smile that was so much like his Daddy’s, once again, he’d be here, and not gone. And I would take more time to memorize his face, his voice, and to tell him how much I always was in awe of him.
I would have seen the cabinet over in the corner, with the Tupperware containers of cereal inside. The bowls on the shelf in the kitchen, waiting for us to pull one down and fill up each morning–was breakfast ever more fun that at her house? With the anticipation of what we had planned for the day and the smell of sunshine enticing us to hurry up and eat so we could head outside for hours and hours, with only a little more than our imaginations and each other to play with.
The sounds of laughter and the weekday afternoon Gunsmoke theme song might have echoed off the walls in the living room. The breeze blowing through the window in the front bedroom was the sweetest I’ve ever felt. Thinking about it now makes me weep, longing to be there in that exact moment when I looked up from my newfound copy of Witch of Blackbird Pond and saw the white curtain billowing perfectly away from the window as the breeze bowed, danced, and dipped the curtain, as though they were partners at a fancy ball. It took my breath then over thirty-five years ago, and it still does now.
Ghosts are real, but they don’t scare me. I am surrounded by them every day. Memories and sounds and smells and tastes and stories–all lingering from the past. What does scare me more than anything else is the thought of living without so many of those I loved in these memories–for the rest of my life. That knocks the wind out of me. I just have no idea how I’m supposed to do that.
Tonight I’m thankful for the ones who are here, who share my love of the past and also love those who have headed on Home. I give thanks for precious memories, worn paper-thin from my playing them out over and over and over again in my heart. I appreciate the ghosts of the past, and all of the love and comfort I feel when I sit with them for a bit.
Today is All Hallow’s Eve, and tomorrow is All Saint’s Day. A good day to remember and give thanks for those who are no longer with us in the way they once were. Tomorrow I will light a candle and remember. Much as I do every other day. Remember.
Ghosts? Scary Stories?
Light a candle in the darkness, and never forget. It comforts the soul like nothing else, and chases away the fears.
If only for a moment…..
Love to all.