I’m dancing with ghosts this week. That’s right, ghosts!
I’m clearing out my childhood home and everything I look at or touch has a memory attached to it. My mother designed this house and my father built it. They are in every nail and board. We moved in when I was four, so it’s really the only house I remember.
Downstairs, under the carpet, my little footprints, less than three inches long, remain painted on the floor. I awoke from my nap one summer afternoon and, never one to like to miss anything, was in a hurry to find out what my mother was doing. She was painting one of the bedrooms downstairs and when I flew through the door, so happy to have found her; I knocked the paint can off the ladder. The paint felt so deliciously cool on my feet that I splashed around in it for awhile. Those tiny footsteps lead all the way up the steps, up which I fled with my mother’s shocked and angry voice chasing me.
That open space in front of the picture windows is where we always put our Christmas tree. The ornaments are stored in a box, with my mother’s perfect handwriting labeling its contents as such. The “Christmas Ornaments” box has a lot of company. There are similar boxes stacked from floor to ceiling on the shelves in the basement, all with that familiar handwriting accurately labeling each. “Fabric” sits snuggly between “Art Supplies” and “Wrapping Paper.”
My mission, although I don’t recall ever actually being asked and agreeing to it, is to go through every one of those boxes. When a parent dies everyone tells you about the sadness and grief and missing you’ll feel, but they don’t ever mention the ghosts. They don’t tell you about having to deal with everything left behind in these lives well lived.
It has been over six years since my father died and a little over a year since my mother’s passing. It’s time. It’s time for me to begin opening and sorting through the remnants of my parents’ lives. It’s time to go through, not only the boxes, but each drawer and every closet and determine what stays and what goes. I have to do this because everything in this house meant something to someone who meant the world to me.
One of the things I’ve been amazed to learn in this process is that, when you’re dancing with ghosts it is possible to cry and smile at the same time.
Oh my.. a universal AMEN to that! It looks like you are sitting on a seed pod with the inspiration for a lifetime of wonderful short stories. And the “crying and smiling at the same time”,,, truly an honor to those lives lived well.
Thanks, Phil!! I so appreciate you reading and commenting!! LA
This is an amazing piece. Very true, I remember cleaning out Syl’s studio after she died. And her office at work. I had a friend who used to have this quote on his wall.
How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you – you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences-little rags and shreds of your very life. – Katherine Mansfield: The Memories of LM
Thank you!! I love the quote! And thanks for reading and commenting! LA
Thanks Louann, Beautifully worded and so true…Hug!
What a brave, graceful dance it is, my friend. I do believe the music of your loved ones lives on in you. Many, many thanks for sharing this with all of us.
It brings back my own time finishing my Mothers last chapter in her Fla. retirement apartment. Pages and pages of first drafts.
She too was a writer. I have the first thing she had published. A little filler from True Confession named “Two in the tub” about saving water.
Good Luck! Even 3 1/2 yrs later, it is still hard to go through anything of Dad’s. To see pictures of him with my niece and nephew. To think about him this time of year with Relay For Life. It WILL bring back great memories though.