How my Mother saw the world….

When I was in grade one, I had a girlfriend named Mary Foudy. In the early fall, I asked my mother if I could go home with Mary after school and play. Now, my mom had met Mary at my house and liked her very much. When she asked “Will Mary’s mom drive you home from school?” I answered, “No, they live so close that Mary’s mom can just walk over and meet us.” You will note that I said her mother can, not her mother will. This is a fine distinction, and a perfect example of how, at age six, I was already a proficient liar. It is also a very clear indication of the time and place that my mother didn’t consider – even for a moment -that Mary’s mother wouldn’t be there after school. But I knew. Mary’s mother worked. For real. At a real job. She was the only mother I knew who worked. It seemed the utmost in grownup responsibility to see Mary’s house key hidden on a string around her neck. If my mother knew that two six year old girls would be walking home and entertaining themselves in an empty house, she would never have let me go. So I lied. I was very excited. We got to Mary’s house without incident (she even let me use her door key – a first for me!) We made ourselves a snack and I felt extremely grown up. Then she suggested we go and play outside. After a few minutes an older boy from her neighbourhood came into her yard. He was carrying a hockey stick. (This was Canada, after all). He said to Mary very slowly… “I know you – I’ve seen you around here.” He turned and stared at me. “But I don’t know her.” Then he swung the stick and hit me in the face. I woke up in Mary’s neighbours house. She was an older woman and more than a little freaked out at my unconscious body and rapidly swelling face. She got my name out of a hysterical Mary and called my mother. My mother arrived quickly and rushed me to the doctor. I recall being woken up through the night so I guess there was a fear of concussion. A greater fear was the state of my eye that couldn’t be checked as the swelling was too great. A few days later, I was still kept home from school and enjoying tea and cinnamon toast in front of the game shows with my mom. My eye was undamaged – certainly very lucky as they told my parents a tiny bit to the right and I would have been blinded.

My black eye after 3 weeks – Mom in Laura Petrie pants

My mom waited a couple of days and then took me over to the house where the offender lived. She knocked on the door and when the father answered she said, “Look what your boy did my to little girl.” The father looked at my bruised and swollen face and called for his son. The boy came around the corner and looked at me. His eyes widened and he turned to run but his father grabbed him and with one hand on the back on his neck, put him on the ground. With his other hand, the father removed his belt and started full out whipping the boy across his head and back. He cowered on the ground and tried to protect his face but he didn’t cry out. He didn’t make a sound. Without a word, my mother turned me around and we got into the car and left. I was absolutely shocked by the violence. It was so far from anything I had ever experienced – even the attack with the hockey stick.  Of course, that wasn’t the end. Turned out the boy was about 14 and still in grade 5. He had what would today perhaps be called ‘developmental issues’ but back then was called ‘slow’. He had been held back for many grades and was receiving no special education or counselling. My mother sprang into action. She was already a volunteer with the Catholic Children’s Aid. She ended up having the boy removed from his abusive home and placed in a group home that she knew well. She supervised his transition and actually visited him for the next several years, taking him clothes and books and spending time with him. This was how my mother changed the world – one kind and responsible action at a time. Now the rational adult part of me knows that this was an incredibly generous act on her part. The six year old brat inside can still remember that I was jealous of him getting her attention. As a parent, I can also hardly imagine two six year old girls going home to an empty house.  Of course the good news – my mom was so overcome with fear at my condition, and then relief at the outcome that I never did get punished for lying about going to Mary’s house. I guess she knew the lesson had been learned.


100 Word Challenge #41 – “The Story Bones”

Here is my entry for this week’s 100 Word Challenge – based on the photo above.

“The Story Bones”

The anthropologist carefully spreads the bones on the clean parchment paper. His assistant dutifully records his detailed notes and precise measurements. Such a wonderful find! He will draw such accurate conclusions that this time that he will surely be written up in a major journal. All of her secrets laid bare.

My bones are bleached clean and white with the passage of time. You’re so sure that you know me? A wound severe that endures through the ages. What about the ones that don’t show? My spirit broken, my heart leaden with regret. You only think that you know me.

I ain’t afraid of no ghost…

Well that’s not entirely true. I am very scared of many shared incarnations of ghosts – all gleaned from books, television and movies. My entire family enjoys a good scare – if I spill my popcorn by nearly jumping out of my seat I figure I got my money’s worth.

When I was little my sister and our friends spent hours in the basement – dark always – using a Ouija Board and holding seances. We had a foolproof method for taking the horror out of any moment that got too scary. We used all of our conjuring concentration to try and bring back the ghost of Walt Disney. Can you imagine a less threatening spectre?

When I had children of my own I worked hard to make them feel safe and to use a healthy does of reality to help figure things out. For example, I would explain, if there was anything akin to a ghost do you not think that someone by now would have been able to record it’s presence in some manner? We can take pictures of Mars, the inside of cells, and Robert Downey Jr. clean and sober – all things are possible. Yet nobody has been able to prove the existence of ghosts. So how can they exist? And yet…

The house that we are living in is haunted. Only now, that my youngest is 18 (and more importantly, her two older brothers can handle it), can this truth finally be told. It does not seem possible that a new house can be haunted but there you go. From the time we moved in, everyone in the house would hear the sound of someone walking around upstairs.

Now this didn’t happen every day. But it happened often enough that friends and other family members heard it as well. It seemed to be primarily in my son’s room. We assuaged the kids fears by explaining that it was the furnace (in the winter) or the air conditioner (in the summer). It was the pipes. It was the air exchanger. Secretly, my husband and I were both pretty sure it had nothing to do with the construction and functioning of the house. It was too transient. And it seemed to move around.

This was such a clear and specific sound that, more than once, I had been home alone and heard it upstairs and called up “Hello?” – suddenly sure that there had to be someone else in the house. There wasn’t. This didn’t happen always late at night when it was scary and dark – this was two in the afternoon when I was working at my computer. I would have bet real money that I wasn’t alone. But I was. Or was I?

After we were in the house for ten years, I had a barbecue party with the members of my choir. One of the women brought her husband who had grown up on our property when it had been the old farmhouse. After a couple of beers, sitting outside in the lovely summer evening, he suddenly asked – apropos of nothing – “so do you still hear the ghost?”.

My husband and I both jumped – neither of us had mentioned anything about this to anyone else. (what? us nuts?) The hair on the back of my neck was standing up as we asked him to elaborate and he explained that there had always been the ghost of an old farmer who would occasionally walk around the porch and other rooms. “No harm done”. he told us.

And he was right. I don’t know how but none of us every felt any kind of malice or negativity coming from this presence. It wasn’t scary in the way that you would expect an apparition or presence to be scary. It felt…like it belonged there. Now when I hear him (and it is most definitely a him) walking around upstairs I smile up and wish him well. Either that or it’s just the floorboards contracting…