Saturday, January 6, 2007

Haunting Waves

(c)2004

The ghosts from my childhood home haunt me. They scream out at me in the middle of the night, waking me from a dead sleep.

I turn into the driveway. The big silver mailbox with a dent in the side seems to welcome me with its faded red flag. Looking out to the right I see the mallard ducks swimming and feeding in the pond. A fish jumps up and splashes back down, startling a duck to move ahead with a flap of his wings. A lazy snake sunning on a fallen tree branch slowly slithers his body into the water.

The sun beads sweat upon my skin as I make my way up the winding road to the red brick house on the hill. The daffodils planted in a row, wave gently at me in the wind. Squirrels leap from limb to limb on the oak and pine trees surrounding the home. Ghosts are everywhere.

To the right of the home, stands the garden with the rickety fence, and my grandfather. He is busy with his troy built tiller working his vegetables. He holds up a hand and waves to me smiling. He is showing me how he can till with only one hand. He turns it off a minute to take a white handkerchief out to wipe the sweat off his face and neck. Carefully he folds the handkerchief up and puts into his back pocket. He is ready to go again. I wave. He smiles.

Opening the door to the patio that leads to my grandmother’s beauty shop. I stop to watch her through the big rectangle window. She is busy teasing the bright yellow hair of a lady into an up-do. Slowly but sure she puts each curl in its perfect place. Tapping on the window I wave. She waves back with her blue teasing comb in her hand as I open the back door to the house.

Inside it always looks the same, everything is always in its place. The pendulum on the clock above the fireplace swings back and forth in time. Smells of fresh soup from the garden cooking on the stove and cornbread in the double black oven take over my senses. Chocolate and apple pies line the bar. Tom Brokaw is presenting the news, which blares from the television. I sink down into the cushions of the green overstuffed couch, closing my eyes.

The ringing of black rotary dial phone on the desk startles me. I open my eyes to see family members and friends that have started to gather in the living room and den. Some sobbing, others laughing, telling stories that I have heard a million times, always interesting, each time something new is added for a different spin to the story. I listen to them and laugh along.

The phone doesn’t stop ringing; the clock begins to chime. I remember why they are here. Looking down at my black dress, I wipe a tear from my eye, my grandfather’s wake. In the corner my grandmother is sitting in his chair crying, twisting a white handkerchief in her hands. My mother and uncle are bent down trying to comfort her. My grandfather’s cowboy hat and belt buckles hang on a rack above their heads. The roar of the crowd begins to deafen my ears. I scream and run out of the house to the swing that is hanging under the big oak tree.

It is fall now and the leaves crunch under my feet. I can feel the chill of the cold wind on my face, as the tears begin to flow. A silence surrounds me. I feel wrapped in grief as arms wrap around my body. It is my mother, with her long dark curly hair blowing in the wind. She is beautiful as always, but coldness lingers in her eyes, a dull blank stare. She watches the house pointing toward the decorative carved double front doors. The doors I have seen my grandfather polish daily for years. He would put polish in each grove of the wood, rubbing the doors until they would shine. I see his ghost smiling at me dipping his rag into the pan of polish.

Standing at the doors now is my mother's lover, with his gold tooth and shoulder-length gray hair. He waves to my mother and me. She smiles and waves back, giving my hand a squeeze. Reaching behind a tree he holds up a red can and throws its contents toward the doors, liquid falling down into the grooves of the wood. I run toward him and he pushes me down, as he takes a match out of his pocket striking it, throwing it at the doors.

My mother jumps up dances around and around, laughing, as if in a gypsy carnival. Leaves fall from the tree down into her curly hair, as flames take over the house. It doesn’t take long for a lifetime of memories to disappear.

It’ll be another scorcher today; we will reach the three-digit mark again. How about something from John Phillip Sousa to start your morning drive?

As the trumpets begin I reach over knocking a book off the nightstand to hit the snooze button. Mom’s birthday today, I must remember to send some flowers to the hospital, daffodils.