Monday, December 10, 2012

I live with ghosts and I want them to be happy

I live with ghosts. They reside in the furniture and fabric of items I have inherited over the past few years. Some ghosts were invited in and I live with very happily others showed up this summer and I'm sure I will find a few in the boxes of Christmas decorations.

The Welcomed Ghosts
The secretary that lived at the top of my aunt's stairs has been haunted for years with the bits and bobs and books of relatives I never met. I met these ghosts when I was a kid. The secretary, which originally belonged to my grandfather, was my playground when conversations during family visits turned to parish gossip and other subjects I didn't really care about.

I was fascinated by the receipts, cards and dried flowers pressed between the pages of books on the shelves. I was curious about the button hooks, blotters, and other minutia I found tucked into the drawers and cubby holes of the secretary. The yearbooks of people I thought I knew and scrapbooks containing photos of people long gone offered hours of pleasant pondering. What was high school like for my grandmother? What was it like to walk around in such a long skirt? Who are these people and when was this picture taken?

I would present my findings to my grandmother and ask questions and she would tell me stories of her youth and her life with Frank, my grandfather.

The switch cover that
was used on my grandmother's
stairs now lives in my dining room.

My grandmother died 25 years ago and everything that came out of her house (which was also my aunt's house) reminds me of her. Small items and big furniture, they all belonged to her.

I have a shelf in my kitchen full of items that were not big, important or valuable but hold memories of life in her house. The planter that was used to hold the collection a rubber bands that rarely ever got used. The pitcher used for milk on the dining table because the gallon jug was too heavy to lift while seated. The bowls and mixer that were given to my grandparents as wedding presents in 1929. I am happy to have these ghosts here, because they remind me of a woman who met her maker a quarter of a century ago.  Even though they didn't come into my house until five years ago.

The items in my house that remind me of people who died within the last 5 years are not so welcome. The loss is too recent, the sorrow too strong.

An Uninivited Ghost
When I lived in Chicago I had a great friend named Nancy (long time readers may remember her). She was like a second mother to me. She thought I needed more color in my life, my uniform of denim, black and oatmeal were not enough for her. She also saw that I needed a place to keep my TV and stereo and growing music collection so she gave me a pair of big dark book cases she no longer needed or wanted. I joked that I was going to paint them purple and my father nearly had a heart attack - "YOU DON'T PAINT WOOD!"

For years the bookshelves she gave had been just shelves holding games, knick knacks, bric-a-brac, cloth napkins and candles. Now they also hold her ghost. Nancy died a couple of years ago but her ghost didn't appear until my father died.

The dark shelves made me think of her everyday which would make me think of my dad, my aunt and uncle, and the three other friends that have died over the last 5 years. When you are grieving the loss of several people when you miss one you miss them all and it can be a bit overwhelming.

I got tired of feeling sad in my own dining room. So I did a very Nancy thing and I painted the bookshelves. (Apparently I can paint veneer over press board.) I chose a bright color she would most definitely approve of - Turquoise. Not the turquoise of native southwestern jewelers but the extremely bright turquoise chosen by IKEA designers. Nancy loved IKEA, they were both Swedish imports and an IKEA run to pick up authentic Swedish foods and another bag of tea light candles always made her happy. This color makes me happy because it reminds of good times with her instead of making me sad that she is gone. I don't feel I have exorcised her ghost, I've just made her happier. 

Nancy's daughter wrote about her mother's unorthodox memorial in How to Send a Viking to Valhalla. There are pictures and a fabulous description of what it took to put together the greatest memorial service ever.

I promise I will get back to crafty posts and tutorials soon. Illness and sadness have been just a bit too much to bare lately.

Happy Crafting,


Aunt Polly said...

I LOVE the blue!! How Nancy-ish cheerful! I love the way you wrote this overall.

alexa said...

Looks like you have a few visitng ghosts in the comments above, Katie! This was a really interesting read, and I think from what you say that Nancy would be enjoying that vivid shade. Hoping that the sadness lifts a little for you. Some times are very hard. Thinking of you.