Most people, when they think of visiting their grandparents’ house recall happy times, cooking with Gramma, or following Grampa around the farm while he did his chores. Most people don’t remember – or they try to forget, the strange noises and the unnaturally dark shadows that cause you to swallow your rising panic and run out of your grandparents’ house as fast as you can! I can still feel that lump in my throat when I allow myself to remember.
Don’t get me wrong – I did love going to see my grandparents. They lived on a 40 acre farm that had a few assorted animals. At least two thirds of the land was wooded. If you follow the dirt road passed the blueberry bushes you suddenly find yourself in what we called “The Pine Forest” which was a thick copse of very tall pine trees. The ground was a soft sticky carpet of pine needles. Just beyond that the road turned into a foot path which twisted and turned between oak and maple trees until it reached “The Brook”. An enchanting stream that spilled, tumbled and bubbled over moss covered rocks. The land that made up my Grandparents’ farm was nothing short of magical.
My Grandparents’ house however, held a darker kind of magic.
But not the entire house.
We always entered Gramma and Grampa’s house using the back door into a mudroom of sorts. Through the next door you would find yourself in the kitchen. A large heavy wood table was centered near the huge picture window. The table was incredible – the legs of the table spread out in a curve from under the center and the feet were carved to look like a lion’s paw! There was always a lot of aggressive but not unpleasant smells and sounds coming from my Czechoslovakian grandmother’s kitchen.
Through the archway you would find yourself in the front living room. A few sofas and easy chairs where my grandmother, mother and aunts would sit and crochet or tat lace. The next room was the formal living room. Dark velvet drapes. A giant hand braided rug on the floor. My grandmother kept a tidy house, but dust motes would shine like diamond dust when a rogue sunbeam found an opening in the heavy curtains.
Then there was the couch against the back wall. I never sat on that couch.
I never sat on that couch because my feet would not let me step across some invisible line going across the middle of the room.
To the right of the formal living room there was a small hallway that led to the back bedroom and a staircase with a very intricately carved banister.
I didn’t want to cross that threshold. Every memory I have of my grandparents’ house is the same. If I took one step too far towards the back of the living room, or if I crossed the threshold towards the foyer, back bedroom and stair case I would have what I suppose could be considered a panic attack nowadays.
The hair on my arms would stand up straight from goosebumps on my skin. My mouth would go dry and I could barely swallow. My heart would race. All I wanted to do was RUN, run as fast as I could out of that house into fresh air.
I never saw a ghost. I had no reason to react the way that I did when I would cross that invisible line. Nobody else ever said that they felt anything like it.
Of course there were times in my childhood when I had no choice but to go down this hall into the back bedroom or up the stairs. When my Gramma was dying they set her up to be comfortable in the back bedroom. When my Uncle was dying they set him up to be comfortable in the back bedroom. When my Grampa was dying they set him up to be comfortable in the back bedroom.
In fact for the century that my grandparents’ house existed the back bedroom was where everybody was set up to be comfortable while they were dying. It was very convenient because before my grandparents bought that house the back bedroom was where they would hold the bodies until they could prepare the front living room to make room for the casket against the back wall for the wake and calling hours.
I never knew any of this until I was a teenager. I have never seen a ghost but in my Grandparents’ house, in my Grandparents’ formal living room, in my Grandparents’ back bedroom and upstairs – I felt ghosts. I felt them closing in around me. I felt them trying to let me know that they were there.
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