If you have read my about page you will know that I happen to believe in ghosts, I think it's just in my nature. Though I am not sure that this story truly qualifies as a "ghost story;" it might be more along the lines of Long Island Medium than Ghost Hunters (sorry I watch a lot of tv.). I am sure people could discount it as coincidence, and in my mind I do that too, sometimes. But most of the time I know it wasn't a coincidence at all.
To tell the story I have to go back a little - growing up I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents and lived with them on more than one occasion. They lived in a huge old house. I loved this house not only because it harbored the normalcy I longed for like dinners at 5 o'clock sharp every night, two parents, weekend getaways to the beach and family vacations to disneyland, homework done at the kitchen table, etc., but also because it was beautiful and mysterious. It had a stage in the living room where the hooks for the curtains remained. There were beautiful inlaid wood floors, a fireplace in both the sitting room and the dining room, wood carvings in the stair banisters, sun porches and a dark old basement, lots of rooms to curl up in and explore. And other lovely things like vintage damask wallpaper in the entry and crystal chandeliers. Despite my grandparents lack in decorating skills, the house was gorgeous. And I know that house is a direct reflection on my love of homes today, and maybe without it I wouldn't have this blog at all. Sadly my grandparents (badly) remodeled the kitchen in the late 80's in which I helped with. When we did we found old bottles and tins in the walls; when we put the walls back up I insisted on replacing items with things from the current day: pepsi cans, coins, notes written by me. My grandfather happily obliged (as always).
For most of my childhood I reminded my grandparents that when they died they had to leave the house to me because no one would ever love it like I did. I felt like the house belonged to me, like the spirit of the house and I were friends. I can't tell you how much time I spent imagining the lives of the people that lived there before and even talking to the house in case they were listening (i may have been a little eccentric). Of course I imagined this estate to be passed down to me when I was much older because they were young too. But sadly it didn't turn out that way. My grandfather died within a few months of being diagnosed with cancer, on January 1st 2000, I was a mere 23, and him, a mere 62 otherwise healthy bike riding vegetarian. It was like watching a wrecking ball come at you in slow motion destined to tear down everything you ever thought you knew and had known. It was a mess after that. My grandmother struggled for 5 years until she died, also at 62. The house was sold in the time in between. I felt so betrayed by everything: life, death, human weakness, my own naivety. The people that bought the house were not the nicest, but they told me they planned to restore it (spoiler alert: they have not, it just looks like a house with a thousand abandoned projects. boo!). So I tried to put on a brave face about all these changes that I absolutely hated, and focus on their plans for restoring the house. I asked if sometime I could visit it, you know, someday, thinking that the knowledge that I could at some point down the road would ease saying goodbye. And as we handed over the keys I said "oh, and my grandfather and i placed things in the walls, if you ever tear them down i would love it if you could call me so i can see them." She let me know she would not call me and gave me back my phone number.
For years, this was back in 2001 that the house was sold, I would have dreams of being inside the house and touching the floors and banisters, sneaking in each room to take another peek, sitting at the kitchen table. Dreams of simply placing my cheek up against the rough plaster walls or retainer wall around the property, propelling myself off the stairs from the banisters, smelling the old musty lace curtains that hung on the front door. It always made me feel terribly sad, unable to let go of it all which I desperately wanted to do. Once in awhile I would trek back into St. Johns and drive by the house, but it always just ended up with me in tears and feeling like a crazy stalker, so I stopped. I found I was just ready to let go of that sadness, I needed to move on, for good.
Then one night a few years ago I had a dream about the house, but this time it was different. I dreamed the backdoor was removed (the door that was always unlocked for family to come and go from and made a lovely rattle and humming sound when you closed it behind you), the garage was torn down (which was an amazingly original one with barn doors for the front), the retainer wall around the house was pulled up, the bathroom tiles were falling off the walls. I woke up shaken and then headed out to take my older son, Fisher, to school. I had this feeling that I had to drive by, just this once. I believed this all might be true. Truth be told I believed the house was calling me. But I had stopped torturing myself with this painful stalking down memory lane years before hand so I was really torn with my seeming craziness about it all. But at the last minute I turned onto the freeway and made my way back to my old part of town. When I got there I drove by fully intending not to stop, just to, you know, validate I might have a "few unresolved issues" and then try to go back home to my ghost-free part of town to put them to rest once again. But when I slinked by I saw the garage, gone. I saw the backdoor, replaced. I saw part of the retainer wall, torn up. So I had a mental battle with myself about stopping (again, the new owners made it really clear this was their house now, and I was not welcome to visit.), but I parked a block away loaded up my babies in the stroller and walked by the house. I didn't see anyone but I saw a lot of construction trucks so I kept going (thinking they would at least provide me a cover), then I waited a minute by the neighbors and just as I was turning to leave a guy came out of the house (not one of the new owners, phew.).
I was all shaky trying to act normal when I felt totally whacked out. I blurted out my story, I used to live here, the owners don't like me, i know this is really weird, i sound insane, i swear i'm am not but . . . i had this dream last night . . . I could tell the guy was indulging me and maybe a little more than uncomfortable, probably in a hurry, and most definitely confused. But as I got to the part of the bathroom tiles his eyes got big and he said "...the tiles in the bathroom are falling off the wall," (of course everything else was obvious from the outside.). Then I got to the part of the things we had placed in the wall and he turned away from me and ran off. But he stopped half way to the house, looked back and said "Hold on, hold on, don't go anywhere!" He came back with some coins that were wrapped in paper and had my twelve year old writing on them with year 1988, smily faces, and Hi's. As he placed them into my trembling hands he looked like me like I wasn't in fact a total lunatic. And so I told him "I have to keep these, I don't know if they would want me to have them . . ." He said, "Well, they are yours, and I can't believe I am saying this but I think the house must have wanted you to have them back." I said, "Yeah, me too."
The top photo is the front stairs of the house, with its old address before it St. John's was incorporated into Portland. The second photo is of the turret, where my bedroom was and the magnolia tree outside of it. The bottom photos are of the coins that I got back from the walls. Apparently at 12 years old I was really into pointing out the obvious. What about you? Any ghost stories?