November 3rd, 2008
I came home from a haunted house tour Thursday night disappointed that I hadn’t glimpsed any ghosts.
It must’ve been about 10:45PM, and I tramped upstairs, surprised to see The Rock awake and alert. I’d been waiting to complain to someone and now I had a readymade audience. He looked up from the TV, waiting for my haunted house report. “Ghosts never appear to me!” I lamented, slumping against the bookcase.
“Be careful what you wish for,” he’d replied. And while I knew he was right — sorta — I still didn’t want to hear it. As much as I didn’t want to be the kid in The Sixth Sense, I do wonder why I’m not sensitive enough to pick up spirit vibes. It’s humbling, quite frankly. I’d always thought I was perceptive.
Of course, I really only care about one ghost — my mom — and I often wonder why she doesn’t come to see me. She’s even appeared to my dad, who claimed with the utmost seriousness that he saw her one Sunday in church, but she disappeared when he went to talk to her. My stepmom and dad also tell me that ghosts visit them regularly at home, and one of them, perhaps her husband (who died in in a fire) or my mom, shattered a marriage gift shortly after my dad re-married. And while I love ghost stories, I didn’t like thinking of my mom as a vengeful spirit, so I preferred to dismiss the broken dish as a natural occurrence.
Anyway, sometimes I need a reminder that there’s a force larger than myself at work in the universe. I want to know that there’s something more, beyond, a purpose, a place, a reason for living. And I think I came a little closer to peace with this issue this weekend.
The Rock and I spent some time on Saturday looking at rentals in a part of town we’ve designated “family-worthy.” For awhile now we’ve wanted a yard for the girls, a good school district, and a street. We currently rent behind another home, off the alley, and we don’t get trick-or-treaters, neighbors calling, or any of that white picket fence stuff. I love my neighborhood, but I feel like a persona non grata in my home, and I want the kids to have other kids on the street, block parties, and porch swings. Well, we looked at a rental (not the right place for us) and proceeded down another street to check out a house for sale. Instantly, I fell in love. White wooden shutters, cul de sac, kids playing like crazy, neighbors outside watering the front yard, you name it. We spoke awhile with a neighbor who told us that the street was “stinky with kids,” and that the street has “Leave it to Beaver” block parties at the end of the cul de sac, and oh boy, I can’t go on. It hurts too much.
I never even saw the inside of the house, but I didn’t care. The Rock is a tile and stone contractor and can improve anything. Just the vibe of the place, you know? It spoke to me, and the resulting desire pained me so much. It was a physical longing that brought tears to my eyes. But there’s NO WAY we can afford to buy a house. Even though the asking price was below market, even though with The Rock’s skills, we can fix it up and raise its value, even though, even though.
I cried a little, because it was all out of my hands, just beyond my grasp (if you call a $100K down payment “just” out of my grasp), and something I might never have in this town. I felt sorry for myself. I wondered who I could call for a loan. I simmered and stewed and melancholed. I even beseeched my mom for a miracle. I felt like I was scratching at the side of a well, trying to find a handhold, but the smooth surface repelled my advances. So I crumpled into a ball at the bottom, and tried to give up wanting.
Despite my dejection, later that day, my dad and stepmom arrived for a visit. As he came inside, I noticed that my dad was toting my mom’s La Pietà, a fixture in my childhood home for many years, a sight that always brings me comfort.
My mom brought the sculpture home from Rome in the early ’60s, and as it’s carved entirely from ivory, that was a feat. As long as I can remember, Mary’s right hand has been loose, and I’ve picked it up from the floor and reattached it numerous times. As my dad brought the Pietà up the stairs, Mary’s hand again fell off, and I lovingly re-enacted that old motion from my childhood.
I settled the Pietà on my countertop and somehow sensed my mom. Of anything she owned, La Pietà was her heart’s favorite, and it had captured her energy, which it keeps still. I had to wonder if this were a sign, or something she sent to give me perspective, or…what? My dad comes for visits so rarely, and to bring the Pietà was so unexpected that I think she heard me up there in heaven.
I don’t know what it means. I don’t know if she means to say everything will be OK. Or, that it’s not the things, it’s the people in them. Maybe she wants me to know that it’s not that I live in the house, it’s what I bring to the house. Or that she just wanted me to have peace for awhile. I can’t say. But I do know it came from her. I do have that certainty.
Yesterday, my melancholy persisted. I wanted that house. I wanted that house. I wanted that house. I wanted my kids to be in the house. I wanted Christmas trees in that house. I wanted the neighbors and the yard and the trick or treating and I wanted wanted wanted.
Today while working on my laptop at Panera, I met a single dad who is trying to find work after some hard times knocked him off his feet. He’d recently “found God,” so at first I was a bit hesitant to continue our conversation, but fortunately he wasn’t a pusher. I told him of my trying to find my way, of being born Catholic but finding the ritual and structure no longer speak to me, of looking for a message that resonates. After a little discussion, I also told him about that house. About how I’d prayed it could be mine, of wanting it so bad. He answered that he is currently living on a futon in someone else’s condo. That when his son comes to visit, they sleep together on the futon, that he too dreams of a house, but he’s grateful for what he has right now, at this minute.
And I realized how little I appreciate the things I have. How I have a husband who is a good man and listens sympathetically when I wish for ghosts, how I have two girls with sunshine smiles, how I have a home right at this instant that brings us all together, how maybe I need to see what’s right in front of me, instead of lying at the bottom of a well wishing for more.
Thanks Mom. Maybe you sent me these messages. Maybe you opened my eyes. Maybe you’ve been with me all along, and this whole time, I’d been looking for a ghost.
p.s. I still want the house. And I am still praying for a miracle while investigating all our options. BUT, I’m now more OK with letting it all unfold the way it’s supposed to, and with not letting the wanting destroy my appreciation for what I do have.