Friday, October 11, 2013

A Flickering Light

The house I grew up in was built in the early 1800's. Yes, they don't build them like that anymore! During the winters, it was drafty and hard to heat. We had fireplaces, but my mother frowned upon using them. I suppose she either thought we'd burn down the house or my brothers might try stuffing me up the flue in search of Santa Claus.

While I was a young child, my paternal grandparents lived in part of the upstairs that had been converted into a 2-bedroom apartment. The rest of the upstairs was part of our living area. On our side there was 2 bedrooms and a bathroom with the other bedroom being downstairs. Being the only girl, meant I never had to share a bedroom with anyone. Actually, I think I grew up missing out on the sibling rivalry and camaraderie that existed between my brothers, but never really felt the void until I became an adult. I was almost like an outsider in many instances. A sister...yes, but never a playmate or companion. I never figured out if this was due to gender difference, age difference or if my brothers just didn't like the idea of having a sister.

As my brothers grew up and went away to college and/or enlisted into the military and went to far away places like Viet Nam, I had the run of the house. When my mother would put me on "restriction" I would simply take the phone off the hook when I would come home from school, so she couldn't call me while she was at work to check up on me. Restriction was virtually a non-existent punishment for me, but she never knew that then and of course, I graciously played along as I played by my own set of rules! When she questioned me, I simply told her that I was talking on the phone. That was one privilege she never took away from me as a punishment. In many ways, at that point in my life it was like being an only child. I reaped the benefits of not only being the only girl, but being the last child left at home.

Since our house was so large, I had many rooms to choose as a bedroom as a teenager. In the summer months, I would move into the area that was my grandparents old apartment. The room I would always choose as mine was my grandfather’s old bedroom. I chose this room because it was easy to sneak out at night. It was a room my oldest brother swore was haunted. Many times when he was home on leave in years past, he would claim to hear my drunken grandfather stumbling around ranting. I always thought my oldest brother had an over active imagination or had followed in our grandfather's footsteps with drunken delusions of his own. We all amused him by listening attentively to his tales of voices from beyond.  No one ever told him we all thought he was as crazy as the stories he would tell.

My "summer" bedroom was directly across from my cousin, Debbie's house. Many night's I would hang out my bedroom window talking to Debbie as late as her mother would allow. Each fall, I would move my bedroom back into the main part of the house so my mother could close off that part of the house to conserve on the heating bill. So as soon as the weather would start to cool off in September shortly after my birthday I would drag all my furniture back into one of the upstairs bedrooms in the main part of the house.

During the year of my 15th birthday, as usual I moved my bedroom back to the main part of the house. One day shortly after moving my room, my cousin came up to me and asked what I was doing the night before in my bedroom. I gave her a puzzled look because I didn't know what she meant. She went on to tell me she had sat outside on her steps the night before and tried to get my attention, but I would never come to the window like I always did. She said the light inside my bedroom was faint and flickered like I was burning a candle. She also claimed she could see my silhouette rocking in my Boston rocker. I laughed at her bizarre tale and told her I had moved my room several days before. As I laughed, I asked her what kind of drugs she had been doing. She insisted that what she was telling me was the truth, so I took her up to my bedroom to show her that I had indeed moved back into the main part of the house.

I unlocked the door at the top of the stairs. We entered the chilly apartment and went directly to my old bedroom. It was empty like I told her it was and just as I was about to say "see, I told you so", we both saw wax that had been dripped from a candle where my rocking chair had been. We looked at each other and quickly left the apartment without discussing what we had both seen. The summer of 1970 was the last time I slept in that room. The door was relocked and whatever we both saw was left behind.