Saturday, March 31, 2007

Vanishing act

I wonder if ghosts get to play in cyberspace. I think I’ve brought back a couple from the mansion and they’re making mischief online.

My comments section has completely disappeared from my previous entry. I’ve been blogging about all sorts of things for over a year and this has never happened before. Funny that it did just as you, dear readers, were starting to post some fascinating replies to the whole subject of ghosts and psychic phenomena.

I’ve been troubleshooting for two days now and can’t seem to find the missing comments. So this is a test. Empirical research. Let’s see if my comments section is up and running again. If so, please, please come back and tell me more. Er, I mean you of the flesh-and-blood variety.

Have you ever had an other-worldly encounter? Just a trick of the imagination? Smoke and mirrors?

Or is this old world of ours just a rest stop for many other destinations?

Yowza, I’m going all Twilight Zone on you. Parallel universes and rainbow bridges … what do you think?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ghost hunting

I love my job. Today I got to go on a field trip to a local “haunted mansion”. Our students have been studying the paranormal with a group of investigators who actually bring their equipment, video and audio, to various locations to try to capture some of the ghostly phenomena that have been reported.

Ghostbusters, New England style.

This particular house has a sad, tragic history. It seems that a wealthy politician and his family resided there in the early 1900s. The man had bought an automobile just as they were becoming popular. The family chauffeur took the gentleman, his youngest daughter and her girlfriend for a country drive, lost control of the car and there was a terrible accident. The friend died instantly; the daughter succumbed on the way to the hospital. The father survived and returned home to grieve. His wife and older children were not a part of the accident. Within weeks, the father died of unnamed causes even though his injuries did not appear life threatening. Some say he died of grief. He died in his bedroom. The young chauffeur, who was in love with either the daughter or her friend, was so distraught and guilt ridden that he went into the cellar of the carriage house and shot himself.

Almost 100 years later, this house still seems to have manifestations of its former residents. The ghost hunters have set up shop, so to speak, and continue to do research here. Today, they pass out cameras and tape recorders to our students and then we all get to wander through the many rooms, upstairs, downstairs, servants’ quarters, daughter’s bedroom, cellar. The kids love it. And so do I.

Now here’s the strange part. I walk into the house and have my own digital camera with me. As we gather in what must have been a formal living room, I start to feel breathless. It’s an odd feeling, a bit suffocating. I almost walk outside again but decide, instead, to wait it out and hope it will pass. The discomfort lifts as we all walk up the winding staircase to the third floor. I stop on the second floor landing and start shooting more pictures. My camera starts acting funny. I had charged the batteries overnight and here I am, getting a red blinking light (and other kinds of odd signals in my viewfinder). The batteries are now showing as almost depleted, very low power. What the heck? Luckily, I had brought other batteries and make the necessary switch. Boy next to me starts having problems with his camcorder. He reads that he has 89 minutes left to shoot but the camera keeps going off and on, erratic behavior. We look at each other and think “haunted mansion”. Hey, this is why we came. Bring it on!

By the time we get to the chauffeur’s alleged bedroom on the third floor (servants’ quarters), our ghostbuster-guide is telling the kids how the overhead electric light bulb went on one night as he and his paranormal buddies were leaving the house. They all looked up into the third-floor window and saw the light. One slight problem: there was no electricity in that room; the power was dead. The kids are eating it all up.

I’m a bit skeptical but he then starts talking about how some folks feel physically uncomfortable in the house, especially if they are more “susceptible” to psychic or paranormal experience. Cripes. I tell him about my breathlessness on the first floor. He smiles and seems impressed. Then I mention the batteries losing their energy even though I charged them all night and he simply nods. “Spirits sometimes draw energy or cross energy fields with whatever or whoever comes their way.” I smile back and so wish my daughter were here, she of Mr. Pipe and Mrs. Kitchen fame. Something tells me that Jenn would have been right in her element.

I take lots of pictures. I love old houses and staircases and, yes, there seems to be a lot of psychic activity on the grand staircase according to the ghostbuster. I’m now conjuring up visions of Loretta Young in a white flowing gown. I keep snapping away. Mirrors. Lots of mirrors. Maybe I’ll capture an aura or two.

The tour ends much too quickly. The kids are very well behaved throughout, totally caught up in a not-so-normal teaching experience outside their ordinary classroom. We all pile back on the bus, wondering just whose camera holds an ethereal surprise.

I take one last look at the white clapboard house and bless the spirits who may still dwell within. It’s almost 100 years since the accident and, according to our tour guides, they seem reluctant to leave.

There’s no place like home.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Taking note

I moved up here nine months ago
To be near the kids, get in the flow
Watch as the little ones play, learn and grow
What I didn’t consider were the ice and the snow

Winter came late so the tough locals said
Still it was hard to get out of bed
On mornings that were often bone-chilling cold
Warm bedcovers making me much less than bold

To open the door and risk a chilblain
While guiding myself over frozen terrain
So many days of sub-freezing weather
I should have kept a mid-winter’s ledger

Taking a stick to the snow on my porch
I decided against, wishing instead for a hot blazing torch
To erase all remnants of columns of snow
Then melt the icicles or propel them below

Spring has now come so the calendar states
The temps will get milder if only I wait
Soon I will hang up my storm coat for good
And set down fresh leafy plants where the Iceman once stood

Monday, March 19, 2007

Want whipped cream with that?

I know I've put on a few pounds this winter but am trying to deny it. However, Hannah became my reality test the other night as I was putting her to bed: "Babci, you're like a sweet plump strawberry."

Granted, I reminded her of a character in one of her storybooks, an "old woman" with large hips and a kind face.

Mary Poppins on Geritol.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Blue suede shoes and rose colored glasses

Sit back and put your feet up. I've some stories to tell.

Jenn surprised me last night with a lovely look back at some of my finer maternal moments. Thank you, dear heart. The pleasure was all mine. I don’t quite remember the bologna incident but do remember the Lone Ranger accompaniment on the organ. Since I’m the birthday girl here, I might as well wax a bit nostalgic. (You started this, Jenn.)

One of my favorite memories in raising Jenn and Joseph is draping my mom’s afghan over some furniture so that the kids had a “tent” and could make an imaginary campfire and roast marshmallows while “camping out”. We spent many an afternoon under our tent discussing kid things and life in general. I’d like to think that living-room adventure added to the creativity and whimsy they still embrace and give to their own children.

Another much loved recollection is the hosting of the Animal Olympics where the kids catapulted their stuffed animals down our long hallway to determine who won the gold, silver and bronze medals for broad jump. The competition was stiff as both kids had quite a menagerie. I remember the excitement and the tiny stuffed athletes scattered about the hallway floor. Somehow there were always winners on both sides.

There were also the more trying moments of scientific discovery. At one point in time Jenn had a real menagerie of guinea pigs in our basement segregated in several large glass aquariums. She built wooden mazes and observed to see if males or females were the smarter of the species. We had a confounding variable when one of the boys managed to leap out of his glass house and take up with one of the girls. We then got to observe the miracle of birth a short time later. Cleaning those darn aquariums out back usually fell to me. The neighbors just looked on and twittered and shook their heads. As a proud judge for the PA Junior Academy of Science, it was the least I could do for scientific advancement. Joseph did his own kind of research on secondary smoke. He was ahead of the game and won an award from the Cancer Society of America. Unfortunately, what he discovered didn’t stop his dad from smoking but it may have contributed to his later goal of becoming a doctor.

I never think much about this kind of stuff but it’s good to look back. I like that Jenn finds some of these moments endearing too. I like that she is appreciative of little gestures, like treating her to those blue suede shoes which she spied in a shop window in Brighton. I remember my mom squeezing some money into my hand when I was a young mother and saying quietly “go, buy yourself something”.

I think Jenn is right when she says that I may have contributed the happy DNA which points her to the light at critical moments. She told me recently that I’ve an overload of serotonin and should feel grateful. It may be true, all this talk of brain chemistry and how neurochemicals and hormones help to shape our moods. I have always been a fairly optimistic and upbeat person.

Lately, I see a lot of me in Hannah. Her favorite phrase is “Isn’t it beautiful?!” This can be just about anything she’s seeing – a mountain, the rushing river, the colors on her dress. Jenn bought her a pair of sunglasses and she was so excited and happy. They have an appropriate pink tint.

As feisty and stubborn as she can be at times, Hannah is also the sunshine kid. Life is good. The beautiful is bee yoo ti ful with the accent on the second syllable. It warms the heart. Pink is her special color. She loves pink. She loves life. She is three years old.

Blue will come later, probably in the teen years. Blue will have to share time with pink. Blue will be a part of the palette too. And maybe her mom will treat her to a pair of blue shoes. She’ll learn to walk the walk between joy and sorrow as we all must do.

For now, though, let her delight in pink.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Anniversary waltz

I always liked this picture. It certainly warms my romantic heart. I would think that they are dancing to the Anniversary Waltz.

I don’t have a dancing partner in my life right now but I do have an anniversary to celebrate. Some dear friends and readers have reminded me that it’s been one year since I started this blog.

Tempus did, indeed, fugit and I’m still having fun. I never thought that I could sustain my humble space here in the web universe alongside the many heavy hitters and blog celebrities du jour. Jenn’s loyal readers pushed and prodded and I’m kinda proud that I did risk it after all.

I've managed to reflect on Jenn's life as I write of mine. Truth be told, I'm probably the one in the painting holding an umbrella to protect the couple from the storm. Mothers do that you know. Reflect and protect.

This blog has been an exercise in self awareness and writing style. It's brought me new friends and has become a legacy to share with my family, especially the grandkids. Who woulda thunk?

Thank you to everyone who has been supportive. Hope you keep coming back, dropping in, and leaving a comment or two. Go ahead, make my day.

The dance goes on.

Bedtime story

Oy vey, what's a grandmother to do?

Sophie had her second sleepover in as many weeks and this time she brought a Jewish storybook provided by her beloved bubba. Yes, the children have the best of both worlds, a babci and a bubba.

I decide to do the ecumenically correct thing and give equal time to the other side.

We snuggle up at bedtime, under the watchful eyes of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (still perched upon the headboard of my bed) and I read the Jewish tale to the little one.

It is enlightening. I soon realize that keeping shabbat is just another form of spiritual mindfulness and certainly something that Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew all about (good Jewish family that they were).

It's important for the grandchildren to understand the concept of ritual, keeping the sabbath holy. So Sophie and I rest in my bed and read of dinosaurs and challah. I explain that the Jewish challah is the babka of my Polish grandmother. Bread. Later, wine. Keeping it holy. The sacredness of everyday things, of time passing. The religions of Sophie's grandparents share common ground.

The dinosaur at table? Er, that's a whole other dimension. I'm still trying to figure that one out.