Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Window to a Storm

I grew up in a haunted house - It wasn't spooky like some Hollywood movie (well, maybe a little spooky) but the house was inhabited by a ghost. The original house had been a rustic farm house but a subsequent owner had made improvements and converted it into something resembling a mini French chateau complete with a turret, beveled glass windows in the french doors and a sandy stucco exterior. It was this man's spirit who occupied the house post mortem and his presence could be felt strongly in particular rooms of the house including the living room, downstairs guest room, an upstairs dressing room and my bedroom (especially my closet). At this point you're probably expecting me to start telling a bunch of ghost stories to prove my assertion but you'd be wrong - not that I don't have them because I do - I'm only telling one and I don't care if you believe me. Poltergeists exist in this material world and almost everyone knows it and has had their own personal experience with a ghost so don't take my word for it - take your own. Anyway, my father moved us to this home and started building additions to the original that jetted out from the northern end to create a backward capital L shape where the small haunted castle was the base of the letter. My bedroom was located in the corner of this L on the second floor of the house with windows facing north and east and doors leading to both the old original house (south) and the additions (there were 2) which made up the new part of the house (west) and tripled the size of the original building. Our ghost did not venture into the additions that my father had designed and built for reasons I do not know but assume are rooted in the spirits comfort zone or some otherworldly boundary that limits to free movements of specters here on earth.

One steamy summer afternoon as is common in the Virginia Piedmont, which is where this house was located, a tremendous thunderstorm approached from the west. I was in my room and looking east but could see the sky clouding over and hear the rumble of thunder in the distance and, being the sole occupant of the house (not counting the ghost) at the time, knew that I should start shutting windows. My father loved windows and our house had over 40 of them, in every conceivable shape and size, lining both stories plus 5 french doors and 5 "normal" doors and 6 large bay windows that did not open but filled the living room with afternoon light. That's a long way of saying that there was a lot of glass and open cracks in the house that made it impossible to heat in the winter or cool in the summer and my father's answer to that problem was to simply do neither. Each child had a dog and during the winter months we slept with that dog for warmth and woke each day to morning frost on the inside of our bedroom windows. In the summer all windows were flung wide open to catch whatever slight breeze might whisk in and circulate the hot, moist air and that was exactly the situation on this day I'm recollecting. I went to my east window first and started to wind the fixture that would bring the open window into it's sill but stopped and thought to myself, "I better get all the west facing windows shut first" as that would be the direction all wind and rain will come from. So I high tailed it down the hallway to the western most part of the house, which is the top of the inverted L, and started shutting windows.

The storm was closer than I thought and there were a lot of windows to shut and doors to close as I went from room to room, down stairways and up stairways (there were 3 in the house) shutting and slamming like a maniac because the storm was also bigger than I had imagined. The wind began to howl as big fat raindrops splashed on the open sills while I frantically finished closing the last windows in my parents bedroom which was situated in the bottom end of the L or the opposite end of the house from where I had started. Mission accomplished just as the heavens opened and torrents of water washed over the house while lightning danced outside and I made my way back to my room where I found my window screen turned upside down and rattling in the open window I'd been fiddling with 10 minutes earlier. A desk, piled high with books, papers, reading lamps and brick-a-brack stood in front of this window so there is no way for the window screen to have dislodged from it's anchors and flipped upside down then fallen back to position without knocking everything off my desk. There is no sane explanation for what happened except that our ghost had decided to prank me while I was out of the room and so flipped the screen knowing that I would return to inspect his mischief.

Why am I telling this story? I don't even know except to say that when you see a storm rolling in don't be surprised if some ghost in the house messes with your head and makes you take a second look at your window of perception.

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