4 bedroom, 2.5 bathrooms, inground pool. Haunted. The house where I spent my childhood. The house where I learned and lived and lost and loved. The house that provided walls for my friendships and family nights and memory after memory. It’s on the market. And it’s full of ghosts.
There are ghosts leaning on the doorbell, the ringing doesn’t stop. They’re arriving for birthday parties and sleepovers and barbecues. They’re delivering boxes and letters from loved ones and wonderful news. Right there on the stoop, they’re hugging hello and goodbye. One ghost sits on the ledge and watches the outdated television through the window. It is showing planes hitting buildings, it is there on that stoop that the ghost is watching the world lose its innocence. But the ghost doesn’t realize yet…
Ghosts are selling cookies and waiting for loved ones to come home and chasing the dog after opening the door slightly too far. Even before I enter this haunted house, the ghosts are there.
Once inside, I turn into the living room, empty of the living for today. But even still, the room is full. There are echoes of Christmas trees in the far corner. The ghosts are decorating the branches. The scrapes on the ceiling have been painted over, but the ghosts laugh and sing and hold up ornaments, filling the room with joy. In the big comfy chair behind them, young girls read. The books are different, the girls’ age changes before your very eyes, but the nestled position beneath the reading light never does. Family game nights, movie nights, holiday bustle. Though there are only ghosts tonight, the room is full of life.
The dining room table sits big and empty, but I see the shimmers around it. The chairs are shifting to make room for a decade of them, the ghosts. The candles flicker with years of wax melting and reappearing as breezes of conversations swirl through the air. They are dining and conversing. Here the meals don’t matter as much as the words, here the ghosts are learning. They are discussing hard days and screaming over impossible homework assignments and listening to political discussions that they will someday become a part of, but not yet. Right now the ghosts are just listening. They’re eating and celebrating life and love and family and the beauty of a good conversation.
I move into the kitchen. A ghost whirls by me, sliding in her translucent socks. Around her others are cooking and cleaning. They’re snacking and drinking and sneaking candy out of the top shelf. A thousand ghosts pace around each other, having a thousand different conversations. Hummingbirds flit around outside, unaware of anything else. Shadows of a dog scoot around underfoot. His bowl fills and refills and his muffled pants fill the room with a love that will never be lost. The microwave beeps softly but in this room you can hear creaks from the rest of the house. Ghosts are playing below, the chatter in the basement sneaking through the pipes. Upstairs ghosts through the years are waking and whispering. The whole house is riddled with ghosts and in this room I can hear it all.
Through the window I can see the pool. The surface is still, even as I watch the ghosts splash. They jump off of the diving board and play games and carry out synchronized routines, babbling about far away ‘somedays’ and what they’ll be doing then. Many rollerblade and shoot hoops on the concrete slab in the corner spouting challenges to those plotting away in the treehouse. They grow older with each turn on the swing and beat at piñatas strung up for parties that have long since ended. The ghost dog is there too, bounding around, chased by his adoring family. He comes to rest in the corner of the yard under the cherry tree, its blossoms raining down as he suddenly turns to me from his favorite spot. He will forever sit under the tree, keeping an eye on the house, and the ghosts, that he loves.
Back inside, the door of the laundry room swings open and shut, loved ones returning home and reuniting in front of a flickering fire. Records spin and the ghosts dance around, falling tiredly on the big blue couch. Here they talk and snuggle and read, the ages blurring again as the couch’s seams stretch under weeks and months and years of use. Watching the mantle is like watching a film, the ghosts swapping out photos. Teeth disappear and reappear as babes become toddlers and grins turn into grimaces as those children become teenagers. The washer behind the door spins with laundry of ghost children moved out and returned home only to be leaving again.
Down the stairs the basement is a madhouse. The party is clearly in full swing. There are ghosts playing Dance Dance Revolution and singing into an outdated karaoke machine. Behind them are kids putting on a magic show and dressing up in homemade costumes, still unaffected by the technology that will someday consume their attention. As the walls are spackled and the ceiling finished, one ghost tucks away a capsule behind a pole, a tangible reminder that the ghost had been there. It’s proof. I can’t see through the plaster but I know the bag remains there, just behind the wall. Friendships are forged between those huddled in sleeping bags, petty arguments bloom and fizzle within moments. The conversations in the darkness lay the foundation for love that will outlast even this old house.
Two floors up it is quiet, but I know that they’re there. Sleeping, or pretending to. Behind closed doors George and Harold are drawing Captain Underpants and Artemis is avoiding fairies and Hogwarts is being attacked. Behind these doors the ghosts are learning to read. I can’t hear them but I know pens are flying across thousands of pages as the young ghosts are learning to write. Diary pages are turning and worlds are being created right inside these walls. With a series of beeps, a crowd of ghosts huddle around a computer. The monitor displays three squares and says “dialing” as the phone lines cut out downstairs. The ghosts have entered a new age. Observing and pushing my toes into the familiar carpet, I try and tell them that the world is changing for them and yet, they can’t understand. They have no idea as they cry and scream and giggle and sit that this house is shaping them, protecting them, creating them.
Suddenly, it is all happening at once. There are millions of ghosts in this house. One is seven years old and has just moved in. She is crying because she wanted the room at the end of the hall, in clear view of her parents. Another is eleven, unaware that the violence of the world is reaching closer and closer to her quiet town. Ghosts are practicing instruments and crying over lost spots on sports teams and commiserating on the trials of tweendom with new friends. Ghosts are getting ready for dates and coming home from dates and stressing over standardized testing. They’re coming to terms with a move that will take them 500 miles away and crashing on beds after that first semester in a new town and that first semester in a different country and they’re tossing their college degrees in the corner, back in the comfort of the four walls that grew with them.
The ghosts are everywhere. And the next moment they’re gone.
The house is on the market and the only ghost is me.