Thursday, November 13, 2008

Apparently my son sees ghosts. Oh! And Christmas is here! Tra la la!

As my grandmother would say, I need this like I need a hole in the head.

My son has been talking about ghosts and various other Halloween-related subjects since, well, late September. Typically, my end of the conversation has gone something like, "Oh, you saw a Grim Reaper in someone's yard? Was he scary looking? Neat. Hey, did you remember your backpack? Are you going pay attention at piano lesson? Good. Leave your seatbelt alone. Remember, your right hand is your toothbrushing hand. Hold up your right hand -- that's left, oh, wait, you were right... Oh, you want a skeleton for the front yard? We'll talk about it later. We can make one. We have cardboar - I said leave your seatbelt alone!" Hearing about the various sights has been a refreshing change from the child who ran in abject terror from the countless animatronic gadgets that peppered our neighborhood and, seemingly, every business we ventured into. Still, with Halloween on the brain so much, I have been eager for it to end. Now that it has, though, my son's preoccupation with ghosts has not abated even slightly. If anything, it's increased.

Tonight as I was chopping garlic and ginger for dinner, he and I were talking in the kitchen. One of the net results of Halloween has been that he is all over me like white on rice, and this reverting has reminded me, as I grind my teeth, that I am generally a much more sanguine mother to older children than babies and toddlers. I just get edgy when I don't have enough personal space and quiet time. I have been trying ever so hard to be patient, not a strength of mine to begin with, though, by reminding myself that this is temporary, that there will come a day when I will look back longingly on the time when my son craved my company and reassurances. [He has become fearful these past couple of months since he started school, of guns and violence and cruelty, things he never thought of, perhaps never really knew about, before. This has combined with all the fervor around Halloween to create a sort of generalized fear in him. Among other things, he is afraid that someone is going to shoot him. He asks me, probably around thirty times a day, "No one's going to shoot me, right?" He is afraid to walk to school with me because of this sketchy boogyman figure, every sound he hears outside the house - and there are many as we live near a major thoroughfare - causes alarm in my son. Today, I taught him a new, but very potent, incantation of protection: "Ooga, looga, shasta, shay: Make my fears go away," with a hand clap.]

About a dozen times a day lately, I take a deep breath and mine within for my last reserve of patience, always surprised to unearth a little more. Anyway, tonight wasn't so bad because we were talking and it was a relaxed, comfortable time together. As we talked, my son told me about the ghosts he has seen.

Apparently, there is a ghost who visits every night, a female ghost with seashells in her hair. From what I have gathered, she is not scary. She brings my son fossils to examine, then leaves with them as she departs. He does not know her name but has assured me that he will ask next time. He has drawn a stark rendition of her in purple crayon.

He also apparently saw - or, rather, sensed - ghosts when we were downtown Saturday. They were invisible, he said, but he could feel their presence. No matter how many times he said, "Criss cross applesauce, ghosts go away," something he learned in a book, they did not. They were a little more menacing to him but still nothing he felt threatened by. According to my son, they were everywhere.

So, this is the thing: I am likely going to just write all this off as my son's very active and vivid imagination, which he certainly has in spades. There is a part of me, though, that wonders. He is just the sort of cinematic child who would see spirits: saucer eyes, sensitive, sweet natured. If he is, in fact, seeing ghosts, I'm sort of at a loss for what to do about it. I don't think that that is part of Dr. Sears' canon (Attachment Parenting for Children Who Communicate With the Dead) so I'd probably have to put on some patchouli oil and take my skeptical self over to the Indigo Children section of the bookstore. I will be welcomed there by spacey-eyed, breathy women in diaphanous skirts and their 'shrooming spouses. Ay yi yi. Like many challenges my son and I have met together, I am hoping this one fades away really soon.

Two not-so-quick stories this brings up...

1. Not too long ago, there was a series on A&E called Psychic Kids, which was 90% lame, 8% creepy and 2% neither here nor there. (That was its exact compositional make-up, by the way.) It was a documentary series (I guess a more highbrow way of saying reality show) about children who could apparently see and sense ghosts. The 8% that was creepy tapped into the square inch of my brain dedicated to being actively fearful of Danny-From-The-Shining-Plus-The-Kid-From-The-Sixth-Sense. I watched the series, which came complete with a melodramatically queeny ghost-huntin' adult and bizarre child psychologist who basically repeated the same refrain over and over ("So you're feeling very alone with this whole seeing dead people thing, aren't you?") because the novel I've written features an empath and there is some cross-over. My interest was strictly professional, I assure you. Anyway, I had just watched an episode and it was around 10:15 at night. I was finishing up on some email, and I heard a tapping on the window of the sunroom where I work. Mind you, the episode I had just watched featured a child who was tormented by a ghost who tapped at the window. I jumped about a foot in the air, screaming in terror, to see this shrouded figure on the other side of the glass. It was our family friend, Uncle P. with his gray sweatshirt hood over his head, who had come over to, I don't know, terrorize me. Either that or borrow the car. Anyway, even after it was clear to me that the figure on the other side of the glass was not, in fact, the ghost of Scatman Crothers and the word REDRUM was not scrawled on the window in a child's hand, I could not stop screaming. The funny thing was, just like in a comedy, as I started screaming, Uncle P. did as well, equally freaked out was he by my response, so for a good ten seconds, we stood on opposite sides of the window, staring at each other, shrieking uncontrollably.

2. When I was around 15, my parents bought a new house and the family moved. I don't know what it was that inspired us to do so, but one day while we were unpacking, my friend and I got a notion to freak out my mother, which, admittedly, is very, very easy to do. We wrote a note about how this new house was built on an Ancient Indian Burial Ground and any who should live here would be considered fair game for a good, old-fashioned cursing. It was written in the voice of a previous occupant who had been driven mad by the agitated Ancient Indian Burial Ground spirits. Not very original, I will admit: it was basically Poltergeist plus Amityville Horror. We burned the note around the edges to make it look old and yellow, and we immediately arranged for a co-conspirator in my mom's friend, the wonderfully playful and mischievous Mrs. Wasserman, who was over unpacking plates and vases and such. She called my mother over after allegedly putting some boxes in the crawl space and showed her the note she had discovered. My mother looked it over, and said with tears in her eyes, "Well, isn't this just my luck. The goddamn house is haunted. Great." We couldn't torture her for long given how she immediately accepted that she and her family were now cursed, but it was very funny at the time.

Onto an unghostly topic, but one that still chills me to the core.

This evening I was out buying tape at my local pharmaceutical-and-home supplies establishment (in case you have a burning desire to know, it was tape to make the pro-vegan message sign that goes on our front yard with the inflatable turkey every Thanksgiving) when what should hit my ears but the dulcet notes of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," that catchy homage to Arctic deer-on-elder violence. That's right: the last of the plastic spiders and orange lights have been finally packed away, so now we need to get whacked upside the collective head with the Christmas spirit. Ho ho ho. Not wanted to lend my voice to the nagging chorus of complainers, I still do have to admit that that first tacky, oversized red velvet bow of the season always makes me cringe more than a little. My state of Christmas Hate typically ebbs-and-flows throughout the, what?, seven months preceding it, usually leaving me in a state of depleted, white flag waving acquiescence by the time December 25 finally decides to roll into town. Maybe it is the Jewess in me, maybe it is the cynical urbanite, but hot damn, the producers of bad Christmas music - and much is varying degrees of bad, from the merely annoying to the outright unholy, let's face it - and the red velvet bowmakers of America, conspire to make it really, really challenging for me to be my ebullient vegan, pagan self you've all come to know. Anyone not liking my disposition until New Years can take it up with them.

But I'm still happy that Obama got elected. No seashell-coiffed ghosts or Christmas-related obnoxiousness can take that away from me!

Shalom, everyone.

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