Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Remembering the Ol' Homestead

It’s these kinds of mornings that take me back to when I was a little girl.  There’s still a nip in the air but the sun is strong and falling like little invisible sunflakes through my window up here in what I call my computer room (aka my office).  I don’t know why I started calling it my computer room but I did and it stuck.  It feels good.  It’s not been a harsh winter this year (thank God) but still, it’s been cold here on Chincoteague with the wind blowing off the channel and the sunshine falling on my back as I type this feels invigorating.

It’s these kinds of mornings when I start reflecting.  I won’t be doing any traveling for a couple of months so I thought I’d do some traveling back in time.

When I was a little girl, my mother and I lived with my aunt (who was only 12 years older than I), my grandmother and my grandfather in a little town called Exmore on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  The house was handed down to my grandparents from my great-grandparents.  Dingy white clapboard 2 story with a tin roof that gave us rat-tap-tap music when it rained.  I would often sit out on the porch with my grandfather reading the Sunday comics and listen to nature sing its song.  Me and “Daddy” (my own daddy ran away from us but that’s another story for another day) rocking in the old weathered rocker as we listened to the rain hitting the tin roof above our heads.

But the kitchen of the old house bore memories also.  I remember the old stove spitting and coughing what little heat it could but it didn’t even come close to warming that kitchen as much as when the sun was shining through the one window at the back which led to the crumbling back porch.  My grandmother loved to cook us hot thick pancakes (some called them hotcakes back then).  Or French toast with heaping amounts of Karo syrup but it was those pancakes I remember the most.  All was good despite the fact the kitchen was the only warm room in the house; that is, until the sun took a different direction.

When the sun leaned toward the south, it would start pouring into my grandparents’  bedroom which was on the bottom  floor to the right of the living room.  The bed was against the wall with one or two of the windows and another window was off to the back of the room where you could see outside.  Off to the far left of the room, there was a nonworking fireplace, a black piano and an old wooden steep staircase.

While the room didn’t compare to the warmth of the kitchen when the sun was shining in, the bedroom had its own unique story.  I slept with my grandparents, my mother slept in the living room by the old stove and my aunt slept upstairs with no heat but plenty of woolen blankets.  It could get really cold on the Eastern Shore in the winter  time.  I didn’t mind sleeping with my grandparents because the house was really cold at night with no heat  and one warm body on each side of you really helped even though I tried to keep warm by burying my head under the blankets – a habit I still indulge in if the room is a big nippy.

But as it turned out, the house was haunted; only you never heard anything of the ghostly type until the sun went down and you were in bed and of course everyone was asleep but you.  But when you did finally drift off to sleep, you would hear it and that set off the most bloodcurdling screams even from a young girl of four or five.

Stomp, stomp stomp.  The staircase in the room which led to my aunt’s bedroom was cursed. I would wake up my grandfather, sobbing my heart out and say, “Daddy, will you please make the ghost stop walking up and down those stairs?”

Daddy would get up and take a flashlight and show me there was nothing on the stairs every single night but I knew better.  I know I heard what I heard.  I always hoped I would fall asleep before the ghost returned but it was the scariest feeling to hear that stomp, stomp, stomp, up and down the steps of the staircase and I could never figure out why no one else heard it, too.  “It’s just the house settling,” they’d try to say.  But I knew the difference between creaks and stomps. Needless to say, I was glad when morning came.

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