Of ghosts and outdated women and homes with names.
“Property is proper to man,” stated Dorothy Day, and if house—its safety, its cultivation, and love thereof—is the cynosure of any wholesome political motion, in addition to half the title of this column, I could as properly inform you about mine. About ours.
We purchased this modest 1830s Greek Revival (which hadn’t indoor plumbing till the Eighties) in 1992 off Gabby, who, bless her coronary heart, had rescued it from demolition. The divorced spouse of a banker, she was European, sensual, a soi-disant “artist”—an unique in these components. We have been advised that she glided across the sheerly curtained home within the nude. I anticipate the lads of our avenue have been unhappy to see her go.
Gabby had painted the home in pinks and pastels and dubbed it La Maison des Fleur Printemps, making it the one abode within the county with its personal title tag on a shingle.
The springtime lilacs, tulips, and dandelions are beautiful, to make certain. (I maintain with James Russell Lowell that these frequent golden flowers, the last-named of that trio, “art more dear to me/Than all the prouder summer-blooms may be.”) But about 45 seconds after we moved in I ripped that damned signal out of the bottom. I’m about as Franco-American as SpaghettiOs. A paint job in sunshine yellow quickly adopted.
The former chatelaine, a religious believer within the therapeutic energy of crystals, had lodged miniature glass talismans in each nook and cranny of the maison. She additionally advised us that “pixies and fairies” frolicked within the flower beds out again. Okay, we’ve had our share of frolicking fairies, however of pixies I have seen none.
Nor have I espied the “beautiful white ghost” which Gabby claimed descended the steps within the wee hours. The first night time my spouse and I spent in the home we slept on the lounge flooring. At about 3 a.m.—the soul’s midnight, as Ray Bradbury referred to as it—Lucine shook me awake.
“I think I see it,” she whispered.
My first intuition, after all, was to feign deep slumber. Not for me this “I ain’t afraid of no ghost” bluster. But upon investigation the specter was revealed to be the headlights of a automobile coming ’around the bend.
I felt not one of the smug satisfaction of these annoying rationalist debunkers. A la Russell Kirk, I want the ghosts have been actual. For visitants we’ve to make do with the chittering chipmunks who squeeze into the partitions on chilly wet nights.
If any home on the town is wraith-ridden, it should be ours. For maybe half its life it was tenanted by the main spiritualist household of Genesee County, which is close to the western terminus of what the novelist-folklorist Carl Carmer referred to as America’s “psychic highway.” True believer or humbug, credulous dupe or ectoplasmic evangelist, itinerant communers with the lifeless who handed by means of our county within the early twentieth century often boarded with the Slaters.
The final of the road, the Roderick Usher of Chapel Street, was a pursepoor grimalkin with lengthy coarse white hair. The youngsters of the neighborhood referred to as her a witch, although I suspect she was merely shy and odd, a type of love-cracked solitaries sketched with such sympathetic statement by the nice forgotten portraitist of eldritch spinsters, Mary Wilkins Freeman.
Miss Slater dedicated that gravest sin of imply outdated women: she stored the baseballs, footballs, and whiffle balls that landed in her yard. To be honest, the urchins weren’t innocent on this warfare. “We used to throw dogshit at her door,” one grayhair confessed. Thankfully that observe died out with its sufferer.
As a rest-in-peace providing, I depart a token on the Slater headstone within the cemetery by means of which I stroll nearly every single day. It’s a safer strategy to talk than a seance.
I don’t suppose we’ll ever promote this anonymous place—hey, it’s house. So final yr I relented within the decades-long argument with my spouse over the paving of a driveway. “Why do our cars need a carpet?” I requested. Now they’ve one.
The looming battle is over a storage. “Why do our cars need a shrine?” I ask. We’ll see how lengthy I can maintain out.
In the meantime I sit within the twilight, looking over fields of corn or cabbage. I don’t even thoughts the music that performs on the radio.
Don’t have a lot cash, however boy if I did
I’d purchase a giant home the place we each might stay
It’s not that large, however you possibly can’t beat the fleurs each printemps.
Bill Kauffman is the writer of 11 books, amongst them Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette and Ain’t My America.