I love my oldest daughter’s imagination. From it she creates beautiful pictures and writes lovely poems full of description and colour and feeling. Her imagination turns a boring class presentation into a one-person performance piece. My daughter even created a game, Heaven Cats, to help herself and her siblings cope with the lloss (and ghosts) of our oldest cat. The kids still interact with their Heaven Cats at random moments throughout the day.
Imagination is a wonderful gift and a great creative tool.
But it can have its down side.
Imagination doesn’t just come when you call it, like when you’re trying to write a story or design an outfit. An imagination has a will of its own, showing up when it feels like it. Some of my best inspirations have come when I’m doing nothing, walking home from taking the kids to school, watching the neighbourhood traffic. It also comes at night, when you may not want it to.
A few weeks ago my oldest woke me up, saying there was a noise in her room, keeping her awake. She wanted me to investigate for her. Even though neither of us heard anything in her room, she asked if I could sleep with her for a little bit, to reassure her, to help her calm down and drift into sleep.
I had read somewhere, some site or parenting book when trying to learn ‘how to be a good mother’, that you should never underestimate your child’s fear. Just because you don’t believe in ghosts doesn’t make your child’s fear any less real. With that in mind I tried to reassure my daughter and lay on the bed to try and comfort her.
Then I heard it. The noise. I didn’t react until my daughter confirmed that she had heard it too. It was a strange bumping and dragging noise, coming from her closet. I got up and slowly walked to the closet, treading lightly (you know, to avoid startling my daughter of course). I leaned closer to the closet door. It didn’t sound as though it was coming from the closet but maybe above the closet. I thought about opening the closet door, to see that nothing was there, to better understand what the sound was and where it was coming from.
I kept telling my daughter it was raccoons or maybe the cats. We had a raccoon family in our attic before and at night you could hear them scurrying around. However, this was a very different sound, a bump-bump-bump versus scurrying, but I hoped my daughter didn’t notice the difference.
As quickly as the sound started, it stopped.
I tried to reassure my daughter there was a logical reason for the noise, something on the upper stairs (the stairs to the third floor run over my daughter’s closet), though I was having my doubts. I lay down on the bed with my daughter again, hoping she would be able to sleep. I closed my eyes, but kept popping them open, staring at the closet door.
I was almost asleep or maybe I was asleep, that light sleep state, when I was started awake. As I lay in my light sleep state a child’s voice whispered urgently to me, ‘Mom!’ I thought it was my youngest daughter. She sometimes walks down to my room to ask for someone to take her to the bathroom or to say she can’t sleep. I opened my eyes ready to take my youngest back to bed, thinking the episode with my oldest daughter had disturbed her and she just needed someone to settle her down again.
But no one was there. Nothing!
Now my heart raced. I told myself I was being silly, I don’t believe in ghosts, but that didn’t help. My focus was now on the closet again. The house was silent. I was the only one struggling with sleep. Eventually my body gave in and I must have fallen to sleep since the next time I looked around the room it was morning.
My daughter didn’t say anything about the noise last night. I didn’t ask anyone about visiting me last night. We just carried on with our day, though I was exhausted. I don’t believe in ghosts though I often tell my kids that the spirits of our cats and past loved ones are around, watching over us. This is more of a reassurance that loved ones are not gone. I don’t envision them walking around the house or sitting on the chair. It’s just a feeling that they’re looking down on us, from Heaven, just keeping track of what we’re up to. They can’t interact or interfere or do anything, just ‘be’.
This whole episode I had put behind me, until a few days ago. As I slept I heard my youngest crying or talking in her sleep. It’s amazing the sounds I can pick-up while everyone else sleeps soundly. I waited in bed, straining my ears to see if my daughter was awake and upset or just noises from a dream. It passed and I assumed she was back to sleep. I closed my eyes.
That urgent whisper again. Opening my eyes, it wasn’t my youngest, awake from a bad dream. It was no one. The same voice, the same whisper, but this time is was in my room, not my oldest daughter’s room.
I love our home; it’s old, built in 1909. It has only had a few owners and sits in its near original state. I remember the work we had to do to bring the home up to code in order to live in it legally. Unlike now, families lived for generations in their homes. They were born, lived their life, and died, all in the same home. My grandmother’s home still stands, built by my great great grandfather and generations were born and died in that very home. Why wouldn’t this home, the place we live know, why would it not be any different? I tried to put these thoughts out of my mind. I tried to remind myself that the imagination is a powerful thing, full of inspiration but also able to trick you. This was just something in my head, maybe guilt from not checking on my daughter. Maybe my mind expecting my daughter to show-up like she does. Nothing else. There’s an explanation for everything.
I shouldn’t believe in ghosts, right?