Friday, March 05, 2010

30 Days of Hearing -- Ghosts

I heard ghosts today. I am in Ohio visiting my parents and sister Linda. While my folks still live on The Hilltop (as our side of Columbus is known), they do not live in the house I grew up in. So, since I am here a couple of days, I decided this morning to take a wee car ride and visit the neighborhoods where I grew up.

As I did, the voices and sounds of ghost came floating to me. First, I headed from Linda's house through Valleyview and I heard my father's voice warning, "You know this is a speed trap. They'll get you for going 26 in the 25 zone." Sure enough, heading south on Hague, there sat the Valleyview Police Department -- radar gun aimed and ready. Then it was south on North Eureka, past Holton Park where I spent hours playing tennis 35-40 years ago. I could hear the ka-thwack of the ball hitting the asphalt and zing as it smacked off our wooden rackets. Then it was south and west to Lechner Avenue to Glenwood Park where I used to sled. My Mom would warn me, "Don't talk to strangers." It was close to the then Columbus State Hospital for the Insane and she was worried, I guess, that I was the sort to take up with them.

On down Columbia Avenue, across Sullivant to Hauntz Park, where I could hear my cousins urging me to light the candles in our decorated wagon (covered with chicken wire and tissue paper) for the "Lantern Parade" around the park and the crack of my little league bat hitting a ball. And Hilltonia United Methodist Church where I heard the world's longest, most boring Indian story while a Cub Scout... a story that ended with the line, "The smoke signals said, 'Squaw Bury Shortcake'," a pun I found execrable even as an 8 year old.

Then I cruised up Springmont, past my cousins' Jon and Jeff's old house (now for sale) at the corner of Nashoba and Springmont. I could hear their voices calling me to hurry up as we walked home from Mound Street Elementary School. They were a year older, wise second graders to my inexperienced first grade. They are both dead now, but I could hear them also trying to guess who I was at a Hallowe'en party we kids had down in the basement of that house. Other voices of other kids came back as I cruised that neighborhood where I lived the first nine years of my life. I saw our old house on Sullivant Avenue and then our "new" house on South Eureka. At first glance, it looked the same and I heard the voices of Mike Rader and Mike Riley and my other buddies. I saw John Burroughs Elementary School and heard Mr. Sarsfield, my sixth grade teacher, exhaling an exasperated, "Brent."

Other voices came as I cruised along. My grandparents' voices on Richardson Avenue. My teachers at West High School. Sunday school teachers at Highland Avenue Friends Church. And on and on and on and on.

Perhaps these were not "real" sounds. But they sounded real to me. Each sound and each voice came through with crystal clarity. And it reminded me that we never lose that which we have loved -- be they people or places; alive or dead. My friends and family, many long departed, traveled with my through my old haunts... and I was grateful for their company. And the blessings they imparted ... blessings they may not have even known that they were giving me. Indeed, blessings that may have gone unrecognized even by me at the time.

As I drove, I remember being deathly afraid of ghosts when I was nine and living on Sullivant Avenue. I had a recurring nightmare of a monstrous ghost that looked a bit like Godzilla appearing out of the evening mists around Hauntz Park. Today, though, I found the sounds of ghosts all very comforting... and was grateful for their company.

-- Brent

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