Archives for October 2010

Bye, Bye Babies

Today our family piled into the Swagger Wagon and did the tourist thing-New England style. We drove to North Conway, New Hampshire and gorged ourselves in one of the quaint little restaurants in town before taking off for some leaf peeping and a climb up the Mount Washington Auto Road. For lunch, we inadvertently landed in a restaurant that Dave and I ate in when we used to live in North Conway. That was before we were married…when Dave indulged my need to run away and came with me. The one and only time I ran and finally bumped into myself… the real me, but that’s a story for another day.

As we sat in what was once our romantic little Italian restaurant, we were simultaneously sent back in time and smacked in the face with the present. Our little ambiance-filled spot has been replaced by an Irish pub/sports bar and restaurant. Dave and I marveled that the bones of the place remain the same and located “our” table. We shared a wistful glance as we silently recalled the times we were able to eat at a restaurant without our brood of tiny, poorly mannered people. With a shrug of the shoulders we hunkered down and braced ourselves for a public family meal. Interestingly enough, I think that we turned a corner and caught a glimpse of what the future holds.

North Conway, Winter
The kids are now 6, 4 and 20 months. Our older two quietly chatted with each other and colored. They ate their lunch (with utensils) and stayed seated. Dare I say that it was actually pleasant? As a family we’ve taken to skipping meal time in any type of public dining facility. When we had just one child, Dave and I still dined like royalty and Joe was our tiny little wing man. That kid ate in some of the best restaurants in Boston! Two children brought challenges; we started opting for places with talking animals rather than forego a precious meal out. However, attempting to sit in a restaurant with three small children is just idiotic. We realized that it was time to let go of the family “date”.
Something changed at that little restaurant in North Conway. David and I were able to hold a conversation! Typically, over the past 20 months we were so absorbed in baby stuff that we forgot to slow down and take a good hard look at her. In our minds, Kate still required the attention that an infant demands. After all, she’s the baby and babies need constant care…bottles, baby food, diaper changes and constant entertainment. But not today! No sir, today it became apparent that Kate has left babyhood behind and somewhere along the line she became an honest to goodness toddler.

Kate climbed into a highchair, picked up a crayon and scribbled. She passed crayons to her sister. She spoke her Kate language (that I never want to stop). She drank lemonade from a cup and fed herself lunch like a proper albeit, poorly mannered little human. Upon command from Joe and Gwen, she yelled, “BUTT!” We all dissolved into giggles and the ignored people on our left who were staring at us. (Like their kid never yelled the word butt in public.)

As I sat in that restaurant pondering pre-marriage Dave and Kelli, I was struck by the fact that here we were, 11 years later with our three children. We are a family of five. It all happened with lightening speed! Weren’t we just sitting in this restaurant planning to elope? Didn’t we just move to Boston? Dave just took the bar exam. It seems like only days ago that I sat submerged in our bathroom’s deep old bathtub, trying to escape from the heat of summer and the pain caused by my 9th month of pregnancy. We only just had Joe… then Gwen. I was just rolling them around Brighton in their stroller. We only recently fled the city to that big old house in New Hampshire…Kate was born just a few months ago, right? How quickly time seems to have moved when I view it from this direction.

Time has tricked me again. My last baby is officially gone. Time has stolen her baby smell and her exquisite milk-drunk, floppy newborn slumber. How quickly I have forgotten the colic that caused hours of painful crying each evening. Honestly, from this angle I can’t recall being really exhausted from sleep interrupted by nursing. From this direction, my view is made up of those sweet, fleeting hours when I held my babies on my chest and felt their warm, quick breath on my neck. I clung to those sleepy times with Kate, knowing that the future would lend a euphoric dream like quality to my memories. Oh, how I loved those sleepy, fantastic smelling newborns and their wobbling, fuzzy little heads under my lips.

Our little people are growing up. Our little baby is becoming a girl…complete with some new pigtails and a budding sense of humor. Goodbye sweet, tiny baby. I’ll never forget you. Welcome to the world, and by the way, you have two really incredible siblings to spend your life with. In the meantime, I’m going to try and store away a perfect memory of each and every one of you, just as you are right now.

Dog Chasin’ Wellies

I have a decidedly non-traditional pair of Wellies standing at the ready in the mudroom. I bought them thinking they might come in handy for messy yard work and muddy gardens. They really have served their intended purpose well. Yet, I have to give them credit where credit is due. Those obnoxious Wellies commissioned by the Royal Horticultural Society and covered in pink cabbage roses have really become invaluable in a different way. You see, I can practically jump into them en route to whatever door Stella has exited (sans leash) to chase God knows what through the wilderness that is my back yard.

Stella. Good old Stella. Good thing I like to run…and have a big, loud mouth. I’m quite sure the furry little jerk can hear my calls echo throughout the little valley that houses just a handful of homes. There’s certainly a decent echo here in the neighborhood and when the wind is right, voices sure do carry. That’s a tidbit of information that on occasion one of us forgets as our patient calls of, “Here Stella” turn to angry bursts of profanity laced rage, followed by manic laughter.

Over the summer I heard David, who rarely swears in public let alone raise his voice, spouting such loud and filthy profanity at the dog that my own face turned red. Of course, I headed straight to the window closest to the sounds of his tirade to watch. For me, there’s something hilarious about watching my 6’1″ husband try to catch a 12 pound Jack Russell Terrier who is clearly just having a good time. From my hiding spot in the drapes, I watched as Stella appeared to go to Dave when he called her. As he bent his tall frame toward the ground with hands outstretched, I watched his face brighten and he praised Stella with some crap about being a good dog. Stella however, took this as her cue to dart to the left with the precision of…hmmm, a very fast Jack Russell Terrier. Dave stumbled forward slightly in a desperate stretch to catch her as she whizzed past his fingertips. The momentum pulled him forward but Stella adjusted her sleek little body with a slight cant to the left and another precision turn. He quietly called her a “son of an ass” and straightened his body to full length as the dog stopped short a few feet away. She threw her body into the grass for a breather and with her tongue lolling out of her mouth, she looked like she was smiling. Fast forward about three minutes and 10 more laps and Dave’s quiet profanities have morphed into a full blown stream of not-so-quiet, filthy insults. The dog is still smiling. I’m still in the drapes stifling giggles and wishing I had the video camera.

Stella is yet another in a long line of Jack Russell Terriers. We both had them in our lives long before we even met. Stella is the third that we’ve lived with since we’ve been together. When we moved to Maine and decided to give the dog thing another try we explored every breed OTHER than Jack Russell Terriers. Dave swore up and down that he never wanted another. He adamantly declared that he has had at least one (sometimes four at a time) Jack Russell in his life “for the past 30 years” and “I’m tired of those little assholes.” So off I went on the hunt for the right breed for the Fahertys. My first requirement was no drooling. Second requirement: no breeds with weird health issues. Third requirement: personality…no crotch sniffing, no big lazy loads of fur sprawled across the floors, no long fuzzy hair stuck to furniture, no tiny girly dogs…as the list grew I found myself sneaking a Google search for a breeder of Jack Russells in New England. Google nicely offered up a breeder only 20 miles away. The Jack Russells in her kennel were fantastic. I happen to think there’s no puppy as cute as a Jack Russell puppy, so of course I looked at the breeder’s past litters. I showed Dave because he can’t resist a JRT puppy either. We sat there looking at the photos and reading about the breeder and finally looked at each other. Without speaking, we agreed that we are not suited to another breed. We are Jack Russell people. The following day, I spent an hour on the phone with the owner of Connemara Jack Russell Terriers in Maine. When I hung up, our bank account was missing $350 and the breeder had herself a nice deposit on one of the pups in the next litter.

We knew what we were getting into. We’ve both been here before. We knew that we’d have a biting, chewing, barking, spiteful puppy living with us. We also knew that we’d have a hilarious new friend who would be able to illicit belly laughs often. We knew she would be so smart that her well planned actions would border on sneaky. We knew that we were going to look into those amber eyes hidden beneath a furrowed brow and melt. We knew that we’d be standing in the yard chasing her and yelling profanities while the other stood in the drapes and quietly laughed. We are Jack Russell people. Any other dog would bore me to death. I have come to realize that Jack Russells are the dog version of me. They are funny, spiteful, energetic, sensitive, grudge holding, loyal, snugly, smart and sometimes manipulative. Any other dog just wouldn’t work.
So as I sat on the window seat enjoying a cup of tea and a rare moment of silence yesterday afternoon, I saw a beautiful bird flying by, slightly low to the ground. It flew into the woods next to a stone wall. A nanosecond later, I watched a white and brown blur race by and dive over the stone wall. Stella was swallowed by the underbrush and off on a pheasant hunt. I sighed and placed my tea on the counter. As I jumped into my Wellies, I turned on Cartoon Network for Joe and Gwen (Kate was napping) and informed them that I was off to find Stella. I grabbed the gourmet dog treats that Her Royal Highness loves and the training clicker. By this time, the kids who are now Jack Russell people too, simply threw me a look that said, ‘Godspeed, good woman’ and turned to Tom and Jerry.

Outside in the crisp fall air I began my trek into the forest. I stepped over the stone wall and attempted to tune my hearing in to Stella’s collar. She isn’t a barker, so I have to rely on the jingle of her tags. In the distance I detected a slight jingle and an unnatural rustling of leaves. A squirrel angrily chattered from the same general vicinity so I knew I was on the right trail. “STEEEELLA! STELLA. COME!” Nothing. I shook the gourmet dog treats. “STELLA, TREAT, TREAT.” Nothing. “Goddamn dog”. I climbed over a few logs, slipped on some mossy rocks and then I spotted her. She was snorting around in some leaves and completely ignoring my existence altogether. “STELLA!” She threw me a cursory glance then pounced off, Pepe Le Pew style, after some unseen woodland critter.

Game on, dog! I started running through the woods following the sounds of sniffs and glimpses of white fur. Now we’d managed to emerge near the road and as I ran through the woods in my pink flowered Wellies, I clicked the training clicker and called for Stella. As my neighbors began trickling in from work, one passed by and spotted me running at the threshold of the woods. She slowed and stared at me with a mixture of shock and surprise. I imagine that to her, it would appear that new neighbor woman has chosen to run through the woods in her rain boots while pointing some sort of odd, clicking remote control and yelling at an imaginary creature. I waved at her as if it’s completely sane of me to be traipsing through her woods in my pookie pink boots with a clicker and continued on my jolly way. I lost sight of Stella, but did find the pheasant, nonplussed and pecking at the ground. At least the pheasant doesn’t think I’m bat shit crazy.

Defeated, I gave up and headed home cursing at Stella under my breath. I took the road so I didn’t have to face the neighbor. I just didn’t have it in me to generate small talk aimed at making myself appear sane. Frankly, I don’t think I would have changed her mind. She’d stand there and engage in a polite conversation about the dog…bla bla…when we all know she thinks I’m a scary nut bag. As I walked up the driveway muttering to myself and picking sticks out of my hair, I spotted Stella sitting on the porch waiting for me. As she came running, I called her name and clicked my clicker. By the time she reached me her tail was wagging so hard that her hind end moved with it. She smiled that mischievous Stella smile. “Sit Stella”, I commanded. She sat down immediately. I clicked the clicker and fed her a gourmet dog treat. She walked by my side, followed me into the house and patiently waited while I took off my dog chasing Wellies. Good dog.

Happy Re-Birthday To Me

This morning I was pulled from sleep by the sound of gusting wind and cold rain drops smacking against the windows. My eyes slowly opened and took it in. Not just another rainy birthday, but a Nor’easter has come to usher me into my 40th year. Yet, somehow today feels different. There has been shift somewhere deep inside of myself.

I laid there waiting to feel the usual disappointment wash over me. It didn’t come. Instead, my bed felt cozy and my heart was warmed by the morning sounds of my family. Dog collar jingling, baby babbles and giggles. David brought me breakfast in bed. He took the day off to be with me, knowing that the birthday rain might make me sad. He gave me a beautifully written card. My children squeezed me tight and peppered my face with kisses. Stella licked my hand and wiggled into my lap.

The clock tells me that I’m halfway through my 40th birthday and I feel good. My heart is full and my mind isn’t racing. This is one of those rare days were I am just being. Hearing the music, playing in the bath with Kate and writing. I like the rain today. This is a good birthday.

I Heart Nurses

Recently, Kate and I spent some quality time together at her 18 month pediatric visit. Thankfully, our tiny little “Bird” is our third baby; otherwise our visits to the pediatrician would be fraught with anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I love our pediatrician. You really couldn’t ask for a better experience and believe me; we’ve gone through enough pediatricians from Boston to Maine to know the good from the bad. Historically, the problem with the pediatricians tends to be the nurses. I shouldn’t be saying this because my mother is a nurse and of course, I have nothing but respect for the people who make enormous sacrifices to work in such an admirable profession. I’m just saying that the nurses we’ve encountered have been all over the map. They have run the gamut from the older, Nurse Ratched-esque women, to the flighty, deer in headlights woman, to the overzealous-just graduated from nursing school nurse. Those younger nurses can pose a real challenge for new parents. She’s generally in her mid-20’s, has no children and she’s still living by the book. New parents might make the common rookie mistake of reading too much into her facial expressions. Beware of falling prey to the new pediatric nurse’s facial expressions!

Our little Katie Bird is 18 months old and weighs in at a whopping 19.5 pounds. I know because New Nurse weighed her three different times to make sure. With a furrowed brow and pursed lips she carefully entered this information into her handy dandy computer, then a look of concern promptly washed over her face. “Ooooooh do you see?” she slightly winced as she turned the growth chart in my direction. She raised her eyebrows, slowly shook her head and shot me a sad, I’m-so-sorry-smile, “She has actually lost weight since her last visit.”

Now, six years and three babies ago this would have entirely freaked me. Her look of concern as she delivered the tragic news of a 5 ounce weight loss would have paralyzed me with terror. I would have rushed home and Googled “baby and weight loss”, searching for illnesses to explain why…why for the love of God is my baby so teeny tiny? What’s wrong with her?! Why did that nurse look so worried?! What are they not telling me?!!

Instead, with six years and three kids under my belt, I’m no longer prone to that kind of rookie mistake. Now I know that New Nurse’s pained expression would be more appropriate in another kind of medical office, not when my baby is being weighed. Nonetheless, I smiled and pasted a similar (pretend) look of concern on my face so that we could move along and see the pediatrician.

Next was the 18 month developmental checklist “interview”. We were moving along at a spectacular pace since I answered “yes” appropriately to each of the required milestones that Kate has successfully mastered. New Nurse was beaming with delight as the perfect specimen of toddler development sat before her throwing crayons across the room. Then she asked, “Is she speaking at least 15 words?” I laughed. Wait, no…I think I actually snorted, then laughed, “Uh…no?” Clearly, I forgot who I was dealing with. My laughter subsided as New Nurse’s smile faded into renewed concern. “Well, not fifteen words…I don’t know…we haven’t actually counted her words….” I faltered. I found myself stammering under the very serious gaze of a 24 year old professional. She clearly saw no humor in Kate’s failure to speak the required 15 words. My bad. I shrugged my shoulders apologetically and rattled off a few of Kate’s “maybe” words and then I made a few up to make New Nurse stop looking at us with such sorrow.

So being mindful that this young nurse is at the dawn of her new career, I patiently listened to her discuss the weight loss and explain how growth charts work. She informed me what children of Kate’s age are “usually” saying by now and I nodded my head in response while casting a fake regretful glance in Kate’s direction. (She’s now standing on the table and stomping the paper). I decide I like New Nurse and even ask her a few questions. I like that she’s passionate. She’s feeling good about herself and her hard-earned expertise. Her passion is evident in the way she interacts with my little Bird. She tenderly plays with Birdie’s toes as she sits on the exam table ripping the crackling paper to shreds. The young nurse plays peek-a-boo and can’t help but smile and laugh when she’s met with Birdie’s funny little frown.

Of course, Kate’s pediatrician chalked her weight loss up to her new found running legs, picky toddler palate and a decrease in milk consumption. She looked at me, noted my own petite stature and told me precisely what I already knew. Kate is a tiny, perfect little human with big blue eyes, curly hair and a fully functioning, albeit slightly loud voice box. She toddles, babbles, plays, points, eats, drinks and climbs like a normal 18 month old. She’s perfection wrapped in a tiny package.

On our way out Birdie waved bye-bye to New Nurse who handed her a lollipop and a sticker. Kate screamed at the pop and then I think she said, “Mine?”

Can I Be Done Now?

Putting my most difficult battle on public display has been a risky venture. My biggest concern of course being, “what will people think?” I hesitate each time I publish one those bleak posts, wondering what the mommies in my new town will think. Will they still let their children come and play or am I sinking Joe and Gwen’s budding social lives by causing them be labeled “the ones with the crazy mom”? I think of my family and their tendency to pretend these particular posts don’t exist at all. I think of David’s family and wonder what they must think of his wife’s rambling tales. I find myself wondering if people feel awkward in my presence after reading a “depression” post. It all remains to be seen I guess. Perhaps this will become just another hurdle in my journey.

Sadly, no matter how hard I try to send it away my elephant is still sitting here in my room, reminding me that as a teenager I came very close to taking my own life. Ultimately, I was too worried that my mother would be the one to find me, so at the last minute I opted out of…well, opting out. I just couldn’t figure out a way to ensure that it would be my stepfather or a stranger who found me in the garage. Inflicting such ugliness on my mother wasn’t an option and simply wasn’t fair. Plus, I knew if I didn’t succeed, I was going to get in a whole lot of trouble. Life with my family would be way worse post failed suicide attempt. It was better to suffer and pray (beg) to God that he might see fit to let me check out a bit earlier than expected. (By the way, he said no. Thank you, God.)

Before settling on my “method” and true to my personality, I embarked on extensive research. I didn’t exactly have anyone’s undivided attention at home, so I was able to fly under the radar during my exploration. I was smart enough to know that talking about it would raise red flags. Talking about it would be considered a cry for help, but would more likely be met with someone scoffing and dismissively telling me to cut the dramatics. I didn’t want help and I didn’t want any further trouble.

My father unwittingly helped me explore various methods after I asked to interview him for a school paper about teen suicide. There was no paper, I just needed to find out the truth from someone who investigated death. He told me that most teenagers cut their wrists horizontally, but the people who did so vertically bleed out faster. Either way, it is a very painful and messy death. My mother and stepfather were in St. Martin for a week with my Uncle and his children. So while I was alone I tested the water by cutting through the skin of my left wrist. Not to commit suicide, but to determine if that was something I could actually bring myself to do. I still bear two faint, tiny scars. One is an X. One is a question mark. My father was right. There was no way I could handle the pain.

My father told me that it is more common for teenage females to attempt suicide by overdose. Yet, often this is seen as a cry for help since many girls swallow just enough pills to get sick. He said that overdosing often causes a person to vomit and aspirate…which ends up being the real cause of death. So when found, these poor people who had often taken the time to “arrange” themselves to look “pretty” in death were anything but. We didn’t have enough pills in the house to be effective.

He told me that teenage males are most likely to carry through with their plan by using a gun. The guns were at my father’s house, 20 miles away and it seemed so horribly violent with room for error. A few years later, someone I knew chose this method and he was successful. You might remember him too. He was handsome and kind and I think of him often even though 20-something years have passed.

I think when I posed the question, “What about carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t you just fall asleep?” my father began to catch on. I’d like to think that he had some inkling that this wasn’t about a term paper. He began by saying that yes, basically a person loses consciousness but when found they don’t look pretty. He very graphically explained the appearance of the people who had died as the result of carbon monoxide poisoning. I think he was trying to scare me. I also think he saw that he wasn’t scaring me at all. We never talked about it again. I don’t know if he told my mother or stepmother or anyone else of our conversation. I doubt if he remembers it today.

The topic of suicide makes people uncomfortable. No one likes to talk about it and would rather forget it altogether, including me. Why would anyone willingly talk about something so filled with shame? Why am I sharing the most difficult thing I have ever been through? Because of the attached stigma and shame that leaves a person feeling they have no other option. Because people feel alienated and alone in their despair, that’s why. Because this is the current outlet that my creativity chose to flow through. Believe me, I wish it would emerge in some other form, something like a beautiful painting or sewing a fantastic pair of drapes or decorating a room that takes someone’s breath away. I hope this dark subject fades from my life soon. If I write it out, I might finally be able to send it away.

If I have made you uncomfortable or, worse, caused you embarrassment or brought you shame because I publicly announced my one-time wish…I’m sorry for you. Too many people have quietly contacted me with their own struggles. Enough people have told me that they don’t feel so alone now that I’ve let my cat out of the bag. Do I think my words will ultimately stop anyone? Not really, but maybe as adults we can step outside of our ourselves and take a good long look at the young people we know and/or love. Is the persona they are presenting to the world genuine? Look hard, because if someone really wants to commit suicide, they aren’t telling anyone. Don’t just listen, but hear what they are saying…go deeper. More often than not, loved ones are left reeling with confusion. They will most likely remember a happy, outgoing person who never provided a hint of suicidal thoughts.

Countless people from my past have told me that what they saw was a “popular girl” and that to them, it seemed that I had it together. I seemed confident and happy. I’ll admit that I had my act down pat, but I do recall having a few meltdowns that spilled into school hours, becoming public consumption. On the rare occasion that a crack appeared in my public mask, I was able to duck out or claim illness to explain my crying jag away. I was barely able to breath, but the teachers wanted to believe my lie. No one else had the time to see through my act and my peers weren’t equipped (or expected) to know what was going on. It turns out that some were going through the same thing. It was easy to hide behind the façade of “popular girl”, among people who wouldn’t dream of scratching the surface. As far as I was concerned, the shallower the better and I eschewed anyone with the potential to become a genuine friend. Instead I chose remain as solitary as possible. At school, I might have appeared to be the popular girl, but by choice, I spent many nights of my high school years alone. I often heard classmates at my neighbor’s house on the weekends, laughing and enjoying those precious years. I envied them, but never would have dreamed walking next door to join their fun.

In the end, I’m not quite sure what the outcome of this blog will be. Publicly attempting to let go has raised untold possibilities. Will I lose friends? Yes. Will people question my sanity? I’m sure. Will I anger and embarrass my family? Probably already have. Will anyone admit they failed me? Remains to be seen. Will friends old and new scatter? I hope not. I can promise you, my intentions are good and my mind is sound. I laugh often and I laugh loudly. I relish the sight of smiles on my children’s faces and my heart soars when I hear their laughter. My life is quite beautiful. As my stepmother once said to my husband, “all that little girl ever wanted was for someone to love her as much as she loves them.” She wasn’t wrong.

I think I’m done now.

Mean People Suck

Much like the rest of the country, I recently watched the tragic story of Tyler Clementi unfold. His final act made me think of the times that I had been so consumed by depression that I wanted to disappear. I’ve alluded to it before in my blogs, but I’ll say it here because it isn’t something I need to be ashamed of. At two separate times in my life, I wanted to die. In high school, I had it planned. Even after my father, a homicide detective, explained to me what death from carbon monoxide poisoning looked like, I maintained my plan. I didn’t care that I would look ugly when I was found. Nothing could be uglier than that all consuming darkness living inside my body.

So, as I listened to the choice that Tyler Clementi made I was taken back to those hours where I prayed for death. Thankfully, I pulled through unscathed but I will never in my life forget the anguish that forcefully led me to a place that made me contemplate death. I will never stop reaching out to those people who need to hear that someone, anyone is listening. I don’t care what the circumstances are. I don’t feel the need to place labels on groups of humanity or place one in higher regard than an another. I just care for people who, like I once did, are contemplating suicide.

On a mystical level, I chalk it up to my zodiac sign. I’m a Libra. The scales of justice… I stick up for the underdog; I want everyone to face life on a level playing field. I’ll fight for a person who is being attacked or belittled. I naively go about my life expecting that people will wake each day with open minds and empathy in their hearts. Mostly, I go to bed at night with some disappointment in humanity.

I’m not a political person. I don’t affiliate with any party simply because of the ugliness involved. Labels, finger pointing and social intolerance from any angle doesn’t work for me. So when a heartfelt sentiment coming from a place of genuine love and acceptance is twisted into a political thing…an ugly attack, I feel it. This is my flaw.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past 48 hours. Where does this personality trait come from? Why must I run through a gamut of emotions and view every hurtful exchange from every possible angle? Will I ever stop beating myself up for taking things so personally and feeling such immense disappointment in people? Why do I do this to myself? Why can’t I let it roll off my back like the “normal” people do and continue on? I’ve never been able to walk away from a situation like this without feeling bruised, just as I have never been able to ignore a person in need. Is that a flaw? Is it a flaw to feel things so deeply? Maybe… Maybe not. I’m sensitive. I like to find beauty in whatever I can and when I’ve exhausted the possibility of locating any, I move on.

Ophelia. Odilon Redon

Hello. Pleasure to Meet You..

The first time that I met Dave’s mother was nerve wracking. Isn’t it always nerve wracking to meet your new and potentially serious boyfriend’s family? We drove from Westchester to Canandaigua, NY after work on a Friday evening and, since it is relatively long drive, we arrived somewhere around midnight. Along the way, he informed me that, not only was his mother at the house, his aunt would be there as well.

We reached Canandaigua and wound our way around the lake in the dark before finally reaching the driveway to his family home. It was beautiful even in the dark. The gravel driveway looked more like a narrow road and as we descended into the woods toward the lake, the trees grew dense. We turned a corner and below us I could see the house lights cheerily shining through the darkness.

Canandaigua Lake by Matt Callow

Dave led me into the house and with all introductions made and conversations had, my nerves quickly dissipated. With some plans made for the following day, we all began preparing for bed. Dave and I had wondered if we were going to be sharing a room and were happy to be told that we’d be together. As we walked down the hallway with our bags, I walked smack into an old but familiar feeling. There was suddenly a very palpable heaviness in the air. I continued walking to the end of the hall and into the bedroom. Calmly, I noted the feeling and that it seemed to fade when I entered the bedroom. My hesitation to exit the room again caused me to be the last in line for the bathroom. The energy was strong when I re-entered the hallway. The only way that I can describe the sensation is that you feel enveloped in heavier air. Everything seems a bit slower even though your senses are intensified. For me, it grows in intensity until I begin to feel a bit like there is electricity around me. My hair stands up, my heart pounds and I get clammy.

My steps quickened and I jerked the bathroom door shut behind me, trying not to slam it. The energy stayed on the other side, but I now knew for sure that it was there and it was strong.

Let me remind you…this was the first time that I was meeting my new boyfriend’s mother and no-nonsense aunt. I had only been dating Dave for a few months and I never shared that I have had experiences with spirits in the past. I mean, who would? “Hi, pleasure to meet you. Oh, by the way I see dead people.” Nope. Not me. Besides, I hadn’t really had a strong experience like this since my family farmhouse in Salem, NY. Truthfully, I never expected to have such a powerful experience again, yet here I was sitting on the toilet in Dave’s mother’s bathroom realizing that there was a ghost in his house trying to reach out to me. I sat there trying to gather courage to open that door. I was 12 again, sitting there counting to ten and willing myself to just open it and run to the bedroom. I was telling myself that I would NOT see something when I opened the door. I would NOT walk through a cold spot that would take my breath away. I would NOT be touched. Deep breath…Go!

I pulled the door open quickly, trying to ready myself to confront what I might see with some semblance of bravery. I saw nothing, but the energy in the hallway was intense. I willed my feet to move forward and step into it. I walked very quickly through the cloying atmosphere in the short space of hallway between the bathroom and into the bedroom. I shut the door behind me with a sigh of relief and leapt onto the bed. I tried to appear completely normal and, thankfully, Dave didn’t seem to notice that I was jittery and kind of clammy. He was exhausted from the drive. I should have been, but the adrenaline coursing through my body overcame any exhaustion that I had felt when we first arrived.

The conversation I was having with myself was anything but calm. Breathe, act normal, breathe, act normal…it’s in the hallway and the door is shut. I can’t believe that I’m feeling this again after all of these years. What are the chances? There’s no denying it. I need a TV to watch so I can tune in on something else…oh God, there’s no TV in here!

Dave turned out the light on his side of the bed. I stalled with some manic chatting and left my light on. I was sleeping next to the door. The light was burning and finally Dave said, “Uh…are you going to turn that light off?” Breathe, “Sure.” I slowly pulled my hand out from beneath the covers and turned the switch. It was lights out and an inky darkness washed over us immediately. I moved as close to Dave as possible. Clearly, he was done with chatting and he grew quiet. Quiet enough for me to register that the energy was in the room now. Quiet enough for me to slowly admit that it was a ghost…quiet enough for me to know that the ghost was standing by the wall on my side of the bed and trying to make himself seen.

He was a little boy. I could feel him trying to form. I could feel the electricity making my hair stand on end. Goose bumps formed on my arms and I grew impossibly cold despite Dave’s warm body and the down comforter. I began hearing slight murmurs or whispers which made my heart feel like was going to skip right out of my chest. Terrified because I hadn’t felt something this strong since I was 12, I slid under the covers to avoid the touch I was certain was coming. My biggest fear has always been that one would touch me.

Dave rolled over and laughed, asking me what I was doing. I was curled into the fetal position, under the covers and pasted against the small of his back. At that point, I didn’t really care if he thought I was insane. Finally I said, “Do you know that you have a ghost in your house?” He paused, “Yes, how did you know that?” From under the covers I answered, “Because he’s here.” Since I’d let the cat out of the bag and all outward representation of calm was gone, I blurted out, “Please turn on the light. PLEASE. Turn on thelightbeforeHETOUCHESME!

Dave moved quickly and I faintly heard the light click on, but stayed under the covers. He assured me that no one was standing on the side of the bed and, eventually, I sat up and slowly turned to look at the wall behind me. The feeling was gone. The atmosphere felt light and comfortable. The boy was gone. I laid back, a bundle of nerves and just tried to slow my heart rate and shaking. Dave was astounded and asked me what I had seen. I described how I felt like we had slammed into the energy as soon as we reached the middle of the hallway earlier in the night. In fact, I had been so surprised by my visceral reaction to its sudden appearance that I had looked at Dave, wondering if he felt it too. I explained that its strength had increased over the past 1/2 hour and it was almost as if it was following me, curious about whom this new person was. Dave looked shocked when I told him that it was a little boy, even though I hadn’t physically seen him, I had a “picture” in my mind. He was a blonde boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old.

Dave told me that he had seen the boy when he was a teenager in that very bedroom. He heard him and saw him manifesting in a bright light that had illuminated the darkness. He told me that his aunt had seen the boy too, standing by the side of her bed and had initially mistaken him for his brother Pete…a blonde boy, who was 11 or so at the time. I was entirely freaked out. My experiences never been validated like that before. It was actually kind of exciting to know that what I had just experienced was on some level, real.

With the room clear and the atmosphere back to normal, I was suddenly exhausted. I agreed to let Dave turn out the light and slept as if I was glued to him.

To my horror, the first thing I heard Dave announce to his mother and aunt the next morning was, “Kelli saw the ghost last night.” ….Good morning, pleasure to meet you. By the way, I see dead people.”

What’s Your Story?

Suddenly it seems that everyone has a ghost story, doesn’t it? I chalk it up to the fact that ghost shows are a hot commodity on television right now. There are ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, celebrity ghost stories, animal encounters with the spirit world and even a psychic who travels around the country to deliver personal messages from beyond. I’ll admit, I’ve watched my fair share. I tend to pick and choose who or what I believe based on their explanations of the experience.

When a person is describing an experience with a spirit and says “suddenly all the hairs on my body stood up” or “every time I was just dozing off, I heard a voice”, or “I smelled perfume/cigarettes/pipe smoke” …I tend to believe them because these things have happened to me. They sometimes describe a few of the feelings I’ve experienced over a lifetime. So in the spirit (pun intended) of all things October and my quest to embrace the season, I think I might post a few of my own ghostly encounters over the next few weeks…but which ones?

Feel free to share… who doesn’t love a good ghost story?