Nine years ago last month we moved into our current house. It's hard to believe it's been that long, but Charles was only 22 months old, and Max hadn't yet even been conceived. So yeah, this is really the only house the boys have ever known. And we like it just fine. Usually.
Shortly after we moved in, John had to go away on business - to Atlanta, I think, but that's not important. What is important is that he left us for about 5 days in this brand new old house. This new old house of ours is about 90 years old now, so take away 9 years and yeah, it's pretty old. Not old by European terms or anything, but to put it in perspective, when this house was built, our street was basically on the outskirts of the city. So for those of you who have visited, you can confirm that today there is a lot of city to be had to the west of us. So it does go back a bit.
Where was I? Oh yes, husband/father leaving wife and child in new house for 5 days to party - I mean business trip - in Atlanta.
Now, in old houses, or any house in which you are a new resident, it takes some time to get used to the noises. The settling, the creaks, the way the house feels when you're in it alone. After awhile it becomes second nature, you barely notice the noises, but at first it can freak you the fuck out.
The first night John was gone, I was a bit nervous, but Charles and I did our usual bedtime thing, which probably involved a bath, a story, maybe a bottle? I can't remember. Nine years, people, there is only so much I can remember. So things went well, I'm sure - I do remember that he was a good little guy at that age - when I'm settling him down in his crib, which is at the back of his little room, facing the door. As was my style back then, I chatted a little bit to him, we talked about our day, and then I helped him lie down for sleep. But he was focused over my right shoulder, looking at something. He pointed. "Mummy? Who's that?" I said "Just me, Charles, just mummy tonight", thinking he was waiting for John to come tuck him in. At which point he leaned way over to look around me and said "No. Who's THAT?" I turned around, and of course there was no one. So I said "No, honey, just me, sweet dreams". And then? I freaked the fuck out.
I didn't sleep much until John got home a few days later. That totally shook me up. I've read about kids being more "in tune" with the spirit world, but I seriously never thought I'd have the ghost whisperer toddler. Jesus. Even today, his earnest little face asking me very clearly who was in our hallway gives me the shakes.
As time went on, of course, we got more and more used to the house, and it's all been good, with no signs of otherworldly-ness. Except for a few things. And it's always Charles that has the experiences when it's only the two of us in the house. For instance, I've been upstairs making beds or something and he'll come running upstairs shouting "yes? Did you want something, mummy?" And I'd say "Charles, I didn't call you" and he'd stop dead and say "whoa, I totally heard a voice telling me to come upstairs". Or, I'll be in the kitchen and he'll be in the front room and I'll hear the front door open and he'll yell out "Hey, daddy, how was your day?" And then we both realize that no one actually came in the front door. Weird.
After my dad died, Charles also used to tell us that he'd see grandpa at the foot of his bed, giving him a wink and a thumbs-up. Which is totally something my dad would do. Or he'd "talk" to grandpa and he'd insist that grandpa talked back, and whether or not this really happened, we'll never know. It may have been a way to comfort himself after losing his grandpa who he was so close to. Either way, those things never freaked me out. It was actually kind of comforting for me too.
For the past year or so, there's really been nothing strange going on at our place. Well, other than the usual strangeness that is our family, of course. But then one night a few weeks ago, I was moving Max to his own bed (he likes to crawl in with Charles sometimes). I got Max settled, and must have jostled Charles a bit, because he sat up and said something. I didn't catch it at first so I asked him to repeat it. And it was this: "Those people mummy. Those two people at the end of my bed. Who are they?"
At least John was home this time.