Archive for October, 2004

Ghost Stories

“I was in high school,” Bernard tells me, “recording songs from the radio in my upstairs bedroom when I heard what I thought was my younger brother jumping up and down on his bed in the next room.  It must have gone on for about 2 minutes, and when it got really loud, I shouted at him to stop it.”

The squeaking stopped abruptly.

“It was at that point that I realized that my brother was actually downstairs, and that no one else was in the house.  I also realized that the ghost, or whatever had been in his room now knew that I knew it was there.”

What did you do?

“I was petrified.  I bolted past that bedroom, down the stairs, and out of the house.”

Bernard (not his real name) is a lawyer for a firm near Boston.  He has the face of a Leprechaun and the body of a fireplug.  He is short, strong, and compact and he played linebacker in both high school and college. Bernard looks like the type of man who would not be afraid of anything…except growing up in a haunted house.

“I used to shampoo my hair with my eyes open,” Bernard says, “because I didn’t want to close my eyes and have something be there when I opened them again.  I still sleep with the hallway light on.”

What other sorts of things happened while you were living in the house?

“The radios and lights in the house used to come on in the middle of the night, always at 3:33 AM.  Doors would slam; shades would fall off of windows; the sound of people running up and down the stairs.  I would also constantly see things move out of the corner of my eye, but nothing would be there.  There was always stuff banging in the basement.”

Come on, Bernard, that stuff could all be explained, couldn’t it, by wind, or the house settling, or the heating system?

“My neighbor was standing in my kitchen one day when she heard someone walk up the back steps and slam the door.  She told me to go help my mother with the groceries.  I told her that no one was there, and she got mad at me.  She told me to stop fooling around and I had to prove to her that no one was there.

Another time, on a summer night, someone or something sat on my bed.  I was lying under a thin sheet and I felt the weight of another person on my mattress. I could feel their body heat on my leg through the sheet, but when I opened my eyes, no one was there.  I was petrified there for what seemed like ages, staring at the spot where I could feel the weight of a person where there was none.  Whatever it was eventually left, thankfully.”

Has anyone else in your family seen or heard anything?

“When I was a baby, my mother used to see what looked like an old woman walking into my bedroom.  My mother would rush in to check on me, but nothing would be there.  It happened so often that eventually my mother figured that the old woman meant no harm. From then on whenever the woman showed up, Mom would just yell, ‘Say goodnight to Bernard for me.’

Another time, my father was walking up the stairs to the second floor when something physically stopped him from walking any further.  Whatever it was then began to gently push him back towards the first floor.

That’s about it, except for the fact that my brother, when he was young, used to cry about people being in his bedroom at night.

I’m sure that there’s a bunch of other stuff, but my parents didn’t want to freak me out too badly while I was living there.”

Why didn’t your parents move?

“They never thought that it was a threat.  No one in my family ever got hurt, and nothing really bad ever happened.  My mother did, however, have the house blessed, and she still keeps holy water in a vial in my brother’s closet.”

Do you think it affected you at all?

“Well, I’m 33 years old, I own my own home, and I still sleep with the hallway light on.  What do you think?”

Back in the Day Tim 29 Oct 2004 No Comments

Cold Weather Batman

My friend Dan hands out full-sized candy bars at least once every five Halloweens.  He tells me that the candy bars curry favor with the local kid population, which in turn prevents any sort of damage to Dan’s property.  Protection candy, if you will.  The ritual of “free candy or else” on Halloween has long been important to kids in every neighborhood.  I wasn’t one to cause mayhem, but as a child I was willing go to great lengths for my share of the loot.  Looking back, I’m not sure that the candy was always worth it.

One year, when I was about 8, my otherwise sane mother actually made me dress up as a GIRL to go trick or treating.  I was horrified, but my mother was convinced that it would be “the cutest thing.”  Despite my loud protests, my sister and mother gleefully dressed me in a bright red dress and makeup, with a red pocketbook to hold the candy.  I was apparently adorable.

That night produced the lowest candy yield of my entire trick or treating career.  My unsuspecting neighbors opened their doors, expecting cute little goblins and witches, only to be confronted with a sobbing miniature drag queen on their doorstep.

A few years later, when my psyche had begun to recover, my parents bought me a Batman costume.  I was thrilled.  My joy was tempered, however, when Halloween arrived and my mother revealed that the dreaded “winter coat over the costume” rule was going to be enforced that year.

I tried to present the argument that the entire mystique of Batman, dark knight and brooding crime fighter, was ruined when Batman was wearing a parka.  My mother’s counterpoint was something about the fact that she was my mother and that I was supposed to do what she said, blah, blah, blah, and just like that, I was Cold Weather Batman.

Cold Weather Batman stood out from the rest of the Justice League, because none of my friends were forced to wear jackets over their costumes (Amazingly, at last check all of these people remained somehow alive and pneumonia-free).  Standing out in a crowd on Halloween was not a good thing, because unfortunately there were older kids, dressed as bullies, on the streets of my neighborhood.  When one of these bullies decided that it was time to steal someone’s candy, which of the Super Friends do you think was targeted?

While my fellow Super Friends ran like scared rabbits, the bully ran at me and tried to tear the bag of candy out of my hands.  Cold Weather Batman was determined to keep his candy and had an iron grip that night.  The bully then swung me to the ground and tried a few violent tugs at the pillowcase.  When this failed to liberate my candy, he began punching me.  His attack was foiled, however, because his punches could not penetrate Cold Weather Batman’s thick, fluffy, jacket-like body armor.

The altercation eventually attracted the attention of an adult, whose shouts chased the bully from the scene.

Cold Weather Batman returned home triumphantly that Halloween with a couple of bruises, a black eye, and the best tasting candy I have ever eaten.  I even gave some candy to my mother, because after all, who would have thought that she knew so much about body armor?

Back in the Day Tim 29 Oct 2004 No Comments

They DID IT!

There is a great scene in the movie Rudy, where Rudy’s father, played by Ned Beatty, finally makes the trip to South Bend after a lifetime of rooting through his television for the Fighting Irish.  When Beatty gets into the stadium, he looks at the field with tears in his eyes and says, “This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen.”

Every time I see the movie, the line just GETS me (despite the fact that I half-expect to see his wife smack him for saying it).

I was thinking about that line last Wednesday night while I was standing in The Strand Theatre in Clinton.  On the screen in front of me, Keith Foulke had just tossed the ball to Doug Mientkiewicz to clinch the first World Series championship for the Red Sox in 86 years.  All around me, a whirlwind of people were clapping and shouting and crying and hugging and jumping, and there I was thinking about Ned Beatty.

Then I thought about my grandmother, Niina, the great Red Sox fan.  As a kid, I didn’t always know what to say to my father’s mother, but we always shared a passion for Red Sox.  She had a heart of gold and believed that every year would be “the” year for the team.

In 1986, I was at her house when the Sox were in the playoffs.  Niina was so nervous that she couldn’t bear to watch the games.  My cousin Paul and I would run into the kitchen to give her updates on the score and we would be rewarded with bites of her world famous apple pie.

The Red Sox managed to come back from the brink of victory to pull out a spectacular defeat in the World Series that year.  Unfortunately, Niina would never have another chance not to watch her favorite team in the World Series.  She died unexpectedly during a routine surgical procedure in 1990.

It’s funny how something as wonderful as the Red Sox winning the World Series can make a person sad.

I then turned and hugged my wife, Maegen, the eternal optimist.  She had truly believed, even when the Red Sox were down 3 games to 0 in the League Championship Series to the hated New York Yankees.  She had even predicted it in an email to my entire family.  The rest of us had hoped, but none of us had believed like Maegen had.

Then, after a hug from my mother-in-law and a firm handshake from my father-in-law, I ran to the lobby to call my parents.

My jubilant mother answered the phone, and we shared the moment.  I then asked her to put my Dad on the phone.

My Dad.  The man has always expected the worst from the Red Sox.  The man who, during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, kept repeating, “They’re going to blow it….they’re going to blow it,” until they finally did blow it.

70+ years of disappointment had clearly affected my Dad’s ability to look on the bright side of the Red Sox.

He came to the phone.

“Dad, they won,” I gushed, “They didn’t blow it.”

“I know.  I can’t believe it,” he replied.

“Now you’ll have to stop being such a pessimist.  You know, I wish Niina was here to see this, she would have been really thrilled.”

“I’m sure that she saw it.  She always believed that it would happen, and it finally did.”

“Well, I’m glad that you finally got a chance to see them win one.”

“I am, too.  Finally.”

“I love you, Dad.”

“I love you, too.”

We hung up and I walked back into the joyful theater to join the celebration.  The Red Sox had won the World Series, something I never thought these eyes would see.

Sports Tim 29 Oct 2004 No Comments

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