Posted by: nativeiowan | April 10, 2009

the ghost of my childhood

When I was little. Many things frightened me. Made me feel alone. Lost. Forgotten. When fright assailed me. It was usually in large gatherings. With lots of noise and commotion. Everyone busy doing something else. Busy acting like they were enjoying themselves.  Too busy to see me watching. Too busy to feel me watching. Intruding.

When I was little. Nothing frightened me. I was always alone. Knew what it meant to feel lost. To feel forgotten. When fright assailed me. It was usually in large gatherings. With lots of noise and commotion. Everyone busy doing something else. Busy acting like they were enjoying themselves.  Too busy to see me watching. Too busy to feel me watching. Intruding.

When I was little I often felt like the ghost. Like the ghost in our house. The ghost that would come and watch us as we slept.

I first noticed the ghost one night. As I slept. I woke slowly and opened my eyes a slit. I felt something there but felt, intuitively, that I did not want to disturb that which I wanted to see.

I opened my eyes a slit and damn near shit the bed.

An unclear form of a person stood at the foot of my bed and gazed intently at me. When I opened my eyes I jerked, shuddered if you will. The ghost jerked, shuddered as well. I think we were both caught unawares by mutually being caught looking at each other.

That night I laid in my bed all hunched up, surrounded by pillows. I tried to barricade myself in. I tried to pray to the god they taught about in school. I tried to pray to the virgin. I asked for help. I spent the night terribly alone. My brother sleeping soundly next to me.

The next time I saw the ghost I was more prepared. I jerked but I did not spasm. I woke, opened my eyes and controlled my response. I said “hello”.

Eventually the ghost told me that it was sad. Sad and tired. It was sad because no one ever noticed it. It was tired of walking among people, alone and unnoticed. It confessed doing childish things to get attention: turning on lights. Turning off the refrigerator. Moving keys. All of this was done to be noticed. To get someone to say hello.

I learned that the ghost would watch my family sleep. It would move from room to room and gaze at each individual. Willing each of us to wake up and say “hello”. Willing someone to wake up and break the bonds of isolation and loneliness.

I very much sympathized with the ghost. Its loneliness was something I could understand. As I got to know the ghost better I revealed my feelings of tortured loneliness. My feeling of isolation and oft times abandonment.

The ghost spoke of living forever in the huge house. The huge house teeming with life. The huge house filled with voices and actions. Yet being ignored in this huge house. Being not seen. Not heard. Not acknowledged.

The family moved from the old house when I was still young. Yet I returned to visit later in my life.  The house was still “in the family”. I searched the rooms for the ghost.

I found evidence of my life there.

A scratched initial on the hardwood banister.  A scar on the hallway wall where I had thrown a projectile at my sibling. A hidden notebook, childishly scrawled then secreted in the root cellar.

All were treasures for a searching adult. But I could not find the ghost.

I unnerved those around me by sleeping in a different room each night. Sleeping on the floors. In the beds that were so large in my childhood. Eventually in the cellar where it was damp and musty.

I willed the ghost to come say hello. I walked the hallways at night, as others slept. I shamefully entered the other rooms. Gazed on the sleeping forms that I knew so well yet could not speak to. Searching for the ghost.

The ghost of my childhood.



  1. I am really looking forward to getting to know you. This is magnificent writing that stirred something very deep within. Make sure to write to me and make sure that I have you linked on all the right places at Soul Food. And consider Travelling with a Donkey through the Valley of Bones and beyond.

    • Heather, Right now I’m re-hacking many old pieces I have. I know my style is a bit unconventional but I failed every creative writing course I ever took and was refused entry into the U of Iowa Writers worksop due to it so… figger I must be doing something right.

      Have a couple new pieces I’m putting together and an old list of numerous ideas I have been carrying around for ages. Time and space allow for me to cater to my writing whims these days so, many thanks for responding to my first email reestablishing contact.

      I have firm if not less-than-conventional thoughts per memories, remembering and life in general. I have zero shyness thus have no obstacles when it comes to letting others “see inside”.

      Life is good and thanks for the compliments.


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