Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Haunting Story

Who Was That Man?
9" x 11.5"
Great Grandpa, Emil, (we all called him Grandpa) had a routine of taking a 15 minute nap, then going for a walk, every day after dinner (lunch, to some of you). Then he would go back to his grocery store to work, or, after retirement, he would sit in his rocking chair in his room reading, or talking with visitors. He was a student of history and current events, as well as languages, and was sharp until his death at age 94. And, of course, he spent a lot of time with me, sitting in his lap in that rocking chair. Sometimes he talked, or read a book, but I was right there with Grandpa as much as possible.
Mama was just 17 when I was born. She and Daddy had an apartment upstairs in "the Big House", or "the Two Story House", as the family called Great-Grandpa's Victorian house on Railroad and Browning streets. We had the upstairs to ourselves, with several empty rooms that had belonged to my grandfather, his brothers and one sister when they were growing up. Great Grandpa lived downstairs. The parlor downstairs was made into a music room where my mother had her baby grand piano. Uncle "Goose", nickname for Gustave, an old bachelor and another of Great Grandpa's sons, made a bedroom for himself in the little basement, where my great-grandmother had stored things like potatoes and filled shelves with home canned foods like tomatoes, preserves, jelly, and chow chow. The basement curved around under the house, and had a door opening from the kitchen, and another one from the outside. Mama later said that Uncle Goose made wine in the cellar, and she didn't want me anywhere near there. Besides, he was a bit gruff, I thought. Goose had a small bed, a wash stand, rocking chair, and a table with a radio on it near the outside door. He also had a mattress on the floor in a room at the end of the upstairs hall, where he liked to take naps, sometimes.
It was nice being a little girl in that house, with my grandparents and another aunt and uncle living just across a corn field from us, and another great-uncle and great-aunt living behind us. I just wished there had been more kids around to play with. Miss Emerick, across the street was another lady who I looked forward to seeing. She made doughnuts frequently, and she would always make sure that I got the holes! I would stand on my tip toes, looking out the wide windows in our bedroom, wondering if Miss Emerick was going to bring some doughnut holes that day.
I remember distinctly wanting to be sure that I didn't miss out on the walks with Great Grandpa. I wanted to be dressed in a pretty dress, and wished for pretty baby doll patent leather shoes with a strap instead of the white high top baby shoes that I still wore. I did get some pretty socks with decorated tops to match my dress. It was so disappointing if Grandpa went on that walk and Mama didn't have me ready to go. Sometimes, I would have to run fast down the stairs to catch him before he went out the door.
We walked around the neighborhood, around a block or two or three. I would always want the walk to last longer, but, sometimes, Grandpa would tell me, "That's enough for today." And we would head home to the "Big House".
Grandpa would dress in his suit, and here I have painted him in a gray suit, with a gray felt hat. The hot sun reflects off the dirt street along the railroad tracks, his hat, and his back. Looking up at him, I couldn't tell much about what his face looked like, but I could see his white mustache. Grandpa was a fairly small man, about the same size as my uncle next door. Most of the time, as we walked, he held my hand. It was a really special moment when he let me walk off to the side of the road, by myself. But that was just for a second. Then he would take my hand and walk more.
In the painting, I am dressed in a frilly little dress, with a sash tied in a bow, and puffed sleeves. I had golden, Shirley Temple curls, in those days. I'm wearing my gold bracelt with the heart on it.
"Grandpa, Don't you think that I should have a parasol, for when we go on our walks? One that matches my dress?" I asked, and begged. I thought that I should have a parasol, with lace on it, like in the movies, if I was going to be out walking.
"I'll try to look for one for you," he said quietly.
I thought that he must not be looking for a parasol because, after several walks, we were still walking in the sun, and me with no parasol. So, each time, I reminded him. He said that he hadn't been able to find one in town, yet.
One day, Uncle Roger came to town from Houston. He was my grandmother's brother.
"Look what Roger brought you from Houston!" another of his sisters told me. She handed me an object wrapped with butcher paper and tied with string. My parasol! He had brought my parasol! And, with that, he took me for a walk, to try out my parasol, but it wasn't the same as walking with Grandpa.
He was taller and bigger than Grandpa. He didn't have a white mustache. Even his clothes were different. He walked faster and talked more. Grandpa seemed to be serious and quiet, and Roger seemed more energetic and in a lighter mood. As if he were trying to entertain me. Roger soon would go back to Houston after short visits.
Grandpa and I would continue our walks, hand in hand, down the dirt street, around the neighborhood, and to "the Two Story House".
Now, I can't help but wonder about this story that I remember so well. So vividly that I did the above painting about it. But, when I thought out the details, and started searching out family history, I know, realistically, that this cannot be true!
Great-grandpa died when I was just one year old, and I was not walking yet!
We moved from that house when I was 3 1/2, over 2 years after my great-grandpa died. So, I'm sure that I did take walks with someone after I learned to walk.
But who was that man that I went walking with? The man in the gray suit with the white mustache? Great Grandpa is the only one in our family who could possibly match what I remember.
Uncle Roger was not there every day, and he did not match the description. My dad and my great-uncles, or even my uncle, didn't ever take the time for walks.
I asked my aunt who I went walking with. She doesn't remember, but does remember the description as being great-grandpa Emil. Photos of him that I have found are the same man.
My dad said that Great-Grandpa and I were very close. He was crazy about me.
Daddy told me, years ago, that when Great-Grandpa died, I was upstairs in my baby bed, asleep. At the moment that he died, I let out a blood-curdling scream that sent my dad running upstairs to see what was wrong. Daddy believed that was Grandpa's spirit telling me goodbye.
So, who could have taken me for those daily walks? Was it Great Grandpa, or his spirit, who took me by my hand and led me around the neighborhood?
I hope that you enjoyed my "ghost story" today. It is actually true, although I didn't really think of it as a ghost story until I started writing it! It is has been one of my memories. But, with Halloween coming up tomorrow, I thought it might be time for a little ghost story. Nothing scarey, though.
I think that I will rework this picture on different paper. I used Winsor Newton watercolors in the painting, but I used drawing paper instead of watercolor paper. The porch on the house extends further to the left in the real "Two Story House", and I want to make his mustche more pronounced. I also think I will change the colors in his suit.
Thanks for reading and sharing my work with others. Let me know if you see something of interest to you!


BC said...

The colors just shine with happiness.

Cecelia said...

Thank you, BC!