I've been thinking about ghosts a lot lately.
Nothing shocking, I know, it being Halloween and all. As soon as October arrives, and decorations start to appear, I can't help but flash back to the grammar school days. I loved to get out the crayons and draw a haunted house replete with black cats, tombstones in the front yard, witches-upon-broomstick floating through a full moon sky and ghosts -- plenty of ghosts.
The ghost might be the most iconic Halloween costume of all time -- a white bed sheet with scissor-cut eye holes.
The image of a bed sheet with way too many misplaced holes might be the penultimate expression of Charlie Brown -- "I got a rock" -- (right Frederick?)
In fact, the ghost might be the very first "scary" concept we encountered as children, and one of the first reassuring words we heard from adults -- "there's no such thing as ghosts."
Personally I progressed from being terrified of the ghosts, to being convinced there is no such thing, to being open to the possibility that ghosts -- the translucent trace of a poor soul unaware of their own departure -- are very real.
Recently I tried to organize a mini reunion of people I knew in grammar school. In keeping with the spirit of October, I suggested we meet at Bachelor's Grove, an abandoned and famously haunted cemetery very close to where we graduated eighth grade. There have been reported sightings of a ghost lady holding a baby (the White Madonna), a big black guard dog that disappears when you reach the entrance, a phantom farmhouse, and figures in monk's robes (I know people who swear they've seen the ghost monks and the disappearing house). I proposed that immediately after walking amongst spirits, we retreat to an Irish pub, just in case our nerves needed calming with spirits of another color. The idea was well received; I just didn't think of it in time for people to juggle their commitments -- maybe next year.
However, not all of my ghostly ruminations have been inspired by Halloween. Everyone on the team at work is reading a book that deals with generational friction. It points out that currently there are active members of four separate generations interacting in the workplace, and people's perception of and approach to work is strongly influenced and framed by their particular generation.
The author calls the four generations Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. To try and shed light on the framework of each generation, the author highlights the major social, economic and political events of each generation and refers to them as ghost stories. For example, two of the biggest ghost stories of the Traditionalists are the Great Depression and World War II.
He also acknowledges that depending on the year you were born, you can be in between two generations and share characteristics of each; he calls those people Cuspers. I am most definitely a Cusper, which is the motivation behind my "micro biography" -- Late Boom, Early X. (And I can't deny that as soon as I read the word Cusper, I thought of Casper, the Friendly Ghost.)
Last night I had dinner with a lovely woman that I hadn't seen since I was in eighth grade. We were catching up on each other's lives, and she wisely summed it up this way: everyone's lives are affected by their childhoods and the choices they make thereafter. In other words, we all have ghosts.
Sometimes when I am in a big crowd or an unfamiliar place, I see the faces of loved ones who passed long ago.
Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night, and I can literally feel my arms holding my ex-wife as she lies beside me.
Sometimes out of the blue I remember certain things that I've done and am ashamed of, and I literally shudder with remorse.
Sometimes when things get tough I complain about my lot in life and am filled with regret over past decisions.
Ghosts -- all of these things are ghosts.
We all have ghosts that haunt us from time to time. It's part of life. The trick is to not to deny them, ignore them or be defined by them. We need to face them head on, look at them (or through them) and learn from them. These ghosts are trying to communicate something to us, and I am willing to listen.
I'm contemplating going out to the cemetery by myself. I honestly love to be scared on Halloween, and I can't think of a thing that would scare me more than to walk through those spooky old woods alone.
Who knows? Maybe those ghosts are Trappist Monks, and they are brewing beer from centuries old recipes in that disappearing farmhouse.
Happy Halloween everyone!