Four Ghost Stories Of Growing Up In A House Of Magic

For eight years, I’ve haunted the basement of my parents’ home. Sleepy but cheerful, it is a place of mystery. It’s a walled-off room, the bathroom occupied by a fireplace and red walls and…

Four Ghost Stories Of Growing Up In A House Of Magic

For eight years, I’ve haunted the basement of my parents’ home. Sleepy but cheerful, it is a place of mystery. It’s a walled-off room, the bathroom occupied by a fireplace and red walls and an occasional animatronic skeleton perched across the tub from me. Occasionally, I hear my father’s music – a classical guitar melody – be cut by the doors as he enters the room. Behind these porcelain doors is a hidden world of ghosts and vampires and various magic spells, but it doesn’t really feel like a real room. It’s not dark or sinister or painful – like what I’ve found at your house.

No, what I’ve found here is nostalgia. It’s a hole in the ground where nothing can hide, an inch-and-a-half-thick wall where nothing can hide. This is the place that my father sewed my clothes and embroidered my art. Here, he played Monopoly and Battleship and invented a game in which the game pieces comprised little plastic models of my hand and several of my fingers. Here, he once wore an ill-fitting shirt and accidentally bent my finger into a grotesque shape. Here, he once told a ghost story about a man named Kai the Giant. Kai is an old man I never met.

Dry as you can get, this basement holds a crypt of childhood, of phantom voices, unspoken riddles, great big hollows into which the sky and fog and quiet horrors await. It contains, as it is here, my childhood.

“Why, why?” I never asked my father. Why did he have to kill the big goose in front of my eyes? Why did he dangle the apple from my hand? Why did he bark something under the table, anything to one-up my siblings’ famous one-liners? Why did he dress up in a fireman’s costume and often bore me half-asleep in the family minivan? Why did he always let us mumble to each other over the top of the car? Why did he make me take pizza and cookies because I was fat when I should have been eating? Why did he get arrested every year for punching a boy in the face? Why did he pass out in the kitchen with a bloodied face? How does my face have so many wrinkles? Why do people call me “grandpa”? Why do I have scars? Why is everybody dumber? What’s a whale but a monster that keeps playing with the wrong boat?

I wonder how long he’ll stick around here. Soon. He’s nearly 80. What will he leave behind in the dark of the basement? Probably a lit candle.

Eventually, I turned into a monster. In your house, we had no garlic, no toilet paper, no curses, no X-rated movies. There was no temptation to pounce on your home’s secrets. In my house, we had food, drink, many rules, and love of British horror television. In your house, we ran away to terrorize dogs. In my house, we had music and hundreds of stories. In your house, we knew it was OK to taunt our parents. In my house, I knew it was OK to shout “Stay!” as I tackled you. In your house, we grew to know your children, where they went to school, what they ate, and what language they spoke. In your house, we grew to learn more about the atrocities of colonialism and continued to be poisoned by your failure to live up to your own ideals.

Here, we have a stage, a room full of things we shouldn’t have touched. We have this house. I miss you. My father. Thank you. Goodbye.

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