Do you believe in ghosts? I don’t. Sometimes I want to believe — sometimes I almost believe, especially when I’m reading a good ghost story, but I don’t.
Ghosts or not, I think we leave echoes behind. My grandmother has been dead for decades, but I still feel echoes of her life all the time. She’s in some of the stories I tell and in some of the foods I cook.
After a lifetime of very hard work — in a sweatshop as new immigrant and in the family’s laundry store after she married — she instilled the desire to be educated and independent in her daughter (my mother) and tried to make me a laundry-incompetent, fearing that if I knew how to do laundry, I might wind up doing it for a living. She succeeded in promoting her brand of independent feminism in my mother and I still can’t fold fitted sheets.
I think about her drinking hot tea on hot summer days like today. She said that hot tea cools you off. It does, but I still prefer an iced coffee on a steamy summer morning. And, although she would boil innocent carrots into submission, her roast chicken recipe is still a no-fail best bet for family gatherings.
Grandma had a hard life and made choices that I’m sure she regretted, but for her there was no turning back. She did her best with her circumstances and lived with uncomfortable consequences. I don’t think she ever felt powerful enough to make big changes in her life.
We live in a very different time. So many more choices and in a world where recreation seems as easy as rebooting a computer — she’d be shocked, astonished and more than a little tickled by my crazy life.
But a ghost? I’m not sure if she’d like to be one. That being said, she does haunt me, in childhood memories and in the questions I didn’t ask because I didn’t understand that time with her was limited.
Maybe Grandma’s ghost is in the summer morning mood, that strange itch of agitation that makes me want to do something, to accomplish something even as the temperature rises and the city slows down? Maybe there’s even a ghost story in her subtle haunting of my life?