Ghosts & Echoes

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?


  1. I’m sure I knew my paternal grandmother when I was tiny, but I only met her twice as an adult – both times for just a few short weeks. And yet, she haunts me too, in a good way. In fact, without meaning to, I’ve put parts of her in one of the characters of my short stories [The Vintage Egg, and the Egg Run]. I wasn’t aware of it in the first story, but I knew I was describing her in the second. She is my model of a feisty, strong woman who ‘doesn’t suffer fools gladly’, and doesn’t ‘wear her heart on her sleeve’ and yet is loving nonetheless. My Nagymama has been dead for close to 30 years but she is still with me when I’m in danger of wimping out of something. She never wimped out of anything so I know I can’t either. 🙂

    • Candy

      That’s exactly the kind of haunting I had in mind. A while back, my mom wrote a mystery with a protagonist inspired by her mother. Mom came right out and said that “…this was what she might have been had she had the opportunities she gave me.” Re-imagining our grandmothers, remembering them, talking to them through fiction is a wonderful literary haunting. I still know that she’d be mystified by my life, but she’d love me anyway.

  2. I think our ghosts might be the imprint of strong emotion we leave in the fabric of a building. When you go house-hunting you can often tell happy houses from unhappy ones. When you live in an older house it can bring dreams which may or may not echo the people who created the feelings the house holds. Since our bodies create little electrical impulses I’m wondering if it isn’t possible to leave images like little TV hows that we pick up on.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Candy

      I live in a converted industrial loft from the late 19th century. What kind of echoes does this tiny piece of the factory floor contain? Umm… Honestly, you’ve hit on something I’ve thought about, more when I was a kid. I grew up in a house that felt much older than it’s building date (during the Great Depression) and I believe my family was only the second occupant. At a certain point, I had the notion that the house was haunted by a returning WWII vet, that he’d come home as a ghost and wandered at night. (I was one of those kids with nightmares so my parents didn’t like me watching scary movies. Ha! There’s always a way.)

  3. We like to think that my youngest daughter was named by my father’s mother. I never met her and never knew her name. We were having trouble naming my daughter until just before she was born. Her first name is the shortened familiar form of my grandmother’s name and her middle name is close enough to my grandmother’s middle name to be spooky. We figure she was named by my grandmother’s ghost.

    • Candy

      Another great family ghost story!
      Now, I wonder how you’d write that into a paranormal story? Have the ghost appear in the delivery room? Could be fun…

  4. This line really resonated with me: “I don’t think she ever felt powerful enough to make big changes in her life.” This is the character of Addie in my novel most definitely. Of course, she’s totally based on my grandma Angie who haunts me in many ways. At times, I think I would be better off if my first book was not so closely tied to the impressions that real people have left on me, but it’s almost as if writing the story is one way to get rid of old ghosts. So even though they’re not “ghosts” in the paranormal sense, the impression a person leaves on another lingers long after they are gone.

    • Candy

      I think that by writing our grandmothers into our fiction we create literary ghosts. Maybe that’s the origin of ghosts in the paranormal sense too? Storytellers keeping the essence of a lost loved one alive in a tale told around the fire in a cave may have been the beginning of our paranormal obsessions with haunting.