A Real Ghost
The Songwriter loves a good old-fashioned Halloween, the sort with werewolves and witches, goblins and ghosts. Each year he creates some sort of frightening tableau beneath the gargantuan magnolia tree that presides over our front garden. We’ve had skeletons. We’ve had wolfmen. We’ve had a monkey fortune teller (don’t ask) that, I discovered only too late, was lavishly costumed in scarves, shawls and jewelry belonging to yours truly. Anything for art.
This Halloween was no exception. A seven foot tall Frankenstein stood on our front porch, back lit with swirling red lights, his menacing stare directed at the line of colorfully glad trick or treaters coming up our drive. There was a grinning jack-o-lantern. A skeleton hanging in a dogwood tree. A large fluttering ghost that rose and fell (courtesy of a cleverly hidden fan) under the magnolia.
In order to spare Edward and Apple the sound of many little knuckles rapping on our door, The Songwriter and I sat our chairs out on the driveway… I in my witch’s hat… to hand out the candy. From this vantage point we could better appreciate the varied costumes, and personalities, of the tiny trick or treaters making their way down the dark and windy street. We greeted Spidermen and soldiers, princesses and pirates. Some children ran up the drive with exuberance, boldly sticking their hands into our candy bowls to pull out as many Kit Kat bars as their five fat fingers could hold. Others, more obviously dubious about this strange and unusual holiday, required a bit of parental coaxing to embark on the journey up our drive.
One tiny cowgirl stole my heart. She stood in the street for a few moments, staring up at our house, and no doubt gathering her courage, before following her friends. I noticed that she never, not for a second, took her eyes off that white ghost that hovered beneath the magnolia. When she finally reached us, she stood in front of the friendly Songwriter and in a small, quiet voice she said… “That’s a real ghost, isn’t it?”.
The Songwriter assured her that, no, it wasn’t real. He kindly went into all the details about how he’d made it… “It’s just an old sheet. Nothing to be scared of.” She rewarded him with a timid smile, took her handful of candy, and ran down the drive to join her friends, leaving me with much to ponder. Over the past week I’ve thought a lot about that brave little girl, with admiration. She truly believed that old sheet fluttering and dancing underneath that dark tree was a ghost. A real one. Yet she walked right up that drive anyway. One foot in front of the other. I was happy The Songwriter told her the truth; that the ghost wasn’t real. How wonderful it would have been if she could have been told that there was nothing in the world to really be afraid of, nothing to worry her, nothing to harm her. Tragically, that is not the case.
The events of last night in Paris are too horrible for a good mind to comprehend. The very idea that such acts could be humanly planned, committed and somehow justified is repellent to any sane person. Yet, they happened. Parisians have been told to stay in their houses today, not to venture out unless they absolutely have to, and this is a wise instruction. It is also, I would imagine, a tempting way to live out the rest of one’s days. Never to go out again. Never again to risk becoming a victim of the worst sort of evil stalking the planet today. Never again to attend a concert or a football game. Never again to purchase a plane ticket.
Evil exists, one cannot deny. Its laughter could be heard on the slave ships and in the frigid barracks of Auschwitz. It freely danced through the genocide in Rwanda and soared through the twin towers in New York City. It was in Paris last night. It has always been with us. There are real ghosts; real things to fear. Yes, I will think about that little girl for a long time now. Her bravery in the face of her fear. One foot in front of the other.
God help us all.