Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ghost of Christmas Stop Telling Me I Look Like Your Dead Relative, Because it Really Freaks Me Out

I am the ghost that haunts the Midwest. I apparently look like a lot of people, as their relatives tend to tell me. Maybe my blank stare is a blank slate onto which they can easily project the images of their loved ones, many of them dead. Maybe I'm just sort of generically Eastern European in my build and gait. Sometimes I think I was engineered for the bearing of children and the digging up of potatoes.

Anyway, I walked through the doors of this building today, shuddering from the cold and stomping the snow off my feet and generally making enough of a commotion to drown out the majority of what a woman said to me as she sat in a wheelchair in the entryway. All I caught was, "Sister."

At first I thought she was expressing some sort of kindred womanly greeting. I'd already pulled open one of the second set of glass doors and was halfway through. "I'm sorry, what?" I said.

"You look just like my sister," the woman replied. She was waiting for her ride, with her chair angled to look out the glass doors. As she spoke, I noticed the gaping spaces where most of her teeth had been in her youth. Now she sat hunched in her chair, her elbows propped up on the armrests and her hands clenched together and held tight to her chest.

I wasn't sure how to take this as I imagined how much younger and more attractive her sister could possibly be, and I was just about to say, "Oh, that's nice." But I only got as far as, "Oh," before she continued.

"She died from leukemia when she was 39."


"You look just like her when she was young."

I was somewhat at a loss and finally said, "Oh...well, I'm sorry."

Then this hunched and toothless woman turned her face from the ghost of her long-dead sister and stared out the door into the winter damp. As I continued through the door, she quietly ended our awkward little talk. "Sorry to have to tell you."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


(I'd turn down the sound before playing the video. It's significantly less magical with the roaring motors and me shouting.)

When I was a little girl, these things seriously scared me. Seriously. Mattress sales and grand openings of grocery stores were a constant threat as my hometown expanded. I still remember the pit in my stomach when Food 4 Less opened in Kenosha, WI. Thriller was on the radio, the lights were in the sky, and I was huddled in the backseat with my eyes shut tight. "Shut tight against what?" you ask? The aliens, of course. I don't know why, but of all the things to be afraid of, aliens were my thing. My fear was twofold: first, that the beams of the searchlight would actually find something in the sky, namely something saucer-shaped and flown by beings intent on brain-sucking world domination...or, at the very least, hiding in the attic that opened into my bedroom. And if intelligent beings had come millions of light years to squat in my attic, I certainly didn't want some giant, swinging beam of light to advertise my location.
We'll call it a mark of maturity, then, that rather than shutting my eyes and screaming when I caught sight of this searchlight on Saturday, I Jessica Fletchered the source of the light and drove right up to it. My courage was rewarded with a quietly stunning display of glittering snow in fast-moving beams of hypnotically swinging light.