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THE GHOSTS OF MEMORIES By Ken Gagne

Your home has a story to share



The gentle ghost appears in our living room window.


On the sidewalk, my wife and I chat before taking a walk. The ghost knows we’ll only be gone an hour or two, not forever. She won’t be lonely. She’s not alone. The ghost loves our house because she was born in this place. There’s nowhere she’d rather be.


It’s midweek, late afternoon, weirdly warm for winter. Not quite T-shirt weather, but close. The seductive promise of spring saunters in the air while we amble down our long, flat street and pass a dozen close-quartered dwellings. All of them are the same but different. Functional reminders of a former age, more than half of Maplewood’s 8,600 houses popped up before 1939. These strong, old homes have stories to share.


As we stroll toward the end of the block, my wife and I peek into windows, because that’s what walks and windows are for. I consider the many ways a house might serve a family. These structures are more than bricks and beams, shingles and stucco. They’re more than just homes.

We turn a corner and quicken our pace. Up ahead, a Fresh Direct truck idles in front of a handsome gray colonial. Through a large window, I spy a middle-aged woman wearing headphones and hunched over a laptop in the dining room. Propped on a metal stand in front of her, a ring light glows like a cockeyed halo. This house is an office.


On a newly paved road, adorned with chalk rainbows and smiley faces, we pass a vibrant Victorian. Through a second-floor bedroom window, I spot a painted mural of a silly circus scene covering a back wall. A purple tricycle with frilly tassels on the handles is parked on the walkway. Through the first-floor panes, we see colorful artwork, vintage vinyl, rustic furniture and stacks of books. This house is a canvas. Teeming with creativity and personal expression, it mirrors the soul of the family. Every nook whispers a secret, every object has a meaning, every fridge drawing reveals the heart of a child.


Daylight wanes. We turn another corner and trudge up a hilly street. It’s a tough climb, the kind I like to avoid, the kind my wife loves to tackle. In the yard opposite us, a fallen oak slumbers, uprooted during a recent storm. Beyond the toppled trunk, on the home’s front porch, a casserole tin and a vase of lilies await retrieval. This house is a sanctuary. Healing from an illness or losing a loved one, the folks here need more from their home than ever before. Under this roof, they retreat and seek solace in their family’s embrace. It’s where they mend, surrounded by the warmth of relatives and friends.


Dusk sneaks up on us like a prankster. We head downhill. The famous Maplewood fox darts out of nowhere and scampers under a hedge. Now we’re back on our block. The homes lit up, the air still warm, the walk has fed our souls. There’s a moving van parked in the distance, hazards blinking. New neighbors arriving, or former ones leaving. Whatever purpose that house had served, it’ll soon serve another. A brisk breeze swirls. I tug on my sweatshirt and ward off the chill. Someday, my wife and I also will move away. We’ll live in a different place on a different street in a different house. That new house will become something else for us, whatever we need. Someday. But not yet.


As we stand in our yard, facing our home, the gentle ghost waits in the window. I smile and understand what this place has been for our family. It’s the same for every family. More than an office, canvas or sanctuary. More than a home. This house is a museum. A living museum of memories, good and bad, pain and joy. Holiday parties. Sibling scuffles. Birthday sleepovers. Dying pets. Homework battles. Giggling fits. Each moment displayed in the hallways of our minds. An endless gallery of love.


My wife and I walk up the steps and approach the doorway. Before we enter, the ghost fades into the walls, into the knocking radiators and creaking floors. She seeps into the bones of the house. But the ghost is not a haunting, vengeful spirit. She’s just the incarnation of a memory, one of a million collective memories, created and curated by everyone in every family who ever lived here.

Strange, we purchased our old colonial 25 years ago, but we don’t own this house. It doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the remembrances we keep, the ghosts born in this place. We open the door and cross the threshold. Memories flood the room, fill our hearts and welcome us home. There’s nowhere we’d rather be.


Ken Gagne is an author and Maplewood resident. His books include themes of

belonging, self-discovery, and family love. Visit his website at kengagnebooks.com.

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