We had a creepy basement. Our oil furnace alternately growled like a bear and clanked like Scrooge dragging his chains. The coal bin the furnace replaced seemed equally forbidding—ready to swallow you up or hide monsters in its inky recesses. What looked like hair from buried creatures mysteriously poked through nooks and crannies. Shelves lined with old Mason jars hid unidentifiable slime.
Sometimes at night when the basement began to belch a series of terrifying creaks and groans, my sister and I would freeze, certain some boogeyman was about to creep up the stairs. Mom’s reply? “It’s just
the Friendly Ghost. Nothing to worry about. I’ll go check.” I don’t recall if Mom grabbed any weapon (her choices would have been a baseball bat, umbrella, or cast-iron frying pan—no guns). But she would descend to the basement, check things out, and return with a smile. “Like I said, just Casper the Friendly Ghost.” Casper
As an adult, I asked Mom about
, and she laughed. Mom admitted the noises often seemed as scary to her as they did to us, but she didn’t want her daughters to grow up fearful. Mom was brave. Casper
Funny thing. I don’t ever remember seeing Mom in her bed. I’m certain I did, but it’s not among my memories. I grew up in a single-parent household, and Mom worked fulltime—our all female household’s sole support. When we were little, a great aunt stayed with us during the week. Still Mom did all the laundry, a lot of the cooking, and she cleaned the house on Saturdays (a family affair when my sisters and I were old enough to participate).