I awoke to the aches and pains of a cold as I made my way to the bathroom. The cat lay in front of the wood stove my husband had stoked before he left, and in the darkness I almost stepped on her. She purred a ‘good morning’ to me and I purred back. It was a dark and snowy morning, and the wind whipped around the old farmhouse like a cloak and dagger. Despite the many layers of plastic on the windows, we never could completely get rid of the drafts.
The clock on the wall said 8:30. It was one of those bird-call clocks, the kind that chirped on the hour. I hadn't heard it go off yet, and was glad because it meant I was able to sleep in. The past few weeks had been hard on me, what with my daughter and the grand kids all having the flu, and I being the main caregiver. It was time for Mama to get some rest.
I washed my hands in the bathroom sink with the warmest water I could stand. The body aches responded, and I longed to lie in a tub of hot water to ease my suffering. As I filled the tub, I poured in some lavender and eucalyptus oils. The steam smelled heavenly and instantly cleared my stuffy nose.
I slipped into the hot, steamy water up to my chin, took a deep breath and allowed my body to completely relax; finally, a reprieve. I lay there for a long time, thoroughly enjoying this moment. It had been weeks since I took any time for myself, much less had any time alone with my husband. He whispered to me just last night that he missed me right before we both drifted off to sleep. I knew what he meant. I lay there smiling, thinking of the warmth and strength of his arms, when suddenly I heard the front door; my husband had forgotten something? I couldn’t muster the strength to holler out to him, and figured he would stop in when he was finished doing whatever it was he was doing. I waited. After about ten minutes, I began to worry that the front door had blew open with the howling north winds. Either that, or an intruder was in the house.
I forced myself out of the tub, donning my terry cloth bath robe. I’d had that robe forever, my husband having bought it for me back in 1998 at a ski resort in New Hampshire. It was during our after-Thanksgiving-vacation when we decided to go north to seek out snow, only to find it to be the warmest November on record there! We eventually did find snow up in the mountains, specifically near the Old Man on the Mountain range. I was sad to hear that that mountain face had collapsed a few years ago, and the Old Man was gone now.
Walking into the living room, I saw the front door closed tightly. No husband. No nobody. The front door had jingle bells on it, the kind that horses wore on their harnesses and people hang at Christmastime. I hung them up the year I bought them and never took them down after reading an article about Feng Shui; bells on the door was supposed to clear negative energy and stimulate positive energy. Besides that, I just liked the way it sounded when the door opened and closed, and I KNEW I heard those bells while I lay in the tub. I looked around the room and noticed the lamp was on. Had I turned that on? No, I distinctly remember how dark the room was when I came through on my way to the bathroom.
I padded down the hallway and peered into the bedroom; dark and chilly. I made my way to the kitchen and it was empty, as well. The strong smell of coffee that my husband had poured into his thermos still hung in the air.
I was stumped. No one was here. I plodded back towards the bedroom. Might as well get dressed, I thought. As I passed the wood stove, I noticed the pan of water we always kept on top was empty, so I refilled it, adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water. My grandmother had always kept a pan of water on her stove, and I always had one on mine, too. It helped keep some humidity in the house, and with this cold hanging on weather wise as well as health-wise, I could use all the help I could get. It also reminded me of Mamaw. The wood stove was the only heat source in the house, so I added another log to the fire and shut the door with a clang. I rose and turned towards the hallway, and that’s when I saw someone standing there...
“Do you need eggs?”
The room grew deathly cold. I didn’t answer. I couldn’t answer. The shock of the apparition had me frozen to the spot. Now, I love watching those ghost shows on T.V., and I’ve been privy to Indian ceremonies where I have seen things that those ghost hunters chase with veracity, but I have NEVER seen a ghost in broad daylight hours, much less had one speak to me.
I instantly remembered a story my friend Bev told me one time after she’d spent the night. She awoke about four in the morning after hearing someone knock on the door. She’d said she heard me get up and answer the door to a woman asking if I needed eggs. It was a dark, cold and windy night. A wind warning had been issued, and it howled til we thought the whole house was coming down. Anyway, I invited the woman in, but she said she couldn’t stay, that there were neighbors waiting for her eggs. I asked if she were sure, she replied, “Yes, but thank you,” and then she left. We concluded then that the woman Bev had dreamt about was the original owner of this house, Mrs. Shelton. She and her husband Earl had built the place in 1904, and were the only people who had ever lived here, well, besides us, of course.
I knew I was looking at the ghost of Mrs. Shelton, dressed in an old-lady housecoat, the kind patterned with tiny flowers and ivy tendrils, a light blue sweater, and a scarf on her head, tied under her chin. She was short and chubby, with a wrinkled, grandmotherly face, and she held a basket with a blue and white checkered cloth thrown over it. She was transparent white, the type of apparition I had seen many times before, but the details of her dress and other features were clear. The spirits I saw were usually shadows or this white transparent color, but none had ever actually spoken to me.
Intrigued, I said, “Why yes, I do need eggs. Do you have some for sale?”
She smiled, “Yes, child, right here. The biggest and best brown eggs you’ve ever seen! But they’re not for sale, I don’t sell my eggs.” She smiled. “I’ll just sit the basket down here.” She placed the basket on the coffee table, and floated toward the front door. “Thank you and your husband so much for taking care of this place. Earl and I just love visiting and seeing all the improvements.” With that, she disappeared through the front door. Yes, you read that right, THROUGH the front door. I stood there in shock, not able to move. The house was silent, with only the crackling of the fire in the wood stove and the incessant howl of the wind outside.
Suddenly, I was choking and spitting, half drowned in the tub. I sat up and shivered; I had fallen asleep. Mrs. Shelton was only a dream. As the fog began to lift in my mind, I realized I had been in the bathtub for a long while. Disappointed, I pulled the plug and stepped from the now-cold water, dragged on the terrycloth robe and opened the bathroom door.
I mumbled to myself how real the dream felt, as I walked to warm my bones by the wood stove. There, on the coffee table sat a basket with a blue and white checkered cloth draped over it. As I stood there staring at it, I knew it contained the biggest and best brown eggs I had ever seen.