We’ve reached another cross-quarter day, the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice, better known as Halloween.  It is interesting that this day gets so much attention.  Many believe it has no connection with religion.  They celebrate it with fun and costumes in the early dark.  A significant minority in this country knows that it has religious origins and prohibits it as satanic.  In its early form it was a time of religious ritual, particularly rituals of purification through fire, and of moving to winter quarters.  In some places it was also the start of a new year

I’ve always thought it would be an awkward day for a birthday.  How special would you feel if everyone else was getting candy too?  A friend born on this day, however, told a story about a time in elementary school when birthday parties were forbidden.  The teacher worked her birthday into the Halloween festivities.  That would make a person feel special.

Another person who was born on this day was my mother-in-law, Jane.  Her sons would have no excuse for forgetting their mother’s special day.

I’ve not been impressed with the recent focus on zombies.  I don’t believe in them.  Ghosts, however, are real, in a number of ways.  A woman from New Orleans told me, “Home is where you listen to the ghosts.”  I picture her attending to voices of her―and her community’s―past now that she has returned home, voices she could not hear properly when she lived elsewhere.

My own ancestor research has been work with ghosts, a crowd of people clamoring to be remembered.  They have sometimes weighted on me as an obligation.  At other times they are more like sprites, delightful wisps teasing me into the past.

One of the special things about my mother-in-law was an uncanny ability to find a parking place just where she needed one, no matter how crowded the situation.  To this day, when my husband and I find a space like that we say, “That’s Jane’s space.”  It’s as if she has found and held it for us.  She’s a good ghost; we’ll have her with us as long as we remember.  The parts of our past we’ve neglected may come back to haunt us.  Those we’ve cherished will remain in our hearts, connecting us to our heritage.  Perhaps you’d rather call them something else than ghosts.  Any metaphor will do, as long as we remain mindful of this phenomenon, that we continue to be connected to those who are gone.

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