The Glass Ghost

The Glass Ghost

My mother was a deeply religious woman, but she also had a strong superstitious side. She taught me to be open to possibilities, to things that might seem out of the ordinary or otherworldly, telling me that both she and my grandmother could sense when something was wrong with one of their children or other loved ones, even from a great distance. She proved it to me time and time again over the years. I don’t know if I inherited that extra sense from her, but I have had some experiences that I’ve not been able to explain away. The most dramatic one happened soon after Dan and I bought our home almost twelve years ago, and I still get chills when I think about it.

When Dan and I met, everything happened so quickly- we knew almost instantly that we were in love and meant to be together. I had been in Birmingham just under a year, living in my beloved ‘Blue House’, the wonderful old home that I bought and had begun restoring as I healed from a painful divorce. Dan had just finished newly renovating his bachelor pad condominium in a wonderful old quirky neighborhood. After some heartfelt deliberation, we decided that neither of our places were right to combine our families (I had three dogs at the time, and he had a cat). We both loved the street that I lived on, just two minutes up the hill from where we both worked at UAB, and by some ‘chance’, the most wonderful old house high on a hill at the other end of my street was for sale.

We went to see the house that would become our ‘Chez Gainey’, each of us silent until the end of the tour, not wanting to unduly influence the other in such an important decision. The realtor gave us some time, and we stood in the master bedroom in front of the picture window, holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes. We burst into laughter and then tears, knowing that we had found our home, one that would be OUR house, not his or mine. A much better way to start our lives together.

The peaceful sun porch.
The peaceful sun porch.
Calliope, the muse of music...
Calliope, the muse of music…
Goofiness is a prerequisite for living here...
Goofiness is a prerequisite for living here…

The house was built in 1920 and had quite a checkered past. The previous owner was not an easy man to work with, and we knew that the house had burned ten years earlier. There were gun racks everywhere, and blinds were drawn on every window, even on the beautiful front sun porch. The guest house had been trashed by a slovenly renter, and everything was dark and gloomy. Though he was rarely on the property, he left two dusty old Dobermans to roam untended. Even though we saw the rich potential, the house had been a hideaway- even a fortress- for someone with a dark side, and we knew we had our work cut out for us to heal the house and make it ours.

Aside from the obvious renovations and cleaning, one of the big problems I tackled was picking up the slew of glass all around the property from when the windows exploded as the house had burned. It was everywhere, and it became a daily almost Zen-like ritual for me to walk around the yard, bent over and searching for pieces and slivers of glass that came up with every rainstorm. I was so worried that I would miss something and one of our dogs would be injured. One day, I was in the front yard and bent to pick up a shining piece of glass partially buried in the ground. As I made contact with it, I instantly saw flames and smoke, windows shattering, could hear the sounds of the house burning, felt strong feelings of sadness and loss. It shocked me so that I threw the glass to the ground and jumped back, my breath ragged and my arms covered with goosebumps.

I gingerly picked up the glass and put it in my bag, heading to find Dan. I told him that it felt like the house had shared its story with me, reached out to me. Thankfully, my husband didn’t have me committed, but instead said he felt that the spirit of the house knew that we were trying to bring it back, working to bring love and light back into what had been a long period of darkness and secrecy. That felt right to me, and it caused me to bond even more deeply with our home and honor it by working hard to make it beautiful. I never felt afraid to pick up glass after that, but I fave felt flashes when things have bubbled to the surface; old marbles, glass medicine bottles, children’s toys from long ago. The history of an old house that saw the early days of Birmingham.


Love abounds at Chez Gainey...
Love abounds at Chez Gainey…

Now, as I happily work in my gardens and keep an eye out for any remaining glass, I feel a sense of peace emanating from everything I touch. We have worked hard over the years to make our home and gardens a place of love and laughter, an oasis in a bustling city. We have kept our pact with the Glass Ghost who shared its story with me, and our home has repaid us tenfold by giving us a wonderful project to work on together, shelter in all kinds of weather, and a gathering place for the many, many wonderful memories we have created here. I don’t care if the neighbors think I’m crazy if they hear me, but I thank the flowers when they bloom, I say thank you to the beautiful views that constantly change, and I often put my hand on the house and send it peace. This place is a part of my heart now, a part of who I am. I’ve come to understand that not all ghosts are scary…some are teachers.


2 thoughts on “The Glass Ghost

  1. Dear Denise: I just had to write after reading this…I used to be in the Jon Katz creative group but withdrew (thought someone else could take my spot who was creative in a more active sense). I have followed your stories of your mom and felt oh so sad when she passed; she was such a vivid creature, partly b/c of your writing but also b/c she was such a great lady. Love your stories and your writing. Just wanted you to know that; I’m sure you get wonderful feedback all the time but it is still nice to hear, I suspect. Elle

    1. Elle, thank you so much for your very kind words- I really appreciate your taking the time to post. Thank you also for reading my stories. I miss Mom so much- I’m sure I always will.

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