Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Haunted by a Happy Bird

It started with the photos before we even saw it. I felt like I had seen that aqua-colored middle bedroom before. And it continued with the photo album. When Ed and I viewed the house, the owners left a photo album with pictures of the parties - weddings, christenings -- that happened in their house. Smart selling technique: "You too can have a full life. We were so happy here, we've christened everything. We christen you the new owners" - that's what it felt like they were saying and we bought it. And now I know the previous owner's face. She's so pretty -- a fine-boned Italian woman, who reminds me of a bird. A happy bird in a wedding dress.

And of course she got older, before she died. So, I remember her at her most beautiful, and maybe her happiest. Maybe she got even happier, but it's my fantasy. Her life is now my fantasy.

When we first moved in, we had three kitchen's-worth of kitchen ware -- mine, Ed's and Theresa's. She left everything. Ed's was the newest, and with his Cuisinart and his Global knives naturally selecting themselves into the cupboards and onto the shelves, Theresa's china and my pressure cooker went the way of the meek, down into the basement. But there were times when Theresa's stuff has come in handy. Her tiny measuring spoons, her gargantuan, old-school mixer with three bowls, her pretty little saucers, silverware, towels, cleaning solutions, detergent, everything.

And there were times when, between the three of us, none of us had what was needed. Or, it was packed away in one of the many boxes (probably one marked bathroom).

The first time I asked Theresa for guidance, I was searching for a corkscrew, so you can understand the imperative nature of the request. "Oh, Theresa, where would you keep the implement to open the wine. The cork screw. Theresa!" I spoke to her like the immigrant Italian, even though I don't think she was. I did end up finding a corkscrew, which gave me the creeps, but nothing a little wine couldn't fix. I also asked her for cinnamon, soap, and a funnel. I only got the soap. She wasn't foolproof.

I started to get comfortable with the feeling that an old Italian woman was watching over me, especially in my new kitchen. I told Ed that I invoked Theresa for help now and again. He replied, "Oh, I thought her name was Maria."

Maria. Yeah, that did sound familiar. So, I asked the neighbor. What ever happened to Theresa? It turns out she lives in New Jersey in an assisted living facility. She was the owner's sister, who moved in after Maria had died.

Maria was in the pictures. Maria was the one that grew up and old and died in the house.

So, I've stopped trying to divine information and kitchen equipment from a little old lady who lives in New Jersey. I'm probably irritating her. Maybe she moans at night in her sleep or dreams about corkscrews. Maybe she thinks that a distant memory about cinnamon is trying to make it's way back to her. Maybe I should just go to the store.

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