As Christmas has many associated traditions, I thought I'd reel some of them out in a 'Good Gods, what should I drone on about today' Kinda way.
The first one that I would like to have at is the Christmas Ghost Story. In the past, the BBC have done a cracking job of adapting the works of MR James (And others) into stories in the style of those told by the older generation, to the younger generation around open fire when the only lighting was provided by stuttering candles.
I present to you my own family Christmas Ghost story, a true account where names have not been changed, as no-one is truly innocent, are they?
it was the winter of 2002, we were a smaller family then - just the three of us. My Daughter was an accomplished talker and had quite a vivid imagination, despite only being three years old. She would often hold long conversations with her toys, posing them around a tea-service or arranging an improptue picnic for them.
Her mode of conversation was very adult, she would ask Piglet a question and politely give him time to reply, nod sagely and move to the next stuffed animal or doll, to see what their opinion on the situation was. This was the rule, rather than the exception and was thought to be quite 'cute' or even precocious by any assembled onlookers.
One afternoon, when Mrs Dandy went upstairs to collect her after her regular nap, she heard our daughter laughing and having one of her conversations, the gaps where she would normally wait for her toys to reply were slightly, but noticibly, longer. It also sounded like the toys were asking the questions, and my Daughter was the one doing the answering.
When the chat seemed to have reached it's natural conclusion, Mrs Dandy entered the room to see our daughter sat on the bed, alone. Alone in this case meaning no other toys, not the treasured Piglet or any of her other plushy inner circle.
"Who were you talking to Baby?"
"The Lady." she replied, in a completely disinterested tone.
"Don't know, just the Lady, what's for Dinner?"
This was talked about for a couple of days as an odd occurance, but nothing really came of it and the assumption was made that 'The Lady' was an imaginary friend, based on a half remembered character from a Disney Cartoon or a Narnia book.
A few weeks later, we decided to make a photo-wall in the dining room, with family pictures from the past fifty or so years. The project took some time, with photos being printed then framed and mounted on the wall. I walked into the dining room one day to see my daughter staring at the pictures.
"Who's that?" I asked, pointing at a picture of her
"Me!" she shouted, excitedly
"OK, who's that?" I pointed at a picture of my Brother
"Unca Pete! - Who's that?" She asked, turning the game around and pointing at a picture of Mrs Dandy.
"That's MY Mummy" I replied, preparing to tell some stories of my youth.
"No, silly Daddy, that's The Lady!"
"Which Lady, Baby?"
"The Lady," In a tone that implied that I was quite possibly the stupidest person on the entire planet, "That comes and talks to me in my bedroom!"
I should probably explain that my Mother had died of cancer some fifteen years previously.
After some small amount of coaxing, my daughter told me that 'The Lady' regularly visited her and would ask if everone was alright and if she was happy. So far, so spooky, but that's not where the story ends.
As the identity of The Lady had now been established, a strange pall fell over the house, everyone seemed to be treading slightly lighter, a room you would normally walk through without turning on the light became a study in moving shadows and half-seen figures. Every creak of floorboards from the first floor was met with a strained silence to see if it evolved into footsteps.
As escalations go, the next 'stage' of the experience was strange, but for anyone who knew my mother, completely understandable.
My Daughter was (and still is) a reasonably sound sleeper, once she was asleep nothing short of a tactical nuclear strike would wake her up. Mrs Dandy often used 'Naptime' as a couple of hours that could be spent on housework that was otherwise difficult with a toddler in tow, such as dusting upstairs. One afternoon, she decided to try vacuuming, knowing that she wouldn't wake our daughter up.
I think she managed to use the vacuum for around fifteen seconds before it turned itself off, not at the vacuum, but at the switch on the socket. It took her some time to realise that that was what had happened as she assumed that something was loose, or the machine itself had overheated. The switch was turned back on and cleaning commenced for another few seconds until it was turned off again by the unseen hands.
My wife put down the vacuum, took a deep breath and turned to address the empty air:
"Look, Grandma Dandy, I'm not going to wake her up, everything is fine, we don't mind you visiting, but let me get on with my work"
The silence was deafening, which made the roar of the vacuum turning itself back on all the more of a shock.
After that The Lady's visits became less and less frequent, we think that she visited my Son a couple of times from things he's mentioned in conversation - But not to the extent that she did with my Daughter.
She did always say that she wanted a Grand-Daughter though.