The Haunted Library

The Haunted Library

The library is haunted. Why is that such a shock? We all know it, we even talk about it in whispers. It’s never been a secret. But what’s really interesting is that 60 plus years ago the library was located about three blocks away from where it is now and it was haunted then too. When the library was moved to this new location the ghosts came along with it. The spirits followed the books and silently watched as different librarians took control.

The library watched as patrons entered the new building and the rules and regulations became lax. Sixty years ago you weren’t allowed to speak above a whisper and even then the stern librarian would glare at you. Now talking is allowed, beverages are allowed, ringing phones are allowed, screaming kids are allowed. No more are patrons shushed for uttering the lowest of sounds, anything goes at the library in this new age of technology. An age that the library spirits never imagined.

The library doesn’t like this change. It doesn’t like that the silent respect for it is gone. It isn’t happy so it allows its ghosts and spirits to haunt the new building especially after closing time. And sometimes a very sensitive person, like myself, can hear the library whisper to itself about the changes telling the wandering angry library spirits to be prepared for when the library closes for the day. Because when the last librarian leaves for the day it’s time for the ghosts to take control.

The library was closed for over a year. “Restorations,” the city said. “It will be better when it reopens,” the city said and when it reopened, over a year later, there was no difference. The chairs were the same and the tables were the same, but the setup was a little different, and there were less books. The library was not happy.

Everyone was welcome to the library grand opening. The crowd sat and lightly applauded as councilmen gave speeches and apologized for the six-month delay of the opening.  “New heating system, new cooling system, more computers,” they bragged. All of that might be true but the real reason the library was closed was because the city knew about the ghosts living there and these spirits had to be exorcised. The ghosts knew too much and they were getting much louder than they were in the previous century. Pretty soon non-spirits would be able to hear the complaints.

The library is still haunted. I’ve been there at least ten times since it’s reopening and the ghosts are still haunting the shelves. I saw my friend Janet there today. But not the 65 year old Janet, who might or not still be alive. She was very sick the last time we spoke seven years ago. Instead of the older Janet I saw the five year old Janet, the one who was wearing her school dress with patent leather shoes and her little white socks. The Janet who ran around the card catalogs at the old library, the one who was interested in the Dewey Decimal System by the time she was ten years old.

Five year old Janet spotted me, smiled and ran over and took my hand. “Where have you been, Sharon? We’ve been waiting for you to come.” “Who’s been waiting for me?” I asked. “All of us.” Janet said indicating a corner of the room which on first glance appeared empty but then I saw them. I saw some other patrons from 1960, people who I haven’t seen in decades.

I also saw Madeline who lived in all the Madeline books I read as a kid; and there was the Phantom Tollbooth with Milo and Tock standing guard; I saw the three children from “Half Magic” and remembered how one of them, while sleeping, wished that his dead father would come back. I remember how I felt when I read that part as a child thinking that I would wish that too if my dad died. I have wished that many times as an adult. I saw the little child knight I read about in a book who had the mumps and his cheeks became so swollen that he couldn’t get his head gear off.

I saw Stephen King’s clown laughing in the back showing his sharpened teeth holding his dangerous colorful balloons. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight were there talking with some other knightly characters. And trying to take control of the situation was a librarian from 60 years ago who was hushing everyone.

My mother was there too looking up from her book to smile at me. I’m pretty sure my sister and father were there too along with some of my cousins and long gone friends.

“See, Sharon, we’re all here. Your friends, family, and characters you’ve loved to read about. Stay with us Sharon, we’ve been waiting for you.” It was tempting, I wanted to stay but I turned to Janet and told her that I had to get home. It was 5:55 PM and the guard was making the announcement that the library would be closing in five minutes and to proceed to the checkout machine to borrow books. Janet looked up at me  and said, “Check out machine. The librarians used to check out our books. You remember when they did that and now you have to do it yourself.” Yes, I remembered.

“Please proceed to the machine to borrow your items, shut off your computers, and please log off all devices you have connected to our WiFi” the guard stated.

“WiFi, computers, devices, do you really like this better? Wouldn’t you rather stay with us here in 1960?” Janet asked. “No. No, not really. I do prefer 1960 but my cousin is coming by tomorrow and I promised him I’d be home. I can’t stay today but I’ll come back for a visit on Saturday. But one day I will stay here with you in 1960. We will play again, Janet, and maybe all our other childhood friends will be around too. Then we all can talk with the book characters and be happy all together again. But I can’t stay now, maybe in ten years, maybe in 15 years maybe within a year, I don’t know but when the time comes I will stay here and haunt the library with all of you.”

Janet dropped my hand and gave me a small wave as did the little knight and the clown, “It.” “I’ll be back to visit day after tomorrow” I sadly said because, the truth is, I would like to stay with them and see my old childhood friends, and maybe seek out Robert Frost and Herman Melville and other authors. They have secrets to tell me, dangerous secrets that the city tried to silence by the having the new “renovations.”

It would be nice to stay but that won’t be for a little while. Until then I will visit my old friends, books and people, at least three times a week.

Yes, the library is haunted and everyone knows it. The renovations didn’t get rid of the spirits living there. They will always be there, forever, and one day so will I.

To see more of my childhood memories go to  S.A.K. Remembers on my blog.

lib outside

lib inside 3

 

 

The Ghostly Flutist

The Ghostly Flutist

I talk and write about my sister, Adrienne, a lot. She was very important to me. When she died from colon cancer in 2009 I thought my life was going to end too. It was horrible. But I somehow got through it even though I still get very depressed and think a lot about her when her birthday rolls around on March 21. March is also Colon Cancer Awareness month.

Not many people know this about Ade but she was a gifted flutist, or flautist if you prefer. She started playing the flute when she was in 7th grade and by the time she was in college her talent was incredible. She majored in music as an undergraduate and when she went on for her graduate degree. I was so proud.

Everyday she’d practice for hours filling our apartment building courtyard with classical music. Mr. Brovender, who lived on the second floor opposite our apartment, would sit and listen to Ade’s practice sessions. Once his wife asked him a question and he turned to her and said, “Hush, Adrienne is playing her flute.” Mrs. Brovender, who wasn’t angry at her husband, told my mother that story.

Ade could have had a great career but in her 20’s arthritis got to her fingers and shortly thereafter the disease went to her hips and by the time she was in her 30’s she could barely walk. But she always kept playing her flute. Her fingers hurt all the time as she played but she couldn’t give up her love of that instrument.

Then the cancer manifested itself a few years later. Her health problems were too much for her and she had to stop playing but she listened to her classical music all the time.

Eventually Adrienne passed. The last three years of life had no music in it. She couldn’t play and she didn’t want to listen to music any longer.

Adrienne told me where she kept her two flutes and her piccolo and after her death every so often I would put the cheaper flute together and blow a note. She taught me how to get a note out of her instruments. Playing a flute and piccolo is a little tricky. You don’t just put your lips on it a get a note to come out. You have to kind of put it below your bottom lip, twist the instrument up, bring your lips down, breathe a little air into it, and with any luck you get a note. You do that all while holding both arms up at mouth height pressing on a ton of buttons. Well, it was tricky for me.

About two years ago I was laying in bed reading. The light was on, it was the middle of the day, and I was wide awake when suddenly I heard two notes from a flute. I looked up and around the room, my heart thumping. The room was quiet. I thought maybe I heard a pipe making noise or someone doing something or other in another apartment. Noise travels strangely in apartment buildings.

After a few minutes of listening I decided that I didn’t hear anything and went back to my book. Things were quiet and I was happily reading for another seven minutes or so when I heard the two flute notes again. I was afraid now. The notes came from Adrienne’s bed where she spent so much time lying through her cancer ordeal. I looked at the bed, stopped reading, and listened some more. All was quiet the rest of the day and that night.

The next day I was reading in the bedroom during the afternoon and I heard the flute again. I put the book down and laid there listening, not doing anything else. Ten minutes later the flute notes chimed out for the fourth time in two days. This was too much for me. I sat up in bed and said out loud, “Ady, I know you’re playing your flute to let me know that you’re still with me and love me. I know you don’t want me to feel alone and to understand that you’ll always be with me and I do need to know that. But you playing your flute frightens me. I don’t know why but it scares me. I know you would never hurt me but please don’t play your flute to me. It really frightens me to hear it.”

That was the last time I heard her playing. I feel bad asking her not to play because I knew she was doing it for me. I know that Ade is still walking around this apartment. I feel her, I sense her. Sometimes her presence is so strong that I say hello to her and tell her I love her and am happy that she’s still with me.

You can believe this or not, I’m not writing this to convince anyone that my sister is somehow still around.

Is there life after death? I don’t know but I tend to believe there is or I hope that there is because  I need to talk with my sister again.

As for Adrienne’s flutes and piccolo, I’ll keep them and when I pass they will be sent to my good friend and “sista” in New Jersey who loves flute music as much as Adrienne and myself.

ady-2004-3
This is an old Polaroid of Adrienne in 2004. She couldn’t walk because of her arthritis. Her walker is just out of camera view.

To see more of my childhood memories go to  S.A.K. Remembers on my blog.

 

Cancer Is Not Always Pink – Dress In Blue Day -March 3, 2017 – Graphic Details

Cancer Is Not Always Pink – Dress In Blue Day -March 3, 2017 – Graphic Details

March is Colon Cancer Awareness month and tomorrow is Dress in Blue Day. Please wear something in blue to support your fight to end this cancer. I know everyone has their causes and Colon Cancer is mine. I’ve written about my sister’s battle and there are so many others struggling to become a colon cancer survivor.

Most people don’t like to talk about Colon Cancer. It’s not pretty, not that any cancer is, but Colon Cancer deals with a very personal part of the body. It’s ugly. To be brutally clear here, you defecate in a bag that is attached to your stomach. Through surgery your rectum is attached to the stomach and when you have to move your bowels everything comes out from there into a bag. Many health insurance companies only allow for  ten bags a month so each bag has to be used for three days. You have to empty the bag and then clean it before you reattach it to your stoma, which is the rectum that is now at your stomach.

Grossed out yet? I have more. The stoma bleeds very easily, IF you scratch it while cleaning it or scratch it while changing the ostom bag it will bleed -a lot. Think of how much a hemorrhoid bleeds. The stoma is very delicate

Want to hear more? There are times when the stoma become prolapsed. That’s when the bowel protrudes through the stomal opening in the skin to a greater extent than was anticipated. The amount of protruding bowel can vary from 2-3cm to more than 10cm. Although when this first happens it can be very distressing and frightening it is usually not serious. My sister’s stoma grew to 9 inches. She had 9 inches of stoma hanging from her stomach. They had to operate on her to take the hanging portion off. The doctor said it was like removing a penis. That’s how big and thick it was.

And here’s another good one – visiting nurses aren’t allowed to change the bag, at least not back when I needed a nurse to stay with my sister for a day while I had to go to a Disability appointment. I was told to have a neighbor come in and help my sister change her ostomy bag. A neighbor! A visiting nurse wasn’t allowed to change it but a neighbor was qualified? I didn’t make my appointment that day.

I can tell you a lot of horrible stories about Colon Cancer but thinking back on all of that upsets me.

But I will ask you to wear something blue tomorrow, March 3, 2017 to HONOR everyone who is going through this dreadful type of cancer and to honor their caregivers too.

If possible change your Facebook image for an hour tomorrow with the blue star that I’ll post at the bottom of this page.

Colon Cancer is not for the squeamish. It’s devastating and deadly. If you’re over 50 and don’t really watch what you eat get checked. There are symptoms but you don’t always have them but beware of blood in your stool and pains in the left side of your stomach.

blue-1

 

colon-cancer-awareness

cancer-is-no-always-pink
 

 

 

 

 

The Ghosts in Apartment 513

The Ghosts in Apartment 513

I’ve lived in this apartment building in Brooklyn, New York my whole life, over six decades. Apartment buildings have a load of strange noises, I’m used to them. Pipes are always rattling, radiators are always banging, someone is always stomping around in the apartment above, babies crying, kids screaming, noises coming from the alleyway, there’s always some kind of noise in an apartment building. I’ve learned to live with it. I don’t really hear the noises anymore. Noise is easy to get accustomed to.

When I was a little girl Mrs. Feldstein lived right next door to me in apartment 513. We shared a wall that separated the two apartments. When my sister and I ran around Mrs. Feldstein would bang on the wall. My father would tell my sister and myself to stop running and that other people lived in the building and we had to respect them.

Mrs. Feldstein died when I was maybe 10 or 11. She was close to 90 then, maybe older. Then a younger woman moved into apartment 513 with her boyfriend. They lived there for a year or so.

Mrs. Wolfe was the next tenant. She lived in apartment 513 until she passed some 30 years later.

After Mrs. Wolfe died a Russian man in his 60’s moved in. He couldn’t speak much English and my Russian is limited to “spasibo” which means, “thank you.” Every time I’d see the man he’d say, “Hello, my neighbor, my friend.” I think that’s all the English he knew. Which is far more than the Russian I knew then or even know now.

After 10 years of so the Russian man died and for the last year the apartment next door to me has had three different sets of tenants. I never saw them but I’d hear them cough, sneeze, talk on the phone. I’d smell what they were cooking for dinner at night. I knew there was someone living there but never met any of them. Living in an apartment building with 90 units can be lonely and you can be isolated.

A few months ago, the apartment next door, apartment 513, became really noisy. A baby crying, kids running up and down the apartment banging on the walls, pulling furniture on the hardwood floors, a man and woman arguing all the time. I just assumed a family moved it. Strange though, I didn’t really remember hearing any furniture being moved into the apartment. But it’s possible that I just ignored hearing it. Who knows?

When Mrs. Wolfe had the apartment it was very quiet and when the Russian man moved in he was pretty quiet too. Well, they were older and only had visitors who were around their age. Very similar to me. I’m older, very quiet, I don’t even watch television. I read a lot. But next door to me now is a family with a baby and a little boy, I think, who’s about five years old. The noise is astonishing. But as my pal Jill said, “They’re kids, they run, they cry.” Okay Jill, I get your point.

The noise starts at 4:45 am. The baby starts to howl. She, I think it’s a she but I don’t really know, howls for a solid ten minutes until mom comes in to quiet her. I feel like screaming, “Your baby is crying, do something!” You have to understand something, the kids sleep in the neighbor’s living room and their living room and my bedroom share a wall. When that baby starts to scream it wakes me up! But okay, like Jill says, “Baby’s cry. That’s their job.”

Then the older brother, I think it’s a five year old boy, starts to cry because baby sis woke him up. Finally mom finds her way to the living room and tries to calm the kids down. “Woo, woo, woo,” mom coos to the baby. She and the little boy sing some songs to calm baby sis down. Most of the time the song is “Happy Birthday.” Mom and son take turns singing. While he sings “Happy Birthday” she “woo, woo, woo’s” the still howling baby girl.

Me, I’m in my bed trying to stop myself from screaming because Jill’s words are echoing in my mind.

The baby cries all day. I asked my friend Janette if babies cry all the time. Janette had three kids of her own so she would know better than me who has no children. “Well,” Janette said, “not usually but maybe the baby has colic or something. When I was taking care of my granddaughter she didn’t cry at all. She was perfect.” Yes, Janette’s granddaughter is perfect. All children are “perfect” where their moms and grandma’s are concerned. Except, Janette’s granddaughter probably is as close to perfection as they come. Ahem.

I spoke to my friend, Cathy, and told her that “I’ve become a grouchy old woman. The kids next door are driving me out of my mind.” “No, no,” Cathy loyally answers. “You’re not grouchy.” Her words say that I’m not a grouch but I’m pretty sure Cathy’s thinking that I really am.

Apartment 513 gets quiet for a short period of time. Peace at last. No crying, no screaming, ahh. But comes 6:00 pm it all start again but worse.

The baby is screaming and the little boy invites his little friend over every evening and they start running up and down the apartment. It sounds like two little elephants running amok. Then they grab furniture and start pulling it against the wall, the wall that their apartment shares with my apartment.

Then I hear a bang, one of the boys fell and then he starts to cry. The crying lasts for two minutes then the two boys are up and running again. I think the boys take turns falling and crying because this goes on for hours. More than anything I want to pound on the wall or ring their doorbell and ask mom to PLEASE control the boys. But she’s still woo, woo, wooing the baby girl who is still crying. But I don’t pound on the wall, I don’t confront mom because I still hear Jill’s words in my head.

This goes on until 10:00 pm. The little boy’s visitor leaves but the son now jumps around all over their living room. He bangs furniture up against the wall, he jumps off the furniture, falls a few times, cries a few times, and mom is still woo, woo, wooing the wailing baby.

I’ve become a child myself trying to figure out what to do. So instead of knocking on their door to talk to mom I turn the radio on, LOUD! Music from the 80’s blasts through my apartment, the walls shake because the volume is up so high. After five minutes of this I turn the radio off. Woo, woo, woo, cry cry, cry, run, run run, bang, bang, bang. It doesn’t stop. Did they even hear my radio blasting? One of my favorite local disc jockeys, Michael Maze, would be insulted that they didn’t pay attention to him.

In desperation I go to my super’s apartment and beg him to speak to this woman about all the noise. Sorry, Jill, I pay rent and I no longer care that a child’s job is to run around making noise. It’s the mom’s job to control her uncontrollable kids.

I bang, bang, bang on Joe, my super’s door. “Joe, you have to talk to that woman next door to me. The kids, especially the boy, stampedes around that apartment shaking my walls and giving me a headache. It goes on all day long, non stop!”

Joe looks at me like I’ve hit the Manischewitz heavy malaga wine a bit too early. “Uh, what woman next door to you?” Joe asks.

“You know, Joe, that woman in apartment 513, with the husband who beats her, and the uncontrollable little boy, and howling baby, that woman!”

“Uh, that apartment is empty. We haven’t rented it out yet.”

“Give me a break, Joe, someone is living there.”

I’ve been a tenant in this building for over 60 years, 30 of which Joe has been the super. I pay my rent on time and keep to myself, in other words, a perfect tenant. Because of this he feels obligated to investigate my complaint. So we both go apartment 513. Joe knocks and no one answers. He takes out the key, opens the door and we both enter. Nothing there. No kids, no furniture, empty except for a stray dust ball or two. We go through the three rooms looking around for something, anything. Nada.

We leave the apartment and Joe asks if I’m feeling okay and if want him to call my cousin Marty to stay with me for awhile, at least until I sober up. “No thanks, Joe, I don’t need cousin Marty.” I then storm into my apartment.

Within five minutes the crying, banging, and woo, woo, wooing start again. I leave my apartment and put my ear to the door of 513. Nothing, not a sound. I go back into my apartment and hear the loud commotion. Now what should I do? There’s nothing.

I’m afraid of ghosts. I don’t even like to read a book about ghosts because they frighten me. And ghost movies terrify me even more. Once, though, I saw the movie, “The Others” starring Nicole Kidman.

Nichole rents a house for her and her two kids but they soon discover there are ghosts living there. SPOILER ALERT, in case you haven’t seen this 2001 movie. Nicole learns that the ghosts are previous tenants of the house who are dead but the ghosts think they’re still alive and visit the home. Something like that. By the time the movie ended I was too afraid to pay much attention but that twist at the end got me wondering. The ghosts making all that noise in apartment 513, are they previous tenants from before Mrs. Feldstein? Could they have lived in that apartment when the building was first built, or, and this is what scares me the most, am I the ghost, not knowing that I died and am now haunting the people who live in apartment 513?

So, it’s 5:30 am now. I’m laying in bed listening to the usual sounds coming from next door. The baby is howling, the boy is singing “Happy Birthday”, and mom is trying to calm down her children preparing them for another day of chaos.

 

The Second Street Playground and the Cuban Missile Crisis

The Second Street Playground and the Cuban Missile Crisis

When I was growing up the second street playground was about four blocks or so from where I lived. My dad always called it the “measles, mumps, and chickenpox” playground claiming that everyone who played there always got sick. I think he just didn’t like going there because he preferred the playground on Ocean Parkway. The Ocean Parkway one was beautiful, surrounded by trees, and it was much larger than the one on second street but that’s another story.

My cousins Donna and Susan and I always went to the second street playground, chancing all those measles, mumps, and chickenpox germs. It was always filled with kids playing on the swings, the monkey bars, playing basketball, and sother tuff. It was a nice enough neighborhood park.

The swings for the older kids were in the back of the park, closer to the street and the baby swings for toddlers were in the front, closer to the boardwalk.

Donna, Susan, and I hung out on the older kids swings, after all we were 10 years old. Well, Susan and I were 10 Donna was 11. My cousins would take to the air on their swings, flying up high while standing on the seat. Me, nope. I sat on the swing, making sure one foot was always touching the ground. Heights frightened me, heights still frighten me. Let’s face it, I’m a born coward.

That summer of 1962 my favorite pair of shorts were my white ones. I had three pairs of white shorts and wore them everyday during the warm season. Granted, one pair was a little snug on me because not only did I like my white shorts I also liked ice cream which caused one pair of shorts to become a bit snug. I was lucky all my shorts weren’t snug.

Anyway, picture this – late summer beginning of fall in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York – the year was 1962. Donna, Susan and I were commenting on the political problems of the world. Ha, hardly. Ten year olds didn’t really care about politics back then but we knew something big was going on. Our parents were nervous and in whispered voices kept talking about war, President Kennedy, Cuba, and Russia. Donna, Susan, and I didn’t know what was really going on but we were frightened because our parents were frightened. All the adults tried to cover their fear to the kids but kids know when adults are worried and we were worried because they were worried.

One warm afternoon we were sitting on the swings, I’m not sure if my snug white shorts were on or I was wearing a pair of jeans, but we were sitting on the swings. Donna and Susan was swinging like I was, foot on the ground just going back and forth a little.

I remember looking at the boardwalk and the beach beyond figuring that I was staring to the south. Wasn’t Cuba south of us I wondered. Having an active imagination I was able to visualize Cuba hurling bombs directly at Brighton Beach. The missiles flying over Florida, the Carolina’s, the Virginia’s, DC, and New Jersey, aimed right at my New York community. Cuba wanted to destroy Brighton Beach. I knew it like I knew I’d have to get a larger pair of shorts the next year, if I survived the Cuban missiles that is.

The second street playground would be nothing but ashes; all of Brighton would be a towering inferno; Brighton Beach Avenue would be gone, and so would I and my parents, my sister, my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmother, friends, and neighbors. This is where my history of panic attacks started. In the second street playground, in October of 1962.

Yes, I was afraid and even though I didn’t voice my fears to Donna and Susan they had the same panicked look on their faces.

Of course, as we all know, Kennedy got us out of that mess. Brinkmanship they called it when I studied the crisis in college.  

So today I took a walk to the second street playground. It’s still there but looking far different than when I was a kid. There weren’t any children playing probably because they were in school and it was cloudy, windy, and cool out. But I was there. My 10 year old self was there too carefully  swinging on the swings, watching for the Cuban missiles to take us out. I could swear that I also saw Donna and Susan swinging right by my side even though they were both taken out a few years back from another sort of missile called breast cancer.

Exactly 54 years later I found myself standing on the boardwalk, looking at the second street playground remembering what went on over five decades earlier. It’s very strange that whenever I think of the many years I swung on those swings all I can really recall were those days in late October of 1962 when I thought that Brighton Beach wouldn’t be around for much longer.

No, I luckily did not live through a war but the threat of possibly living through one is still nagging at me and the memory of it is still alive and kicking. I guess some things you never forget.