Childhood Trauma

Have I Ever Told You About My Ghost Sister?

Have I Ever Told You About My Ghost Sister?

When we were young
Mom would ship us off
to spend the summer
in Newfoundland for what
must have been her
own personal bit
of relief as well.

I loved these trips.
They meant I was without
a bedtime because I
had always stayed up late
but grandparents never anticipate
their home becomes the
largest open cage for the most curious
of child-mice, and I discovered
in those summers, my love for late night TV.

Cheers was still in its glory,
Diane’s dress was pure 80’s conservative,
and Sam’s hair was still flush with colour,
even Cliff had hopes he wouldn’t die
only having lived with
his mother, who was the great
and the marvellous Jessica Tandy.

It was after 1984,
the summer when Rebecca,
as though signalling a shift
in the public conscious,
took over when Shelley Long mistook
her popularity for greatness.

I remember because I hated her at first.
She didn’t read like Diane.
She was all about money.

That was the year I met my Ghost Sister,
and just the once.

During the day I had
left my model glue under the
kitchen table where I spent many
of my days, back when being under a table
was not merely acceptable but in fact
the greatest place one could occupy in the house.

Under the table was where
you got all the best stories.

I heard my Aunt Jane tell Nan
over Tetley and Camel’s, about
her husband’s gall-stones and
how it was “like a golf ball coming
through a garden hose”, an image I
have never forgotten either when
watering the lawn or seeing a second
of golf on TV before shuddering
changing the station to, hopefully,
a pre-Becca episode of Cheers.

My grandmother had a small fit
over my younger sister, a creature
I had decided was mostly a waste of time,
except when I managed to get
a moment alone and made a grotesque,
zombie face, until she wept, and then
adults came and nobody understood why.

She had somehow gotten the cap off
the model glue, proving she was not
completely a pile of baby fat and stupid,
and was digging right into it like it was
plum sauce, her chubby fingers the chicken nugget,
and my Nan made sure I understood, in typical
“I don’t believe a child can be too traumatized” fashion,
that I had almost poisoned my sister, to death.

That night, she came to me in a moment of lucidity.
I had never seen a ghost, so it was exciting before
it became completely terrifying,
when she pointed toward me, as if to say

“soon I will be able to speak,
and your faces of zombies
will be known to the world”

before she literally tipped over,
sideways, like she was cardboard
that had been held up by a gust of wind,
and her phantom-form mist-and-blue light,
evaporated into the floor,
presumably to the downstairs of the house,
to watch something that was on TV,
or to finish eating my model glue,
and I knew then, even without being
aware of it fully,
that I loved the terror of my imagination,
and that I only had a few good months left,
before Sis learned to talk,
and then,
the gig was up.