63: The Dark Lady

63: The Dark Lady

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

The Dark Lady

The past is never dead, it is not even past.

~William Faulkner

Yes, agreed the seller of our dream home in Michigan, she would sell us some of the furnishings if we would allow her to leave behind two generations worth of stuff stored in the basement. My husband Dick and I were stretching our budget to the limit to acquire the spacious Tudor-style house and happy to accommodate her.

The young woman selling it had inherited the house from her father and stepmother, and she had grown up there. Her mother had died years before; her father remarried and his new wife had consigned a large number of items to the basement. Our seller had added more in recent years. Now she, her husband and children were moving to the West Coast and they didn’t want to take much with them.

When we moved in, thrilled to be in a house after years of apartment living, we ignored the full basement. We had plenty of time to sort all that in the future. That winter I made space in the main basement room so our sons, then two and four, could play indoors. I sold large items ranging from a Ping-Pong table to a printing press. I would explore the boxes heaped in every corner at my leisure.

One snowy morning, when I was tackling one of the cartons in the main room, my toddler Mike pointed to the open door of the storeroom and said, “Lady.”

I looked up and thought I saw something move beyond the storeroom door. Then I decided it was a shadow. Later I noticed that the boys avoided playing at that end of the basement. Imagination is catching, I thought.

It was more than a week later, on a cold February day when I was doing laundry in the basement and the boys were playing with their Matchbox cars on a rug that Dave, my four-year-old, suddenly called out, “Look!” and pointed to the storeroom.

Startled, I looked past him into the cluttered storeroom and there, indeed, seemed to be a dark woman bending over a large box! Tall, slim, short black hair curling against her cheek, wearing a white dress too flimsy for winter! My heart thumped and I stepped close to the boys, ready to grab them and run upstairs if we had a prowler. As I moved, the figure disappeared.

Frightened now, I pushed the boys ahead of me up the basement stairs quickly and locked the door behind us. No one followed and there was no sound from the basement. Dick was out of town. This was before 911 service, so I dialed the phone operator, told her we might have a prowler, and shortly after that a policeman arrived. He checked out the basement and the whole house. He found nothing and we concluded, laughingly, that our imaginations had played tricks.

Spring came and I decided to thoroughly clean out all the unwanted stuff left behind by the former owners of the house. I started with the large carton over which I had “imagined” seeing a dark lady hovering on that wintry day. The box was filled with old dresses. At the bottom of the carton, however, I found a leather-bound photo album. Opening it at random I found myself looking at — you guessed it! — a photograph of our dark lady of the basement! Tall, slim, the same short black hair, the white dress, she was hand in hand with a little girl in the picture.

I promptly mailed the album to the woman from whom we had bought the house, although not mentioning in my accompanying note any word about our vision.

Back came a letter of profuse thanks. “How wonderful that you found Mom’s album,” she wrote. “I am so glad to have it, especially the photo of me with Mom. She usually took the family pictures and somehow this was the only one of us together when I was a child, just before she died.”

We never again saw “the dark lady” and my boys played freely all over the basement. I cannot swear to it but I believe the dark lady had accomplished her mission.

~Marcia E. Brown

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