Ghost Story

My mom is from New Orleans, she grew up in a big Catholic family, one of 7 kids. Which I suppose isn’t THAT big because my grandfather was one of 16 kids. Three died in childhood, which honestly, for back then (late 1800s to early 1900s)? I think that having 13 kids survive to adulthood was considered better-than-average odds. Also, can we take a moment to appreciate what an unbelievable badass my great-grandmother must have been to survive SIXTEEN pregnancies?? Just two nearly killed me.

Anyway, there’s this house my mom grew up in, and she and her siblings all talk about it fondly. When I was a kid and we’d visit my grandparents and other relatives in New Orleans, we drove past their old house many times. At some point, and I’m guessing it must have been in the 1980s (because my grandmother died in 1994), the old family home went up for sale, and they were having an open house. My grandmother wanted to go see their old house, so two of my mom’s siblings took her to visit it.

When they got there, the current owners of the house were also there. My aunt and uncle explained how this was their old house, and they were just visiting because they were curious to see it after so many years. The current owners asked if when they lived there, they’d ever experienced anything supernatural or seen a ghost. My aunt and uncle reacted as if these people were bonkers, and they were basically like, “uh… no???” Meanwhile, my very quiet and soft-spoken grandmother said, “Well, what does the ghost look like?”

The owners said they sometimes saw an old man in the kitchen, he wore glasses and was usually drinking coffee or looking over some papers. My grandmother said, “Oh, that’s Judge [French name*]. He was the original owner of the house.”

(* I’m not typing out this man’s actual name because it’s somewhat unusual and I don’t want to potentially upset any of his family members who might come across this.)

My aunt and uncle stared at my grandmother, both of them stunned. They asked my grandmother why she never told anyone about this ghost?? She said, “Because you all would have been scared to death and none of you would have been able to sleep again! Besides, he was harmless, I only ever saw him in the kitchen.”

Flash-forward about 40 years, give or take, and my aunt and uncle just told the rest of their siblings about this ghost a few months ago when they had a family reunion in New Orleans. The other 5 siblings (including my mom) are reeling because they had no idea they grew up in a haunted house.

After doing some research, one of my uncles found out that my grandparents bought the house from this judge’s widow. They also found his obituary, which indicates that he died in his chambers at work, not in the house that my mom grew up in. But I guess your ghost can hang out at home instead of at work? I’m not sure of the rules there.

But guess what? The obituary included a photo.

So that’s the ghost that lived in my mom’s childhood home. The home that she only found out was haunted when she was 75 years old. My mom said she has never really believed in ghosts, but if her devoutly Catholic mother just quietly accepted his presence, “then I guess I believe in ghosts now.”

And to be honest, just based on the photo alone, the guy looks pretty ghost-y.

How bananas is that?

{W}: The Pee Job

I’ve missed a few challenges for this (W)rite of Passage thing, but I’m trying to get back to it now. This week’s challenge: the job. “Pick a day of your life in a significant, or completely insignificant, job and make us feel like we’re living it with you.”

I thought about this and realized that I’ve never written about this on my blog before, so this might be news to most of you. Here goes.


I was 20 years old, and I took a semester off from college to “find myself.” A friend of my sister hired me for a job doing secretarial work at a drug testing company. Essentially, the company would do drug screens on school bus drivers, truck drivers, construction crews… really, anyone who had to have a commercial driver’s license to do their job.

Then the drug test results would come in, and I was the person who would type up all of the letters to the company.

“We regret to inform you that Employee X is apparently snorting coke before he drives a bus full of elementary kids to school, and then smoking pot to come down at night.”

It was never written quite that explicitly, but man, I always wanted to say it that way. Especially with the breath alcohol test results.

“Employee Z was drunker than Cooter Brown at 8:00 in the damn morning. What the hell, dude?”

One day, we got a phone call from a convenience store in a tiny town called Union, Mississippi. (For those of you who might know the area: it’s about halfway between Hattiesburg and Laurel. A good 90 miles or so from Jackson.) The guy who owned the convenience store was sure that one of his employees was smoking pot before she came to work, and he wanted to bust her for it. The store had about 10 employees total (working on different shifts), and my boss told him that the best approach would be to just issue a mandatory drug screen for all of his employees; that way it doesn’t look like discrimination against the one girl who he suspected was a pothead. He asked if we could do the drug screening for him, my boss said yes.

My boss made one huge mistake, though: the day the drug test was scheduled? All of our field drug testing employees were already scheduled to be at other sites all over the state. Under normal circumstances, that would mean that my boss would have to drive out there and do the pee-collection herself. But she was about 3 months pregnant at the time, and she said that if she had to smell and/or handle other people’s pee that early in the morning, she was going to throw up.

At that point, I had worked at this drug testing company for almost a year. I had heard so many stories around the office about pee testing, I was pretty much immune to all of it. It was June, and I was going back to college in August, at which point I’d be quitting (since I was going to school out-of-state), so I knew I might never have this opportunity again. So I decided to man up, and I volunteered to collect the pee of strangers.

My boss went with me, and we drove out to Union early one morning. The owner of the convenience store had told all of his employees to come in early for a staff meeting, and then, surprise! While you’re here, you’ll also need to go into the bathroom and pee in a cup. I thought it was kind of a lousy way to handle the situation, but I also think that if you work at a convenience store in Union, Mississippi, your life has already perhaps not turned out the way that you’d hoped, so what’s one more insult to add to your injury?

We donned our white lab coats and rubber gloves and set up all of our paperwork and supplies. One by one, the employees went in, did their stuff, and brought out their cups full of pee. They’d hand the cups to me, and I’d put the little stickers on the cups that labeled them accordingly with the paperwork. Then each cup was sealed, the sealed cup went into a plastic bag, and the paperwork was put in a little sleeve on the outside of the plastic bag. Then the packaged-up pee cups would all go into a big styrofoam cooler-type contraption, which is how we’d transport them to the lab for testing.

Oh, and the girl who the owner suspected was smoking weed? She walked into the store, saw us in our lab coats, walked over to her boss, quit her job on the spot, and walked out. Although it proved that he was most likely correct in his assumption of her drug use, that was actually a very smart move on her part, as it kept her from having a positive drug test on her record. And the owner was kinda pissed, because then he had to go ahead and pay us for running the drug test results on his other 9 employees who were all clean.

So, yeah. One time, almost 14 years ago, I collected pee. How many of y’all can put that on your resume?

Other (W)rite of Passage stories here:

{W} My Dad

This week’s (W)rite of Passage challenge is: Character. The idea is to study a person’s character and make a story surrounding them.

This was extremely hard for me to write, and I have a feeling I’m going to get in a whole world of trouble if my dad ever reads this, but here goes.


Sometimes he doesn’t recognize the old man in the mirror.

He gets up in the morning and has his breakfast – cup of coffee, bowl of cereal – then heads off to the golf course. Rain or shine.

Since he retired, this golf course has become his life. All of his friends are here. He even got a job here; two days a week, he’s the guy who stands at the first tee and tells groups of golfers when they can tee off. Sort of a traffic director, if you will. In exchange, he has no membership dues, he gets free cart rentals, and a free lunch at the clubhouse. For an old golfer, you can’t find a much sweeter deal than that.

He’s at his happiest when he’s here. He’s friendly, even outgoing. They gave him the “Sportsman of the Year” award a few years ago.

But at home, it’s a different story. He doesn’t want to do much, he just sits in his chair and watches TV. He likes to watch sports – football, golf tournaments – and the History channel. But he gets angry and frustrated a lot. He thinks that his wife of 40 years nags at him all the time. She keeps pointing out that his memory is slipping. He doesn’t want to think about that. He’s seen some of his friends from the golf course who ended up with Alzheimer’s, and it scares him. So he refuses to admit that maybe there is a problem with his memory, or that he should talk to his doctor about it. When his wife reminds him of times that he’s forgotten things (like the time he forgot where Northside Drive was, even though he’s been driving down that street since 1971), he denies that it ever happened.

He’s 73 now. His parents are gone. He was an only child. He has a couple of cousins that are still around, but they don’t see each other often. His wife and kids are all that he has left, really. His kids have all moved away. He doesn’t understand why none of them like Mississippi, he thinks it’s a great place to live. Of course, he’s lived here for at least 60 of his years on this earth.

His two youngest kids are now in North Carolina, and it’s looking like his oldest daughter might move there, too. His younger daughter has a child of her own now. His only grandbaby. She’s such a sweet little girl, he adores her and spoils her rotten. He also worries about her a lot. That’s what he does, though, he’s a worrier. He worries about her asthma, he worries about whether or not she’s eating enough, he worries about why she isn’t potty-trained yet, he worries about why she has so many tantrums. His daughter rolls her eyes and reminds him that his granddaughter is only 2 years old, but still. He worries.

His wife keeps talking about how she wants to move to North Carolina, to be closer to the kids and their granddaughter. He doesn’t want to move. He doesn’t like change. He keeps using the golf course as his excuse to stay. It might sound like a flimsy excuse to some, but not to him. That golf course is his life.

But the golf course isn’t doing so well. They’re losing members. Sometimes when he’s at work, there are no golfers to direct, so he just stands around and practices his swing. The secretary who works there mentioned to him that the place lost tens of thousands of dollars last year, and the owner is getting phone calls about unpaid bills. She said she doesn’t know how it’s going to survive another winter.

If the golf course closes, he won’t have anything to keep him here. He supposes that then, his wife will get her way and they’ll have to move. He doesn’t like to think about that.

So he’ll try to forget about it. And tomorrow, he’ll wake up, look in the mirror, and wonder who that old guy is staring back at him.
More (W)rite of Passage entries here:

this is why I don't drink beer anymore

The lovely and amazing Mrs. Flinger has issued a challenge for some of us bloggers to try to write better, and since I lurves me some Mrs. Flinger, I figured what the hell, I’m in.

First assigned topic? My most embarrassing moment.

I’ve been pondering on this one for a couple of days, because there are so many to choose from. Horror stories involving your first period? Been there. Pooping during childbirth? Done that too. And since I didn’t meet my husband until the ripe old age of 28, I have plenty of embarrassing dating mishap stories too. (One of my personal favorites? The time I was making out with a boy and I got a nosebleed. Neither of us noticed until I had bled all over both of our faces. We looked like a couple of extras from a bad zombie movie. Traumatic, to say the least.)

Then I realized that my most truly embarrassing moments involve alcohol, and the over-consumption of it. (I promise, I’m not an alcoholic. I hardly ever drink now. I just flirted dangerously close to being one when I was in my 20’s.) But there’s a lot of good fodder there. Puking in public? Yep. Being so lovey-dovey from the booze that I’ve made out with total strangers, even those of my own gender? Um, yeah, that too.

But there’s one that keeps standing out in my mind: Halloween 2004.

What’s funny is that I just checked my blog archives (which go back to August 2003, when I started this little site) and I noticed that I never mentioned anything about it, because I was so horrified at my own behavior.

Dave and I had been dating for about five months. One of my girlfriends invited us to a Halloween party, and we decided to go, even though my friend was the only person there that we knew. I dressed as a Catholic school girl, Dave was a priest. (Note: neither of us is Catholic.) Dave also wore a Bill Clinton wig and black lipstick, but I don’t remember why. We just thought it was funny at the time.

So we get there, and there were significantly more men than women, and I didn’t really know any of them, and I felt a little bit slutty and uncomfortable in my costume, so I did the most natural thing I could do, and got completely drunk.

I don’t remember much of the evening, honestly. There are pictures, and they make me cringe every time I see them. I’ve never posted a single photo from that night, but since I’m opening up and sharing my embarrassment now, here you go.

This is seriously the least embarrassing photo of me from the entire damn night.

Oh hi there, Cindy DrunkFace!

So, yeah. I was drunk and made a general idiot of myself. No big shock there. And really, it wouldn’t have been a big deal because I didn’t know any of those people and I would never see them again, so what do I care?

But then, somehow I ended up in the bathroom with the guy who was hosting the party. I’m not even sure why, I think it was because my bracelet broke and he was getting me a safety pin to fix it? And the dude was kind of sleazy, and Dave insisted that he was hitting on me (maybe he was, I was too drunk to notice), but while we were in the bathroom, I started telling him about Dave and how in loooove I was with him, but we hadn’t officially said “I love you” to each other yet, and I was so crazy about him, and I was so tortured about it because what if he isn’t in love with me like I’m in love with him, and blah-blah-drunken-rambling-blah.

Then, someone comments to Dave, “Hey, where’s your girlfriend?” And Dave realizes that I’m… uh… in the bathroom. With another guy. With the door closed. So he comes to get me, and in my drunken-rambling state, I slammed the door on him when he tried to open it. Let me repeat that in case you missed it: I slammed the door on my boyfriend so I could stay in the bathroom with another dude. And of course, all I was doing in the bathroom was talking about Dave, but how in the hell was Dave supposed to know that? So he was pissed. As anyone would be in that situation, really.

When I came out of the bathroom, Dave said it was time to go, and as soon as we got in the car, he told me how pissed he was. I sobered up enough to suddenly realize that holy crap, he’s about to break up with me right here because of how freaking stupid I am. So I burst into tears, and I told him I loved him.

And that was the first time we said our “I love you”s.

Three months later, we got engaged.

This past Halloween, I reminded him that it had been five years since the first time we said “I love you” to each other. He said, “Oh yeah, the night I almost dumped your ass.” I pointed out how happy he should be that he didn’t dump me then. It’s funny, though, that even though everything worked out ok in that situation (exceptional, even), I still cringe whenever I think about that night.

Want more embarrassing moments? Here are the other people in the (W)rite of Passage challenge.