When I was thirteen, my family moved to Aurora, Ontario, a tiny town north of Toronto. It was a bit of an adjustment, being the new "city" kid in a small town where most of the kids had grown up together. It was the kind of place where if you sneezed one day, a dozen people would ask you how you were feeling the next. Aurora was, and still mostly is, surrounded by horse farms and rolling hills. This old red brick home stood at the north end of town at Cosford's Corners. It was named after Thomas Cosford, born in 1795, who settled there in 1834 as a blacksmith and carriage maker. The house was built for his family in 1845, and it is one of the oldest surviving brick houses in Aurora. It's main claim to fame came in 1928, when Stephen Leacock's brother bought the house.
But when I was in high school, we all knew this as The Red House Studio. By that time it was owned by a local artist named Dorothy Clark McClure, and her daughter Kelly was a good friend of my sister Brenda. In fact, I babysat for Mrs. McClure and once agreed to spend the night when she had to go out of town.
What she didn't tell me, until I'd settled in, was that the house was haunted. Don't worry, they all said. Sometimes we hear party sounds, you know, glasses tinkling and light conversation and laughter drifting up the stairs from the first floor, but nothing to worry about. Oh, and every once in a while, the ghost of a young girl wearing a white nightgown will visit my bedroom and sit on my bed, said Mrs. McClure. (Wha-at? This was the bed where I would be sleeping.) So don't be alarmed if you feel her presence during the night because she means no harm, she added.
Needless to say, I lay rigid and on high alert the entire night. As dawn broke I stumbled down to the kitchen. I settled at the table, holding my head, when suddenly I heard scratching noises in the ceiling, directly above me. Now it was probably mice, or maybe a squirrel, but in my frazzled state I could almost feel that young girl's cold bony fingers reaching out to get me. I shot out of that house and into the yard where I paced and waited for Mrs. McClure to arrive while the kids ate their CocoPuffs.
Now fast-forward forty years. I now have Kelly McClure, the girl I used to babysit, on Facebook. And this is what she posted today.
I took mom to lunch at Jonathons today and we sat beside a family that I only noticed in passing. Halfway through the meal, the waitress came to us and said the woman who had been sitting next to us had instructed the waitress to wait until she had left to tell us that she had paid for our lunch, mom's wine, added a dessert and also paid the tip. She said the woman lost her mother 5 years earlier and watching us made her cry and think of her own mother. Wish I could have given her a hug! I don't know who she was, but the gesture made me cry.
Who says angels don't walk among us?