My Nonna was a vibrant spark of life, a busy busy-bodying, the life of the party wherever she went. Her colour was orange and so was her life, energetic, exuberant, warm and loving. She filled her home with the nick-knacks that caught her fancy. A ceramic dancing girl with missing arms (that she carefully covered with plastic flowers to hide her disfigurement) a bunch of dinosaur key rings, a plastic fruit person. All of them spoke to her of something (what, none of us is quite sure) and were as precious to her as the pictures of her beloved family that found perched on the high density living shelf space.
When she died in 2003 my Nonno couldn’t bear to part with the smallest part of this collection. Every piece was precisely where Nonna had wanted it and to move even one would disrupt the whole. In eight years not a trinket, a figurine, a picture or oddment had been moved except to clean. The walls had not been painted and the furniture had not been replaced though both were tired and worn. For a woman like my aunty this must have been frustrating. It was a life living in the shadow of a woman you can no longer argue with, compromise with, and rebel against. Living in the shade of her ghost mother.
Two weeks ago my Nonno past. Now my aunt walks through the house and there are two ghosts inhabiting its corners. One loud, bright and orange, one peaceful, quiet and beige. We went to see her the week of the funeral. She assured us that she had been busy finally putting away trinkets and laying the shadow to rest. But as I looked around the house, the key rings still fall in a bouquet of dinosaurs, the fruit is still plastic and personified and the ceramic girl is still armless. To me, who’s visits bookend a twelves month gap, nothing in the house seems to have changed, not a picture, not a trinket, not an orange hued thing.
If it was difficult to live under the shadow of a ghost, how much more difficult will it be to live with the ghost of a ghost? I hope for her sake she finds a way.