We couldn’t seem to agree on dinner that night. My friend wanted authentic Polish sausages. I wanted something simple like a salad. Our teenagers, giddy with the power of “being legal”, wanted to order cocktails.
Finally we compromised on a place in the Old City square. A modern chain restaurant with shiny booths, oversized drinks served in giant steins and multiple festively themed sausage plates that were photographically displayed on the menu. It was exactly like something you’d find in a mall. The Polish equivalent of TGIFridays. We all knew we were settling, and we were ok with that.
Over dinner we discussed what we’d seen and not seen, history both personal and impersonal to us all. We discussed politics and religion and the idea of ghosts and spirits.
If our conversation were a platter, it would be “Spirit Sausages.” A mixture of opinions garnished with a secret sauce, linked together with centuries old seasoning and a hashtag for social sharing. Wash it all down with a craft beer.
As usual, my oldest daughter laughed openly at me.
“Oh come on. You’re crazy mom. You always think you see ghosts.”
My younger daughter admitted she might have felt something. The funny old man in the cemetery. A little girl who followed her to the gate when we exited. But, she concluded, it might well have been her imagination. I agreed. That’s always the issue.
How do you distinguish a spirit from a daydream?
What I didn’t mention to my daughters was that I had most definitely felt something in the apartment we were renting. I’d felt it upon arrival, early that morning. It was even stronger when we stopped by after the Remuh cemetery, before heading out to Auschwitz for our afternoon tour.
“Hey, can we swap rooms?” I’d asked, dragging my bag into the room where they had dropped theirs. “OK sure. But why?” they’d asked.
The rooms were identical, mirror images on either side of a large living room that faced the front of the building.
“Yours has the same painting I have in my room at home.”
I gestured to the large canvas tucked behind the dresser. An odd coincidence, but not so strange when you consider the universal presence of Ikea stores worldwide. I got mine at Ikea and this one appeared to be identical.
I lifted the painting – Gustav Klimt’s Mother and Child – and propped it on the surface against the wall, laughing a bit. My print always falls down too. I tried to get rid of it years ago but my youngest son argued with me. “You can’t take it down. It’s me and you.”
“I just feel more at home here. Like I’m meant to have this room.”
All true, but there was more. An overwhelming sense of need I’d picked up on in the other room. Tendrils of that need clinging, grasping, vining towards me all the way out into the kitchen. It wasn’t scary, so much as exhausting. Ghosts can be so anti-climactic sometimes. Like telemarketers, and panhandlers. I was tired, both emotionally and physically. No change to spare.
My oldest daughter would have snorted with delight at the opportunity to make fun of me and my psychic “feelings,” had I tried to explain. Plus it probably was just my imagination. Nothing for anyone else to lose sleep over.
So I’d invoked the peaceful painting and familiarity of home. Mother and child.
I would sleep deeply and peacefully that night. In the room on the other side, however, my daughters’ beliefs about the supernatural, and ghosts, was changed forever.
- Spirits in Poland Part 1 Family
- Spirits in Poland Part 2 Krakow
- Spirits in Poland Part 3 Auschwitzland
- Spirits in Poland Part 4 Spirit Sausages
- Spirits in Poland Part 5 The Mourner’s Prayer