February 24, 2024

Ghost whispering

This is the upper-left corner of a postcard that my grandmother, Emily Harriet, wrote to her younger sister Mary Joe in, let’s say, the 1910s. On the back is a photo of the Federal P. O. Building in San Antonio, Texas. It was a towered castle worthy of a haunting, and it’s now long gone. So maybe it, too, has become a ghost.

I’m starting small, with one corner of the postcard, because if the cloud can be in my tea (thank you, Thich Nhat Hanh), then we can travel the universe, or find any part of it that we wish, by following some trail leading away from one corner of an old postcard.

Here are the words:

Save this card for my
memory book – Please
Dear Joesiha,
                   This is

the picture of the
place we haunt.
You should have
been here yesterday.

Emily was visiting the Alamo. School trip? Seeing relatives? Traveling with family, but left Mary Joe behind because she was too young? Or ill? Who knows? In these early years of Emily’s life, her father was a “horse and buggy doctor” who made home visits, but a railroad journey seems far more likely than a horse-drawn carriage for the 270-mile trip from Dallas to San Antonio.

This is the picture
of the place we haunt.

I’ve often wondered where my mom exists, now that she has died. Maybe she wondered where her own mom, Emily, existed after Emily died in 2000. I wish I had known, before it was too late to tell my mom, that we have a postcard from the place that Emily haunts.

You should have
been here yesterday.

Time is so strange. If Mary Joe had been there yesterday, she would probably still be alive today, just one day later. I last saw my grandaunt Mary Joe in 1983, in Dallas, when she was 78 years old. If she could choose, I wonder if she’d be interested in haunting the Federal P. O. Building in San Antonio in 1912 or so with Wimmy, aka Emily Harriet, her older sister.

These ladies were being raised to believe deep and harmful stories about the meaning of their whiteness, a fact that’s implied later in the postcard. But today, I’m happy to wonder what Emily knows now, and sees now, that she could not know or see when she was taken on this trip to the Alamo.