Monday, October 13, 2008

The Woman in the Night

By Peyton C. Davis

Growing up twenty minutes from the nearest small town, or village if you will, able to stand anywhere on her parents property and see nothing but rolling hills and forests of trees one might expect that a child of six or seven would have developed quite the imagination. But wait for that child to become an adult, then ask her to tell you the difference between her childhood imagination and the truth behind the story of the woman she watched from her bedroom window...

I had always remembered the moments and the feelings of seeing her, but I had never said anything. Not out of fear, simply because I never felt the need to share my story until recently. I had felt that they had been precious moments spent with somewhat of a guardian angel. It wasn't until my mother told me on the phone only mere weeks ago that she had been walking along the forested ridge between our house and the next that she stumbled upon two large piles of stones, much longer than they were wide and separated by only a few feet. Unmarked graves. It was then I felt the need to tell her my story.

As a child I spent what feels like many years, but what could only have been a winter, kneeling on my bed staring out my window before I went to sleep every night. I was waiting, being more patient than even I can now imagine I could have been. Waiting for her...the woman in the long dress who's name I did not know. It didn't matter that I didn't know who she was or where she came from, I felt at peace with her. She would walk out of the trees that filled the ridge beside our house, cross our backyard halfway and stop. She would ever so slightly turn her body towards the house and turn her face fully towards me. I can't say that she ever smiled, it wasn't that I could see expression on her, but I could feel it from her. She felt warm towards me, protective of me. I knew even then that she wasn't alive, she wasn't like me, but she was caring for me. I had the impression that she had either lost a child or had passed away before her child could grow up and that she lingered here with a longing to be a mother. We would look at each other for a mere moment, I suppose just long enough for her to see that I was okay and then she would turn and continue walking across the backyard only to disappear into the woods on the other side. I would then lay down and go to sleep.

This happened for what I believe was every night for nearly an entire winter until one night I waited and waited and I could not see her. I remember being incredibly sad and I missed her terribly. Then I felt her, she wasn't where she normally stood. I remember pressing my forehead against the screen of my window as hard as I could trying to look to the left of the yard and there she was. Standing with her back almost fully to me but looking over her shoulder at me. I felt as though she was saying goodbye. I knew in that moment that I would never see her again, that she didn't feel I needed to be watched over, that somehow she knew I was going to be okay and that it was time for her to move on. I was sad, but at the same time overjoyed for her. I knew I would never forget her and I felt that she knew that as well.

A few years later my school had a town historian in to give a guest lecture, being that it was a very small town you couldn't help but recognize many of the buildings he was talking about. He started to tell about the old school house of the town, it just so happened that it was the building located next to my parents house on the other side of the ridge. Although I knew this already, the part that got my attention was the rest of his lecture on this location. The school house wasn't the original building on that lot, it used to be a homestead where a large family lived. As each family member had passed away they had been buried on the ridge next to the house, in graves marked with stones. The home had eventually burned down and on top of it's foundation, the old school house had been moved.

I sat in disbelief to what I was hearing. Having not forgotten my winter nights spent watching the woman in my backyard, to hear that there was a family buried somewhere on that very same ridge nearly brought me to tears. It was as if someone had just given me the ability to believe what I already felt in my heart. To give me the peace of mind to say without a doubt that I knew those precious moments were not that of my childhood imagination, but of real moments spent with a loving and caring soul. A mother who never got to finish her job while still alive. A mother who waited in this world to find a child to watch over and protect until she felt she no longer needed to.

My mother sat in awe listening to my story, asking me only why I never bothered to tell her as a child. She found it strange that I had never brought it up, assuming that if there was a stranger in a child's backyard, the child would be afraid and compelled to tell their parents. She then told me the last bit of conformation I had always needed. Where the graves of stones lay on the ridge.

"If you walk into our backyard, turn right just past where the shed now stands and walk to the top of the ridge. They are about 15 feet from the spot you use to play as a child..."

That's also the exact same spot I would watch the woman walk out of the trees before I would go to sleep every night.

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