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Archive for March, 2016

 I remember the Blue Room as if it were the guest room in my home today although I have not been back to Rockland for fifty years.

The Blue Room lay opposite Mama and Daddy’s room, facing the waterway. These two rooms were the brightest of the five bedrooms, and I remember the lace curtains fluttering at the two large windows facing the water.

I do not remember if this room had side windows, but surely it did, as each room in the Plantation house had enormous proportions. What I do remember were the twin mahogany beds with the blue bedspreads, and Homie-Homie’s Chippendale chest on the wall opposite the windows, overlooking everything in its hulking magnificence.

This is the room where everyone who stayed here, saw her. Our guests would come down in the morning and report the same dream, or ask us if a housekeeper, a “pretty woman, in a floral dress,” had come into the room during the night.  Every single guest!  It got silly and somewhat ridiculous, so we either stopped having guests or Mama put them in the back guest room, which had, in an unbelievable and odd – and only Southern feat of agility and weird taste – four double beds next to one another for the house party my sister and I had only once – yet the beds remained.  This room shared a huge bathroom with my brother.  The bathroom boasted a large and comfortable deep tub, a tub I liked to escape into when no one was looking.

But the Blue Room ghost? How could everyone see her?  Who was she?

Rockland Plantation had been built as a summer plantation for a wealthy landowner in Charleston in the early 1800’s. This landowner and his family liked, as did most Charlestonians, to escape to the low country islands during the most oppressive heat of the humid summers.

Wadmalaw Island is beautiful. It is simply unspoiled, and the old homes remain, their stories and spirits still whispering their secrets…but what was ours?  Were we ever to know?

Old legend had it that the owner of the Plantation had been cremated in the large fireplace in the Grand Room. So my sister and I avoided that room like the plague, except when we threw up down the chimney into that very fireplace after drinking beer and eating coconut cake with Vinnie and Gayle.  Somebody had to clean it up, and since I was usually the responsible one, I cleaned up the puke, putting myself into some sort of trance, not only to avoid the horror of the ghost which might pop out at me, but because I was, and remain, phobic about vomit.

I liked to imagine that the blue woman in the floral dress (did I mention she had a blue-ish tinge, people said?) was the lover or mistress of the Master of the Plantation, and she visited him at night, singing spirituals and watching him as he slept.  I liked to imagine she adored him, watching him, suffering the heartbreak of unrequited love, still wondering where he was, coming again and again each night when a body or bodies inhabited the bedroom where the Master and his wife surely slept. Except my young, poetic story did not fit the image, as this woman was not unhappy or longing; she seemed happy, people said, and she did not fill anyone with sadness or fear.

How I wish I had the courage to sleep in that room when I was a young girl! How I wish I could have seen this woman myself, spoken to her, contextualized her in my mind instead of my imagination.  How I wish I could have spoken myself to the guests we had who reported the same thing, again and again.  The smile on Mama’s face when our guests came to the kitchen for coffee, knowing what they would say.  But this was a time when “children were seen and not heard” and it would have been not only discouraged but possibly punished had I spoken up to houseguests.

How many nights I would write my poems to that blue woman, sure I had her sequestered in the corner of my mind where sadness and longing lived, a Maud Gonne to her William Butler Years, perhaps even an Heloise to her Abelard.

How many nights my heart hammered in terror as sounds came up the stairs as my sister slept softly in the bed next to mine, sure that the Master had come back to life, coming up the stairs to reclaim what was surely his, whatever it was, and there would be some grand coupling in the Blue Room, to which I was not privy, but could only imagine and hear? The Spanish moss outside the windows would appear as ghosts in the moonlight, and try as I might, eyes scrunched tight, my mind would conjure the image of coupling and ecstasy in the Blue Room; my ears would hear what no one else in the house would apparently hear, the sounds of the reunion of Master and Mistress.

Coming to breakfast in the morning, stopping first to greet the Labrador Retrievers in the front hall, my mother would ask me why I looked so tired. How could my family not know what I knew?  How did they not have access to this world of spirit that lived beneath the surface when the veils separated at Rockland Plantation?

I was glad we moved from Rockland when I was 16. I was happy to move to a home which had been built in the last fifty years, rather than the former two hundred years.  I was happy to move to a home which carried nothing more than a few stories of the past – nothing that could not be seen with the eyes opened or closed.  A home which had no colors. A home with rooms which required little psychic effort: beige rooms., brown rooms, pale rooms. When I walk into a home with no spirits, I breathe a sigh of relief.  No work to do.

But the Blue Room at Rockland still apparently lives on. How do I know?  My sister went to visit the current owners several years ago.  When they took her upstairs and into the front room, what we called the Blue Room, they spoke of the “ghost in the room, a woman in a floral dress…”

 

From the Rockland Series

 

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