Ghost in the Hall

Do you have dreams about the home you grew up in? I can see my childhood home in my mind. The typical three bedroom west coast rambler; living area on one side and a looong hallway to the bedrooms on the other. As a young kid I was pretty sure the place was haunted. The creaky floor didn’t help.

Ghost in the Hall
by Shannon Laws
Odd Little Things, published 2014

When I was a child A Skeleton Ghost would walk
The bedroom hall of our home  
Afraid of the dark I would sleep with the light on
My door open just enough to keep out the trouble
Ghosts are everywhere when you are four.  

Often the ghost would wiggle its way past my door
Steps heard creaking across loose boards
Creak.  Creak.  Creak.

Down the hall slowly it walked   Skeleton heading for the kitchen
To fill up its ribs with mom’s pork chops
Then fiddle its way back to bed After the meal was consumed  

One scary night before this mystery was solved
I slept between my parents for protection  
Bookends of adult and authority on either side
Defense from anything ghoulish
Each parent rolled over facing the walls
As I lay blinking at the ceiling.  

2 a.m. is Skeleton’s supper time  
Down it came toward my parents’ room
Bones walk lightly when there is no moon  
Closer.  Closer.  Closer.
From the ceiling my eyes followed
To see what stood at the foot of the bed  
Its frame wiggled trying to materialize
To grab hold of me with solid hands   
Dad sighed in his sleep and the ghost misted away. 
Scared off by the possibility of his waking
I waited.  Waited.  Waited.  

My father was a quiet man, little brought out
his anger, looking back I think dad was
The Skeleton Ghost walking the halls at night
His spirit jumping out, looking for food for his soul
Wandering around for morsels of encouragement
His bony frame proved little return

Wherever he is, I hope there is a table before him
Every morning set with enlightenment, curiosity, love
I hope he found peace because
With one soft growl
One scary night

He save my life

You can get your copy of Odd Little Things from
independent book store Village Books


The worn cover of Carole Kings 1971 Grammy Award album “Tapestry”


So, a while back a friend said she could finally afford to buy that bohemian coat she wanted.  The use of the word “bohemian” spurred memories. I’ve considered myself a bohemian ever since my aunt gave me a turquoise & silver ring when I was seven.  My aunt lived the bohemian lifestyle and getting that ring from her, in my simple-kid mind, meant I was in the club. My contributions to the movement were growing out my long straight black hair, wearing a bandana when I mowed the lawn and, as often as possible, sit on our couch in an incorrect manner.  

Circle of pipe vibe

Before the pale blues and mauves of the ’80s made their appearance into my childhood, I was surrounded by beatnik leftovers from my parent’s first home; my mother’s early ’60s style contrasted with her sister’s  ’70s experience melting together into a sweet avocado green.  Of course, I had no idea what either of those lifestyles was about! Our living room was crowned by a 3-foot round metal, astrological chart wheel hanging above a black and white leopard print flop couch, adjacent to a row of mahogany stained bookshelves and dad’s tobacco pipe cady. In my room, Barbie was living clean in her shoebox and lego “Dream House”.  Literature in the home included encyclopedias, LIFE Book collections, sci-fi books and poetry by Kahlil Gibran.  Music was predominately 60’s jazz albums, Bill Cosby, Helen Reddy, and Carole King.

But it wasn’t my stuff, it was the life and home that my parents built for us.  It was warm and happy.  As an adult, how do I recreate a modern art of living? Somewhere along the way, I lost it.  I need to get out of survival mode and find my faux-bohemian again.

Get Small

For $110 you can own this view, hang it on any wall, “Mount Corcoran”, by Albert Bierstadt

Turn those dreams of the high retired life down a couple notches.  First, be honest with yourself.  Instead of a dream retirement cabin on the lake, you can be just as happy in a studio apartment that’s 30-minutes away from a lake.   Just visit the lake.  You don’t need the whole lake. This isn’t the 50’s.  No lake for you.

The west coast of Washington and Oregon offer a high quality of life, clean air, water including water in the shape of lakes that we can all visit.  In WA we have all four seasons, mild winters, besides the scratchy track of volcanoes down the middle of the Cascades, we’re doing alright…except for the cost of living.  According to the site the cost of living in Washington is higher than the national average.  They report,

“Our cost of living indices are based on a US average of 100. An amount below 100 means Washington is cheaper than the US average. A cost of living index above 100 means Washington, Washington is more expensive.  Washington’s cost of living is 118.7.  Housing is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference.  The median home price in Washington is $381,300.”

D.I.Y. Life

How do you add quality to your life on a tight budget?  Of course, defining “quality” is person-specific.  In this economy, in this city, I am trying to live a good life but I feel like most efforts bring me down, and I am starting to take it personally. This American Life has it out for me.  I pissed it off somewhere along the line and it’s not giving me anything, no living income, no happily ever after, no satisfaction except in a sunrise, no joy but in my neighbors blooming trees, no love but when that orange cat comes by and rubs its cheek against my doorway, no peace but the ocean that tells me it’s always there—it goes out, but it will come back, it always comes back.  No glory but a rainbow around the moon and my childhood friend the Big Dipper and Orion chasing each other in the sky. The world is a big and resourceful place if you are a tiny red ant working with a million other clones.  It’s all about perspective.

photo credit



Poem: One of Many People

One of Many People

by Shannon P. Laws

In 1976  I was
a second grader
My hair was long
my skin was tan
and someone gifted
me a turquoise ring

Looking back I don’t
remember having many friends
but I was happy and free
and in love with my world

I built a comic book
reading fort in the
garage rafters of our
9th Avenue home

It was a room by itself
It had a clock radio
a small, warm lamp
cushions and blankets
for me and the cat

I read
Marvel and D.C.
and the spooky “Believe It Or Not” comics

I miss that girl

Puberty and the 80’s were
crouched around the corner
ready to pounce
ready to pound me into another person

It will never be 1976 again
I’ll never be that long haired girl again

Me, 2nd grade, cu from classroom photo

Dynamite, issue 25, July 1976 “Space 1999 takes off!” An American pop culture magazine for children 1974-1992

Poem: Measured



by Shannon Laws


The one cup of measure

mountained with flour

mother pulls a butter knife

from the silverware drawer

taps it on the edge of the

kitchen counter two times

Pushing the jagged peak away

onto the counter covered in wax paper

she scrapes the knife’s flat back

across the cup rim evenly

revealing a smooth, flat plain as she goes

An exact one cup of flour.




Poem: Treasure Box


Treasure Box

by Shannon P. Laws


Single spine of a roof
cuts the home in half

Living space on the right
three bedrooms on the left
down a long straight hall

The house is their ribcage
holds golden promises
diamond hard hope
and two children

I see the white door smudged
gray around the knob
where working hands push

Gold drapes hang on either side
of the bay window like the lungs
of my chain-smoking parents



This poem was sparked from a prompt to write about your childhood home.  What do you remember about your childhood home?  Can you see the kitchen in the morning sunlight, the living room at night, the front door, the bathroom sink?

We lived in the same home for about 16 years.  I remember everything about it.  I can see the layout in my mind.  The gold carpet in the 70’s and the new blue carpet in the 80’s, the “modern” verticle blinds hung on the sliding glass door that opened to the long narrow backyard.

The next prompt I am exploring is describing a “childhood sanctuary”.   Did you have a secret place away from the grown-ups, away from trouble that was your quiet place?  What was in it, what did you do, what did it look like, how did it make you feel to be there, and what were you hiding from?

Hope you might be inspired to write your own childhood poem or a sanctuary poem.  Happy writing!  -Shannon

Pit Stop


Sandpipers at Ocean Shores

Pit Stop

Early morning air whistles past the plant on the dresser, kicks at a scarf hanging on my bed post, then finds the place in my mind holding childhood trinkets.  I surprise myself, reacting in song.  I sing an old folk song handled and dusted by time, passed down generation to generation.  An oil cloth recalls the brass plate, treasured like a trophy discovered in the attic, reveals the words “Oh My Darling Clementine.”

Wearing boxes without topses

Wind and song send me away.  I’m sitting in the back of my dad’s big green truck, singing with family; brother, cousins, Aunt Jo and mom.  Camping gear stacked strategically around us and beneath. Weather report checked in the morning Seattle Times, large blue tarps folded in squares under the red cooler.  The cooler is full of four days worth of food including butter, milk, cheddar, baloney, and beer, of course, beer.

I-5 smog blows through the broken floorboard near the tailgate, the only bare spot on the floor; it’s a leak to the outside world.  It looks like a tiger bite or a claw ripped at the wood.  I want to stuff a kitchen towel in it to seal the room.  Our only source of light comes from the long rectangular canopy windows.  Classic layout, men in the cab, women, and children in the covered bed with the other commodities. We sing to pass the time, the men listen to the radio.

It’s 1977, summer vacation, and mom has cut off our worn school jeans to mid-thigh. All our church clothes left quietly resting in the dressers at home. Anything ripped or stained is allowed to go to the beach

At the half-way point, we stop to refuel.

I do not know how I must have looked to the clerk at the gas station as I walked up to the counter with a handful of wrinkled dollars.  Did I resemble a poor latch-key kid abandoned by working parents or perhaps a tourist who lost their luggage, forced to purchase a salvation army wardrobe?  The back of my long black hair teased out from a short nap. Maybe she saw many kids buying Bubblicious and a blue slurpee that warm week in June.  She saw so many a day that she didn’t really see me, I blended in with the neighborhood kids, whatever that neighborhood was called, wherever we were.

Enjoying the cold Washington State waves

The night air brings it back to me.  I don’t know how.  Does memory ride the current like evergreen pollen, stains the skin with a fine yellow dusting?  Like that afternoon the San Juan woods seduced me to take the wrong turn, bending me towards a grove of pine in heat?

I travel a bit…

At the end of my childhood block is a field of sweet grass. Pull a large stalk, slowly, straight up, out of its hinge and you have a treat, chew the white sweet end for its nectar. One bite is all you get per blade. Take the flat half, place between your thumbs and blow.  We sat all afternoon chewing on sweet grass and whistling.  Why should I remember that?  That quiet moment found in a field, in South King County.

A few trees still stand there, ask them, they might know.

Remember.  Forget.  Remember again.

More wind. I am 10, I hear it all again. That vacation one summer…

The forest behind me, the constant waves crashing just over the dunes, the violent sound of a bag of ice thrown to the ground to break it up, the repeated clink of a male metal pump tapping rapidly along the female rim of a full tank.

“Kids, time to go!” An adult performs the last chore, drains the melted water pressed behind a flimsy white stopper at the cooler’s base. A solid stream of water hits the dusty oil ground with a poof!  Water skates to the lowest point, rainbows wiggle along the ground.  It’s pretty.  A fresh bag of broken ice opened, poured over the perishables.

The cooler, our snacks, ourselves tucked back into Big Green for the last leg of the trip.

A gray Ocean Shores day


Maria’s Secret Crush

Double Dare
December 2013 I found myself on the dance floor,live band taking up a third of the living room, at a New Years house party, covered in sweat, surrounded by others, who were proportionately sweaty, doing a combination dancing, and shouting out lyrics to classic songs.  Good times.
During the song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen, I bumped into a writer friend, Maria Mcleod.  “Ready Freddy!” she shouted, “Freddy! That was the name of my secret crush!”  This comment got my attention.  I too had a secret crush in school.   She shared her story, I shared her mine.  We each had a long lasting crush on someone for years, never told anyone. 
The Challenge
“I dare you to blog about your crush.  To tell the world that you loved that guy all those years!” I shouted over the music.  She agreed to the challenge. My story, as promised, is ready and will post this Wednesday.  
-Shannon P Laws

Please welcome, first time guest blogger to Madrona Grove, Maria McLeod


Dreams of Freddy Ingles
By Maria McLeod
In second grade I met a boy I would love forever from afar: Freddy Ingles. My first erotic dream, before I even knew what sex was, would feature the two of us, rolling around together, naked atop a billowy cloud.  I was nine years old.  Forty-one years later, Freddy still visits my dreams, as if we’ve claimed a corner of an alternate universe to continue our would-be relationship. My adult dreams, however, are less fantastical, uneventfully realistic.  I’m making my way through a crowded parking lot, or I’m in the grocery store, picking over produce.  Suddenly there’s Freddy, passing by pushing a shopping cart.  Most of the time, I’m too stunned to speak, but once, in a rare moment of bravery, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked the question I’d wanted to ask all those years ago, “Do you like me?” He began to smile, silently in a way I could not decode.  Then I woke up.
Freddy died in the 1992 at the age of 30.  He still lived in the area where we had grown up, in southeast Michigan about 50 miles north of Detroit.  He was driving a UPS truck.  He had married and had a toddler, a little boy, at the time.  He didn’t make it across the tracks; his delivery truck collided with an oncoming train.  He was airlifted, flown to a hospital whose doctors could not save him.  I hadn’t seen him for over a decade, not since just after high school.  We were at mass and he was waiting in line to receive communion, passing by my pew, probably unaware I was there.  When I heard the news of his death, however, I was living in Pittsburgh and attending graduate school. I remember when my father called to tell me he’d assisted at the funeral – my father is a Deacon –  and Freddy (“Fred” by then) and his family had belonged to the same parish. 

Freddy’s mother, Janet, was a tall woman who seemed sure of herself, one of those kind and efficient mothers who always wore pants and seemed especially capable of raising boys who would grow to tower over her.  Her first husband, Fred senior, had died in 1973, the year before we entered junior high.  I remember this because Freddy became the star of the junior high basketball team.  From the stands, I cheered – as we all did – for every basket he made and every shot he blocked.  Freddy had been caught smoking marijuana in the year following his father’s death.  As a penalty, he’d been kicked off the basketball team, an action I still perceive as I did then: a poor decision by adults too caught up with the rules. 

My father – who has always known the contents of my heart – reported that he’d spoken to Freddy’s mom at the funeral.  He’d said, “Maria always loved Freddy.”  He told me that Janet had responded with a smile, “I know, Bob, I know.” 

I wondered how she knew? Had Freddy known?  Who else knew?  I thought, also, of his wife and child who survived him, the horror and the shock of the entirely unexpected. Death by collision with a train?  How terrible and ironic that this could be the demise of someone who drives for a living, in Michigan, on the roads he’d been driving all his life, in all manner of weather.  And of all people, Freddy?  

I had never told him how I felt.  Not directly.  I never approached him at a junior high dance and asked him to dance with me, not even a fast song when we didn’t have to touch. There had, however, been a couple instances when my affection for Freddy had welled up in me, and I may have given myself away.
In second grade, I climbed up to the top of a snow mound on the playground of Saint Mary’s Catholic school where Freddy and I attended, me in my swish-swish, red snow pants, black rubber boots, and hooded red and pink coat with white piping – Michigan winter wear purchased by my parents at Sears.  When I made it to the top, I stood and peered out over the playground of kids throwing snowballs, playing on the swings, and attempting to traverse the monkey bars wearing mittens. The nuns in their black habits watched in a huddle near the red brick school building, just outside the teachers’ lounge. I scanned the area and thought of Freddy who lived nearby and who walked home for lunch, missing most of lunchtime recess.

Overwhelmed by my longing to see him, I shouted out his name from my would-be mountaintop:  “F-R-E-D-D-Y,” half expecting his name to echo back to me like in the Sound of Music when Maria frolicked in the Alps. It was then I experienced a sudden shove from behind, and went careening down the side of the snow pile on my back, marveling at the spectacle of sky on my descent.  When I slid to a stop, I turned and looked toward the top of the snow hill and, with the sun shining behind him,  there was a silhouette in a spray of white winter light.  It was Freddy, his coat flapping open, his hands bare of gloves. With the brightness behind him, I couldn’t clearly see his facial expression. I had no idea what he thought of my outburst, and I was dumbstruck as to how he could have suddenly appeared there behind me at the exact moment I could no longer contain myself. 

I was not a pretty or popular girl in school, which I realized as early as kindergarten, when social stratification begins to take shape.  I was gangly and clumsy and easily distracted.  I lived inside a series of daydreams.  I had oversized front teeth and a mouth too small to contain them.  I was tall, but shoestring slim.  Kids joked that if I turned sideways, I’d disappear from sight. My nickname was “skinny bones.” 

Freddy, at that age, was already athletic, the youngest boy from a family of handsome and popular older brothers and one older sister.  He was tall, like me, and he had blue/gray eyes and curly light brown hair.  He seemed smart, on the verge of misbehaving, but generally steering clear of the nuns’ wrath.  I could stare at him forever and ever.  In our second grade class, I sat in the front row and found every excuse to visit the back of the room, which was where the pencil sharpener was, next to Freddy’s desk.  After I’d sharpened my pencil one time too many, the teacher had enough and sent me to the “no-no box” as a punishment for repeatedly leaving my seat.  She was sure I was trying to look on other students’ papers for answers.  The no-no box was a panel, separated into four segments, hinged.  It stood about 4 and half feet high, about shoulder level for most adults.  Like the pencil sharpener, it was located at the back of the room, near Freddy, folded into the shape of a box with a chair in the middle.  Most often, it was occupied by the boy who couldn’t stop wetting his pants – a problem the teacher assumed required public punishment.  It was there I sat for God knows how long, crying, mortified.  

The next year my mother and father decided to switch me to public school because they didn’t care for the tactics of the no-no box instructor who carried a can of Lysol, spraying at invisible germs and the kids who spread them.  I couldn’t believe it when I realized that Freddy’s parents had decided to transfer him to my same third-grade class.  That was also the year our mothers had, by coincidence, bought us matching rust-colored turtlenecks.  I wore mine as often as possible, even digging it out of the dirty clothes hamper on the off chance that Freddy might wear his the same day, wedding us in matching fashion.   

  Eddy Elementary had a playground five times the size of Saint Mary’s, a vast open field that stretched well beyond the jungle gym and swing sets, perfect for kids who loved to run.  Freddy, who most often spent recess chasing the pretty, popular girls, would sometimes choose to chase me.  I would stand nearby, and when he began running toward me, I would turn my back to him and run as fast as I was able. 

My legs and arms buzzed and pulsed, and my wispy brown hair lifted and flew in the air.  One time, I tripped on a protruding root of the giant Oak tree, landing on my belly with an “oomph.”  I rolled over to look behind just as Freddy caught up, peering down at me.  We’d never spoken to each other before.  At a loss, I stated the obvious, “I think I tripped.”  He looked at me quizzically, and then stuck out his hand, offering to hoist me up.  We walked toward the school silently, side-by-side.  And, in walking next to him, I felt somehow older, that my world had taken on new weight and meaning. Then Freddy caught sight of another girl he liked to chase, and off he went.  I continued to the asphalt part of the playground where the kindergarteners typically gathered to play duck-duck-goose under the watchful eye of their sixth-grade aides. I put my back to the brick wall of the school and slide down it in a daze.  I was undaunted.  He had taken my hand and pulled me to my feet.  Freddy had touched me.

   Years later, at a school presentation ceremony for the student athletes, Freddy was called to the stage to receive a basketball award.  This was before he’d been kicked off the junior-high team, or perhaps he’d been reinstated.  I don’t recall.  I can only remember that my body shot up from my seat the moment I heard his name.  I stood in the auditorium of about 200 seated kids, momentarily oblivious to where I was, whom I was with, clapping and yelling, “Yay, Freddy.” A row of popular, prettier girls turned and stared at me, incredulous.
Eventually Freddy’s mom remarried, and Freddy transferred school to a neighboring town.  I took driver’s ed., got braces,  my first period and my first job, working at a drug store – nearly all in the same week.  My life opened and reopened, and my daydreams grew to hopes for my adult self, some of which became a reality, like going to college, studying poetry, and becoming a writer.  Boys became men, and my love life see-sawed, until I came upon the man I married in my 30s, another writer, trying to realize his own dreams.  
As for the summer Freddy moved away, I met a boy from a town up river, experienced my first kiss, and forgot Freddy, except for in my dreams, where Freddy is immortal, and I’m still gearing up to say the words I’ve waited too long to speak.  

Guest Blogger: Maria McLeod
Maria McLeod writes poetry, short fiction, and monologues. She teaches for WWU’s Department of Journalism. She also is the author of “Body Talk: Sexual Triumphs, Trials, and Revelations,” a theatre performance produced in Bellingham, Wash. 2012-13.  Maria has performed poetry as part of the following reading series and/or at these venues,: Public Pool, Hamtramck, Mich.; Poet as Art, Lucia Douglass Gallery, Bellingham, Wash.; Poetry Night, Bellingham, Wash.; Parkplace Books, Kirkland; Pittsburgh City Theatre; the Ceres Gallery in New York City; and the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1995.
To learn more about Maria, her projects and writing, 
please visit her web sites:




Poetry: Ghost in the Hall

When I was a child
A Skeleton Ghost would walk
The bedroom hall of our home
Afraid of the dark I would sleep with the light on
My door open just enough to keep out the trouble
That lurks in the imagination of a ten year old,
Usually, hiding under the bed or in closets
Ghosts are everywhere when you are ten.
Often the ghost would wiggle its way past my door
Steps heard creaking across loose boards
Creak.  Creak.  Creak.
Down the hall slowly it walked
Skeleton heading for the kitchen
To fill up its ribs with mom’s pork chops
Then fiddle its way back to bed
After the meal was consumed
One scary night before this mystery was solved
I slept between my parents for protection
Bookends of adult and authority on either side
Defense from anything ghoulish
Each parent rolled over facing the walls
As I lay blinking at the ceiling.
2 a.m. is Skeleton’s supper time
Down it came toward my parents’ room
Closer.  Closer.  Closer.
Bones walk lightly when there is no moon
From the ceiling my eyes followed
To see what stood at the foot of the bed
Its frame wiggled trying to materialize
To grab hold of me with solid hands
I knew it was real
The ghost that walked my hall at night!
Dad sighed in his sleep
And the ghost misted away. 
Scared off by the possibility of his waking
I waited.  Waited.  Waited.
It did not come back.
Then I returned to my own bed
Safer now with mystery solved
Wrapped in the comfort of knowing
Skeleton was real and it knew I could see it!

…true story

The Sand is Lava!

written: Sunday, November 23, 2008

Was at the beach today with my husband.

Washington State beaches are littered with logs. The waves and storms throw the logs up onto shore in a kind of tiddelie-winks sort of mess. As we were jumping logs to get ’round from one beach to another I had a thought.

As a kid growing up here you’re “baptized” by the oceans and beaches! Most good Washingtonians will take their kids camping on or near the beach. Kids have to learn how to walk on the logs, negotiate good places to step, ask themselves, “Is that log stable?” After many trial and error jumps you learn quickly. This was my childhood every summer. My parents would take us out to Ocean Shores (near Forks & Aberdeen) and we did jumped logs and even made forts out of them.

I was deep in thought over this childhood skill and asked my husband how he thought that affected us as adults. Did it give us better judgment? Did the experience cause us to be more circumspect when making a decision? He answered with a question.
What about a child who lives in the city and has to figure out the bus system or subway schedule? What sort of enhanced sense of judgment did his environment produce?

I immediately thought about my mom and her mid-west upbringing. Living on a farm, getting up before the sunrise to milk cows, feed chickens then get ready for school. My mom and all of her sisters grew up to be hard workers. They have strong work ethics.
What experiences did you have that you feel where a positive influence on whom you are as an adult? What shaped you into the person you are today?