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Ghosts (Part One)



Yesterday’s post suggested that a review of my Ghosts is in order. I’d lost track of how many there are; how many are either real or based on someone real; and of those who are fictional, which are composites of the real. Periodic review is no bad thing.

  1. Number One is as it should be: Cliff Pherson is based on my own father, Roy Clifford Ramsey, who also owned and operated a gasoline service station and did automotive repairs when they were damnably simpler than today. Our Phillips 66 station served as a community hangout for multiple generations, a fact brought home at Roy’s funeral: when I could step back from those gathered at his casket and listen to a conversation of three generations remembering Roy in precisely the same ways. The artifice here is Howard’s recollection the way I would have chosen.
  2. Dad’s gas station drew a diverse crowd of hangers-on. One of the most iconic was William A. Simmons, a broker dad used for investment in mutual funds; I’ve always wanted to know what the “A” stood for. There aren’t many gas stations, in my experience, that subscribed to the Wall Street Journal; ours did and I read it almost daily and Willie [I was uncomfortable with that degree of familiarity and continued to call him Mr Simmons] walked me through its content several times a month. At some point Mr Simmons retired, which made his visits all the more frequent and exotic, because he continued to arrive in immaculate three-piece tweed suits tailored before I was born. Let it not be said that hanging out at a garage is an illiberal experience. One Christmas I bought gifts for Willie and his wife Lillian and personally delivered them to their apartment on South Jeffries—one of the most pleasant afternoons of my life.
  3. Marilla Jane Thurston Missbach is very real and everything I have said about her is true in spades. We should all have such loyal and accepting friends. Howard’s encounter with her is fiction but the breadth of her connections puts it well within the realm of possibility. The part of the story I didn’t share concerns Marilla’s memorial service in the spring following her death, another Unitarian-Universalist tapestry woven from her comparably universal breadth of experience. You had to be there, I guess.
  4. The first and still most important character in the Agincourt narrative is Anson Curtiss Tennant, the founder of the feast. He is Agincourt’s ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-to-Come and I will probably never tire of identifying each detail of his life—a life I wish I’d known long ago.
  5. Among the twelve basic Jungian archetypes, Hamish Brookes, bookseller, is the Magus: the magician-seer-revelator who knows more about you than you do of them.
  6. Slick and Frannie were neighbors in my third Fargo apartment; I’ve only changed their last name. Not only the McCreas (their real name) but the apartment building where we lived form the matrix of my happy recollection of Howard’s first apartment when he returned from Chicago.
  7. In my front yard there is a two-stemmed tree lilac named Alec and Margaret. Really. Mr and Mrs Parks and I became acquainted during a query to the East Sussex Historical Society, where Alec was a volunteer. My question had been directed to him and we continued our correspondence long after my curiosity was satisfied. Then one evening there came a phone call from the U.K.: Alec wondering if we would mind a visit from them. But their American encounter consisted of two weeks in Fargo-Moorhead and environs, passed back and forth among our friends and colleagues. Alec and Margaret are both gone now but I greet the two-stemmed lilac each day as though it were A. and M. standing sentinel.

So much for Part One.

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