In 1941, when I was seven, I often asked my mother, Lillian Lenore Van Arsdale, to take me to a house on Main Street in Belmar, New Jersey. I was drawn to this house, and thought I had lived in it before, thought my mother denied it, and she wouldn’t lie to me. Yet I knew its rooms and furniture, even the window drapes.
Mother was concerned, and at times angry with me as I chattered relentlessly. I even told her all about the woman living there- what she looked like, what she wore while cleaning the house, and her cooking and baking apron.
Inside the front door was a long mirror with wood carvings on the top that hung on the entrance hall wall. There were gold coat racks on either side of it, and a bench to sit on. On the right, there was a long table in the dining room.
At the table were eight dark, wooden chairs, with big, high backs and blue cloth seats. Only the two chairs at the ends of the table had arms on them. A picture of three horses’ heads hung on the left wall.
I will never forget it. On the same wall were big gas lights, one on each side of the picture, and one on either side of the two windows on the right wall, overlooking the front porch.
I described the tablecloth- white lace, with the same blue cloth under it as on the chairs. A tall, dark wood and glass china closet was on the longest wall. In it were many pretty blue dishes and blue water glasses with long stems.
There were three bedrooms upstairs. The first room on the left was the biggest, containing a bed as high as my shoulders. The headboard almost reached the ceiling, and was carved with pictures of flowers, baskets and ribbons.
On this bed was a white bedspread I often described to my mother, but she wouldn’t believe me. She said I had never ever been inside. When I cried for the umpteenth time, Mother took me by the hand, walked right up to the front door, and rang the bell.
A pretty woman answered the door, and I was sure I had seen her before. I knew the ring on her hand, and the apron she wore was as I described. I stood still and held my breath. She bade us come in. While she and my mother talked in a hushed tones, my eyes roamed around the entrance hall and into the dining room.
When we went in, everything was as I had described , before we entered each room. My mom was surprised, but the lady was shocked and had tears in her eyes. She hugged me tightly for a long time. Mom thanked her, and was glad that I was satisfied.
I was happy that Mom finally believed me. My compelling urge was gone. One day I heard Mom telling my aunt Emma Gifford that a five -year-old girl who had lived in that house died of scarlet fever on May 23, 1934, the year I was born.
After that we never talked about it. Mother said I was not to ask to go there again. I never did. I then believed that I had known the little girl very well, but as I grew older, I realized this was not so I remember more things about her and the house when I see blue glasses or white lace tablecloths. Could I really have been her, keeping some of her memories?
New Underwood, South Dakota