Christmas at Swanson Manor
Elsbeth Victoria was the first woman to grace the halls of Swanson Manor. Jacob Swanson had the house built for them in 1849, the year before they were married. Elsbeth was so enamored with the house and so proud of it that Jacob often thought she loved the home more than anything in life. And perhaps she did, for she could not allow anything to leave it.
After her four year old daughter died in 1854, Elsbeth insisted nothing that belonged in the house would ever leave it. She had all old furniture and items no longer in use stored in the attic. She was obsessed about it, believing that furniture and other items were as much a part of the family as the people were. If these things never left the house then spirits of family members who died would never leave, including herself. And stayed she did, even after her death in 1924.
Gary and Joyce had bought the historical Swanson Manor in 2003. Joyce had restored every room in the house to its original beauty. Her and Gary often went up to the attic to explore everything up there. Joyce even had several pieces of original furniture taken down to have pieces reupholstered in fabrics as close to original colors and patterns as possible. Joyce adhered to the clause in Elsbeth’s will that the furniture would not leave the house, so all restoration was done in the back parlor till that room and the front parlor were looking much the same as when Elsbeth was alive.
Although Joyce was unable to see spirits like Gary could, she often sensed that Elsbeth was near and guiding the restorations. Joyce truly wished for some clairvoyant abilities so she could see Elsbeth. She had a great fondness for the departed lady. Joyce had done heavy research on Swanson Manor and the past residents. She would love to have actually known Elsbeth. Sometimes she would sit in the back parlor with her coffee and daydreamed what it would be like to have Elsbeth there chatting with her. She felt Elsbeth’s spirit was pleased that Swanson Manor was looking more like it was in her own time.
After living in Swanson Manor for five years, Gary was now quite used to seeing spirits roaming around the house at odd times of the day or night. He did not dwell on it, just was accustomed to brief encounters of past residents. As Grace Higgins, their psychic friend, had taught him how to deal with his clairvoyant abilities, Gary tried to explain to Joyce that he could not teach her how to see spirits. It was an inherent, natural gift that would come out in its own time if a person was open to it. He often saw Elsbeth following Joyce around the house and felt the two of them had a special spiritual bond. He did not tell Joyce this, because he felt that maybe Joyce would some day be able to get in touch with her own clairvoyant gifts as he had. He believed everyone had these abilities, but not everyone could develop them, or even wanted to if they ever thought about it.
Joyce and Gary loved to start decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. Grace Higgins was always invited over to help, for Joyce wanted to have Christmas in every corner of the Swanson Manor, just as Elsbeth had done in the early days. Grace loved spending this time of year with her friends. It took a whole week to decorate. This year the three of them had gone up to the attic to search for any old decorations that might have been stored away. There were so many boxes and trunks full of stuff that even after five years they had not gone through it all.
Joyce opened an old trunk she had not noticed before. It was way in the back behind some furniture. There was a lot of tissue paper on top. When she carefully took it out she saw a beautiful quilt. As Grace helped her unfold it and spread it out on a table, Gary lifted a large box out of the trunk. The box was quite worn and had been taped in several places. He could barely make out some printing on a label that said Creche and Switzerland. He took the lid off and unwrapped several small pieces which were beautifully detailed. He took it all over to Joyce and Grace and showed them. “Oh, my gosh! Oh how beautiful these pieces are,” Joyce was thrilled. “Oh my!,” Grace picked up one and studied it. “Let’s take this down now to the front parlor and put it on the mantle,” Gary said.
In the parlor Joyce cleared away some of the evergreen boughs in the center of the mantle and they started setting up the creche, marveling at the stable and each piece they unwrapped. “These are exquisite!” They closely studied each piece. Joyce unwrapped two small pieces tied together. “Oh! Oh my gosh. Look at this precious cradle and the baby Jesus.”
“Well, that is what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? The Christ child, baby Jesus.” Joyce looked at Grace and said, “Yes, that is so true.” Grace looked up from where she was kneeling and asked, “What is true?”
“Well you just said that is what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? And I said yes, that is so true.”
“No, I did not say that.” Joyce looked at Gary. “I didn’t say anything. I was busy trying to set up the stable here.” Joyce looked around the room, “Well, somebody did.”
When the creche was all set up and the mantle looking lovely, Gary and Grace sat down to admire their work. Joyce went into the kitchen to brew some coffee and make sandwiches. She took a large platter bordered in a holly pattern out of the cupboard. She had found it in the attic a few days ago. When she turned to place it on a counter she said, “Oh! Excuse me. I didn’t know you were there and almost ran into you.” She looked to her left and saw Elsbeth standing there smiling at her, looking very pleased with Christmas at Swanson Manor.
© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns
This is the continuing story of Swanson Manor where Gary and Joyce Manning live. Please refer to Past Residents in the Attic for the beginning of this unusual tale.