For a long time I ignored the niggling observation that the cord on a lamp I’ve had for 30 years was being held together with duct tape. In the interest of full disclosure, before the duct tape, it was Scotch tape. The duct tape was a step up. For a long time, every time I turned on the lamp, I half expected it to burst into flames. It didn’t. Just in case, I never left it on when I left the house, lest it cause an electrical fire. Weeks and months (OK, two years) passed before I decided to do something about it.
A month or so ago, I took the lamp to an electrician. The place where I took it said repairs aren’t really their thing, but if I wasn’t in a rush, they would do it. I wasn’t. Much to my surprise, about a week later, I got a call saying the lamp was ready.
I paid for the repair and took the lamp home. While I was at it, I also bought a new shade. Every shade in the store was for sale as the electric company no longer wants to be in the shade business. They still have quite a few very nice shades on sale, 50 percent off. At home, I screwed in a bulb and turned the lamp on.
The next day I took the lamp back to the shop and said it didn’t work. I said I thought it entirely possible that I’m a person who can’t even screw in a light bulb.
The lamp disappeared to the rear of the shop. Meanwhile I babbled idiotically to the woman who works in the electrician’s office about the lamp.
“The lamp belonged to my mother who inherited it from her third husband,” I began. “This guy had been married before and his first wife liked antiques. This lamp base is old Wedgwood,” I said. I could see from her expression the word “Wedgwood” meant nothing to her, but she kept a game face.
“The truth is, I don’t even much like the lamp,” I said. She looked surprised, like why would I bother fixing an old, admittedly somewhat ugly lamp I didn’t even care for. “But I’m afraid to abandon it because my mother might come back and haunt me about it. ”
Her eyebrows raised.
I explained my mother has been dead a long time. Thirty years, but who’s counting?
“I’m not really sure how attached she is to this lamp, but I’d rather be safe than sorry,” I said. “When she died, I inherited all of her furniture. Some of it I sold. Some of it I gave away. One of the things I kept besides this lamp, and — by the way, there are two of them; the lamp has a twin — was an old midnight blue mohair velvet camel back sofa. My mother was very fond of this sofa. She slept on it most nights. When we moved long ago from New York to L.A., I had it reupholstered. It was kind of ratty at that point and who in L.A. wants mohair velvet? So I had it reupholstered in a much lighter tapestry fabric. My mother was furious.”
The woman at the electrician shop looked confused. Hadn’t I just said my mother was dead?
“She came back to haunt me,” I said. “She came back as a ghost to tell me in no uncertain terms I’d made a dreadful mistake because that sofa only looked good in mohair velvet.”
“What happened then?” the woman asked.
“Well, we lived with the sofa for 10 more years and then I gave it away,” I said. “I gave it to the guy who did odd jobs for us around the house. He’s got a huge family who cooks a lot of food and there’s a warm hubbub and I think my mother was a lot happier. It was too quiet at my house for my mother anyway. I think my mother’s ghost followed the sofa because after I gave it away, she didn’t bother me again for years.”
A few days later I went back and retrieved the lamp. Paul, the very nice man who fixed it, explained what the problem was the first time, but the info went straight over my head. I have a poor understanding how electricity works anyway so I leave it to the experts. While I was there, I bought a second shade for the lamp’s twin. I’m pretty sure the people in the shop think I’m a nut and hope to never see me again, but I am eternally grateful they got the lamp to work and my mother’s ghost hasn’t come around to inform me I bought the wrong shade.