Monday, March 12, 2012


Being self taught in the English language I make a lot of mistakes but some words I NEVER remember how to spell. Cemetary is the one I insist should have an A. Neighborg should be the way I want it to be. I have notes on my computer with the correct spelling of these and some others. They will never register in my head which also has a form of dyslexia.

My odd life and lifestyle could make a psychiatrist go running back to school and become a bookkeeper.

I started as an lonely only child. My mother was brought up in a convent, to say that she was strict is putting it mildly. She did not know "grey" it was white or black.
The line had to be straight, no curves, nothing but perfection.

My father was not a hugging kind of man, he seemed hard to me but he was a policeman and took his job seriously, even at a time that murders were rare and stealing was more going into the fields and getting some potatoes out of the land. That was a quiet time and it was prewar.

I was petrified of my mother. She had a temper and she hit me hard for anything that I did badly. My father would sit in his corner and just say :"Do not hit her in the head!". She did not listen.

So by the time I hit High School which in my case was a vocational secretarial school , I was still lonely, had very few friends and was living in my own world.
I did not like school. I liked typing but the short hand in 2 different styles and languages had me very confused. In the evening I had daily drills of material dictated to me by Mom and then I had to reread was unpleasant and I remember sitting in my chair just trembling and the scribbles in front of me just blending into nothing that made sense. Her eyes would get more and more angry and I read less and less. Hated school!!Hated Mother!!!

So I started to play hooky. I took the long walk to the cemetery. There was my grandmother and godmother, there was my Meme. She had left us when I was 4 but somehow I still fell connected to her. I'd sit by her grave and talked to her.
Then I'd walk around the old place and just took in all the sculptures in stones and granite. Many writers, artists and musicians were buried here. It had been one
of the popular places to come in the 19th century.
A pianist young woman had for tombstone a life size piano with the lid open and her image sitting on a bench in front of it. I always went to check on her.
Poets had streams of poetry written on large stones. Much later a carved out motorcycle was on a young man's tomb. This place is like a museum of statues and art work. The flower crowns on the stones were in porcelain and kept their colors over the decades until fleamarket people discovered they were saleable. They were Majolica in perfection.
My Meme was the first to be buried in what we called a "cellar" , it would eventually reunite the family, my grandfather in the 1960's , then their first daughter and last in 1993 my mom. Last year the earth opened up and swallowed up a row of tombs our family included.
There has been a restoration of sorts, all graves been identified with a new modern looking flat stone.

Back to my playing hooky, mother found out. I had to go to the principal with her and explain where I had been ...I told one believed me...more questions...shaking of heads....went home and mother beat me with the poker...the mark stayed on my leg and one teacher told the principal. Mother back at her office in days. They did not protect kids then, beating kids was normal too but somehow the principal did manage to scold her in some way. We went home in silence.
Years later she asked "where did you go when you did not go to school?"
I said" cemetery". She shook her head. My Meme knew I had been there not once but many times even into adult hood. Mother never believed it.

So when we drove past old cemeteries I would want to see the stonework, the dates, the quotations, I just had a fascination with that. I outgrew it eventually and would it not be odd that I moved in a street which ends with "a cemetery".
The first few decades we would just drive by and Bobby would read the stones and make remarks like :Hey Mom this guy is named "Dedham" he does not need ham anymore does he? Bobby always had an audience with dad and I , he was such a joker.
Then I became a grandmother and had babies come and go early in the morning while
Mom's went to work. I would put them in their carriage and walk up the hill and around and around the old graveyard. Graves here go back to the middle 1800's.
They have tree trunks for the "Woodsmen" which must have been some association, someone odd and wealthy had been buried above ground and had a prism on the top which would reflect her image inside when the light was right. It became a
meeting place for teen agers and the prism was covered over with cement.
THE ANGEL is still there the one from Look Homeward Angel. People from all over the world come to see it. Now they built an iron gate around it to protect it from vandals.

When walking the babies stopped then I would force Bob to walk with me all around the place so he would have his walking routine. He loved walking. He'd stop at the graves which had a special detail and point it out to.
And then came the puppies...first Toto and I we would walk till he could no more and gave up looking at me with pity black eyes "pick me up" he would beg and
we'd go home with him in my arms.

There are 4 miles of roads in the place, I was told by a worker, I find it hard to believe but they criss cross so much so perhaps it is true.
I have walked every inch of it now for years, I still read the names. I keep Bijou from messing up near graves, there is plenty of grass fields still left.
I say hello to "Charlie Hip" when I walk by, there are the names made famous in our town streets, the Hodges, the Brownings, Adams ,Justice, and so on...
I notice several who came from Sweden, Australia and wonder if they ever where homesick. My sacred place is on the corner as one walks in, in the middle of a plot of 21 small stones is the flag. All the men here are from WW1. I talk to them too ,they helped my grandparents and my mother and father.

Bijou knows all the curves, knows where to chase the squirrels and barks at the 3 crows who live there and make a racket. Now with the trees bare one can see the large squirrel nests, one tree has 4 of them, I call them the condo's. Must be a family group willing to live close together.

Early in the morning a cop sits in a shaded quiet corner near a fence, he comes there often , then another car appears and leaves...a rendez vous? an informer? someone bringing him coffee after a hard night shift? My mind wonders but I stay away from his car. He may just be taking a nap.

I visit my beloved daughter in law, the child who left us too soon and she shares her plot with her mother who came 2 months after her, filled with sadness she could not be without her.
I took plants from her garden and potted them in a heavy cement bowl so it will not fly away in the wind. The plants continue to grow ,they are hardy.

The cemetery is old and a new one with regulations is in another part of the city. I do not like regulations. The place where a mom had to leave her 12 years old is full of his toys, glued solidly to a stone, there is a GI Joe and little cars, often fresh flowers , the Mexican population now adds all sorts of statuary, no rules....the city goes around all this and mows and cleans but it is not like this sterile place with same size plaques and plastic flowers. Conformity in death too?

Across the street is the OTHER cemetery. It was and perhaps still is for African Americans. Then in a corner almost filled up is the Jewish cemetery, it is fenced off with rocks and iron works , the stones are lovely and have series of small
pebbles lines on top of them as is a custom in Jewish traditions.

I will never be here if I have my wishes carried out, I want to be the ashes in the stream in Pisgah Forrest, I want to follow Bob's ashes and all streams go into the French Broad River and eventually into the sea. This Piscean belongs there.

So this is my story and I am sticking to it. I love an old cemetery so do not lock me up just yet, I might become a cat lady and have 60 cats...then you can lock me up.

No comments: