Summer vacation time! Let’s go to the cemetery. Wait, what?
So you might already have guessed this, but my family was a little weird. One of the most disconcerting things about leaving home and meeting new people was finding out they didn’t spend their family vacation days or summer weekends going to cemeteries. And I don’t mean Arlington or a cemetery where someone you knew/were related to is buried, but just going to a random graveyard and hanging out. And by “disconcerting,” I mean those people lived deprived childhoods, because that shit was fun.
Seriously, when we went to Disney World my senior year of high school, we stopped off in a big cemetery in Jacksonville and spent a day there first.
In the interest of full disclosure, my paternal grandfather was an alcoholic Welsh gravedigger, so it might be hereditary. He died before I was born, and I never saw a picture of the man, but we owned a photo of his tombstone (he was buried where he worked).
To be fair, a large percentage of the many churches in the area I grew up in were founded in the 1700’s, and quite a few had graves dating back to before the Revolutionary War. We would head for these older parts of the graveyard and spend most of the time there, reading the names and birth and death dates. We’d point out the patterns of reoccurring names in different plots, where families had been linked by marriage, or speculate if a spate of deaths in the same few months might be due to a flu epidemic. I’d try to link the dates to something I knew from history class, like: “Holy cow, this guy was twenty-six when the Declaration of Independence was signed. How awesome is that?!” It didn’t matter to me that he was probably just some poor farmer who was too busy staying alive to know anything about the big events until months later. It still gave a weight to history: I could connect it with real people, even if nothing of those people was left but a eroded stone with their name and a couple of dates.
Like I said, fun. I have no idea why I didn’t have more friends in high school.
What about you? Have any weird family vacation stories you’d like to share? Tell me all about it in the comments!