Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Living in a Cemetery

In his comment on my post Tag, You're It, Sparks asked how I came to spend the first year and a half of my life in a cemetery. It's a logical question, since, after all, most people usually wait until their lives have ended to make their first foray into the collection of deep sixers that make up most cemeteries. But I had to break the mold. Or the burial vault, if you will.

In the early sixties, my dad's uncle was caretaker for Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Uncle Stanley lived with his family in one of two houses that were on the cemetery property. The other house was split into two apartments. When my parents got married in 1962, they moved into the lower-level apartment in that second house. Dad even helped Uncle Stanley with some of the cemetery work. I was born in 1964, and our happy little family of three lived there until the middle of 1965, when Mom and Dad bought the house they still live in.

Even after we moved out of the cemetery, we went back there for family reunions. Uncle Stanley, Aunt Ruth, and the cousins still lived there, and beside the house was a great expanse of lawn upon which we picnicked and played softball.

Yes, we played softball in a cemetery! There was a mausoleum in right field, and sometimes home run balls ricocheted off its roof. In later years, graves infiltrated left field, which would have made chasing down fly balls that much more difficult. At that point, the family gatherings were sort of dying out anyway, so it was just as well.

After we left, other cousins moved into the cemetery apartment, and we visited them often. So although I have no memories of the apartment when we lived there, I remember it well from the many New Year's Eve parties and other visits our family made.

I still love to go back to Highland Cemetery, where I wander among the graves of some of my relatives. I usually steal a glance at the lawn where softballs once flew. Uncle Stanley's house (and maybe even the apartment house, too) is now a historical landmark, and the birthday parties I once attended there are long in the past. Heck, I just love wandering cemeteries on general principle. They are fascinating places. But mainly they remind me of the cemetery where I spent my first year and a half of life.


Terry said...

Hey I actualy worked on one the homes in the same cemetery when I worked for the construction company the big yellow house across the drive. I didn't realize at the time you lived there. I did find out shortly after that you had. I had thought,as I was working on it, that the only person who would want to live there would be the workers of the cemetery. I do think it would be a safe place even though people are DYING to get in. Who in thier right mind would want to steal or even go into a cemetery after dark? I would love the neighbors as they would be peaceful and quiet. Of course if a window got broke your children couldn't use the excuse that the neighbors kids did it. Just a little comment from your b in law.

MoziEsmé said...

That actually sounds like quite a fun life! As a kid, back before I associated cemetaries with personal tragedy, I loved walking through them, calculating ages, and thinking about people's stories. I still enjoy that from time to time.

Amy + Jake said...

When I was younger I lived next door to an old cemetary and my friend Jennifer and I use to spend hours and hours in there during summer and Christmas vacation. The old head stones and tall evergreen trees provided the perfect canvas for us to create our own magical world.

Some people think it's creepy and weird ... I consider it artsy and misunderstood :-)

Julayne Hughes said...

How cool that so many people like to wander through cemeteries! I'm glad I'm not the only one.