Down the street and across the sewage canal from my house is a Christian cemetery. I never really knew it was there, although the white crosses are plainly visible over the low brick wall that borders them. Actually that is bit of a lie. I had heard there was a cemetery somewhere over yonder but I never looked for or at it. The other week I looked, I walked through, I snapped some pictures, and like always I flip flopped between the desire to sit down and contemplate life’s brevity or hightail it out of there with my metaphorical tail between my legs. Cemeteries are a little spooky, right?
I do love how graveyards tell people’s stories and how they simultaneously freak me out and draw me in; I enjoy the somber solitude they demand and how they remind me of childhood summers at my grandparents where I played hide and seek behind tombstones. There, my imagination sprinted away with my logic and left me awake at night with the stories of the deceased for company, spinning yarns and tall tales. I loved sleeping with peoples memories.
Thinking I’m not so different from my 8-year-old self, I tried to kick start my story-telling sleepiness with this cemetery trip. I should have one of those t-shirts made that breath cliches like “I went to Mexico and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”. Except mine would say “I went to a cemetery to contemplate life but I found more questions than answers”. Or “I went to a cemetery to contemplate life but all I got was these lousy pictures”. Thankfully I surround myself with 10 year-old’s who DO have overly active (and often surprisingly dark) little think tanks. In and effort to rouse some fearful anticipation for the Grade 5 sleepovers ‘haunted walk’, I showed them the pictures, told them the cemetery shares a wall with the school (which is does) and asked them to write a ghosts story using the names and dates from the tombstones. Something in their story had to make a direct reference to at least one of the photos. And what did I get? Remarkably spooky and suspense heavy stories. Somehow they managed to avoid the oh-so predictable gore that all too many ten-year old’s revel in and hit the creepy factor dead on. I’m still tying to figure out what made the difference – perhaps the fact that they were writing about real people whose real body remains lie 100 meters from our classroom?
What stories do you see?