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Ghosts, Graves, and Girlies, Oh My!

by Melissa on October 11, 2012 · 1 comment

Ghosts, Graves and Girlies, Oh My.
By Alison Gunn

We could have gone to a pumpkin patch, or an apple orchard or raked the leaves into a gigantic pile and jumped, but all that seemed too run of the mill this year. Instead, we veered left, into Ross Bay Cemetery to see if there were any “spooky goings-on in the graveyard late at night” as written in one of my daughter’s favourite books, Happy Halloween by Janet Allison Brown. Except it was the middle of the morning.

The last time I was in a graveyard late at night was when I was seventeen. It was my birthday, so my friends and I hatched a brilliant plan to explore Ross Bay Cemetery. It turns out, according to a helpful, albeit scary security guard with a giant flashlight that resembled a ghostly orb, graveyards are off limits after dark.

By the light of day, tombstones, crypts and giant chestnut trees are really quite beautiful. Squirrels ran across the grass, crows cawed, and waves from a passing freighter crashed to shore. It was a surprising slice of nature in such an urban location.

My girls weren’t too keen about walking into the cemetery at first. Seems like every Halloween book they’ve had read to them declares ghosts lurk behind every tombstone.

I have to admit, after going on a few Ghostly Walks run by John Adams, I had the same thought. As I eyed an elderly woman walking through a row of headstones, I wondered if she was she going to disappear if I looked away and then looked back.

She didn’t.

“Which tombstone is your favourite?” I asked, hoping to silence the ghost talk, which was being led by my 5-year-old, and scaring my 3-year-old.

The girls paused and looked around. “That one.” My 3-year-old, Miss S, pointed.

“Oh, that’s beautiful,” my 5-year-old, Miss Q, agreed.

“What does that one say?” Miss S asked.

I read the names, realizing that neither Jessie nor Maude had ever been on my baby name list. Clearly the cemetery was another place parents should come for inspiration. But then again, maybe that was too morbid. That’s right, Junior, we got your name from a marble grave marker. Probably too much.

My interior monologue about entering a cemetery with young children was just as back and forth. Some cultures don’t believe children should be there. Should I heed their warning? Would my girls have nightmares? And, if there were ghosts, would we bring some unwanted energy home? But in the end, adventure won; the air was crisp, the girls would get some exercise and it was time to show them what a real cemetery looked like.

Aside from ghost and, eventually, zombie talk—how in the heck did Miss Q know about zombies?—we never got to the questions I was bracing myself the most for were about death: how did they die, why were they buried, will you die…

For an hour, we wandered the paths that crisscrossed the graves. Me: reading the names on headstones. The girls: either complaining the cemetery was too big (it is larger than it looks), or oohing and ahhing at the architecture around them. “That one looks like a castle.” “I think that one must’ve taken a long time to carve.”

“Why is that one broken?” Miss Q asked.

It was a perfect opportunity to tell them about vandals, possible alcohol consumption and how we need to honour this space. The littles took it all in, agreeing at the end that it was a good thing people were working on restoring the space.

Left out of my mini-lectures on geology and erosion were the people of note buried around them, but at 5, 3 and 11 months, the girls weren’t interested in history. I don’t think they were really interested in the make-up of the grave markers, or why the large body of salt water next door was eroding sandstone either, but I digress…

It will be fun, as they learn about Sir James Douglas and Emily Carr, to take them back to see their graves. It’s important that they realize these were actual people once, not just stories in readers.

Until then, it was exciting just to find another place to burn off energy in Victoria, and though I tried to keep their ghostly imaginations to a dull roar, it was a great place to get into the Halloween spirit.

Alison Gunn is a writer living in Victoria. You can read her blog at http://cautiousmum.wordpress.com or follow her Twitter feed @cautiousmum

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October 17, 2012 at 11:25 am

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