Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Cemetery

Bright cold Saturday morning finds Nguyen and the boys and I wearing gloves, raking leaves in the Grace Church Cemetery. There were college students earning their community action credits. There were many folks from Grace. I don't think any locals were on hand, but I don't think we advertised it, either.

The Grace cemetery is surprisingly bucolic in the inner city of Providence. It is a triangle of 8 acres, bordered by Elmwood Avenue on one side and Broad Street on the other. This is a part of Providence that doesn't have much green space, so keeping the cemetery in good repair is an important thing for the neighborhood.

I grew up going to cemeteries. My father is a stone cutter. He made gravestones (among other things) for a living. Some of my earliest memories were of walking through the Common Burial Ground in Newport, looking at the headstones of the colonials who were buried there. There was a slave section in the southwest corner. Whole families were buried together after outbreaks of disease. We were always fascinated, as kids, by the crypts that had grass growing on top. We would climb up and around them and crane to see through the little slits in the granite front in case we might catch a glimpse of a coffin, or better, a corpse. For about a year we owned a house which was surrounded on two sides by the cemetery, so our back yard was, in effect, acres and acres of tombstones.

On the whole, the Grace cemetery is in surprisingly nice condition. Yes, many of the headstones have been toppled. But I saw no graffiti at all, and very little garbage. Just a lot of leaves and an insane amount of acorns. (Where are the squirrels, I wonder? They seem to be shirking their duties)

It felt appropriate to be taking care of the final resting place of all those folks just after All Souls day. It is a peaceful place.

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