Monday, May 27, 2002

Memorial Day Grave Dance

In Concord, on Main Street at the corner of Frye, there's a very old graveyard. The stones are not bleached white but rather black and worn away to nubs, like an old man's really rotten teeth. We share the grassy stretch with another family. Their 4-year-old girl is lurking in a happy stealthy game, behind the thin black stones, just hiding her perfectly from her mom as she and the gravestones match heights. She's grinning and leaning against the shelter of cold black stones on a warm evening. Her brother, around 3 years old, is in one-piece jumpsuit pj's and jumping all around. The mother can barely keep after the little boy, but does a good job of chasing his gyrations. The father is rather solemn, looking at veterans' graves, now long gone. He is thanking them under his breathe. His body knows something sad, remembers it perfectly. Many stones are hard to read, but you can read the gravity in his spine ... perhaps a father, a brother or a friend, now gone or fighting a good fight for us.

The daughter's long blonde hair makes me feel happy and alive. She's dancing on graves and I love her for it. I was a girl like that once, a little girl with blonde hair and a happy dance, made to remind people not to be so darned sad. A girl made to dance a thank-you waltz for now stilled soldiers beneath her lively feet.

There is a man there, right in front of me — born 1680, dead, 1735. There are many soldiers there — with hard-to-read birthdates, but death dates of 1774, 1811, 1864. There are flowers of red, white and blue and vets' gold stars on sticks and American flags. Today we all say thank-you and goodbye.