The year I was fifteen, I started my senior year of high school. That September (1962), while I was sitting and watching television, I found a rather big, hard lump near my right ankle. I checked the other leg. No lump there. It was a painless lump. Mom had me visiting a surgeon just a couple of days later.

It turned out to be non-malignant, what is called an osteochondroma. It was, however, pretty big. Big enough so in the short time between seeing the doctor and getting into the hospital, it more than doubled in size.  It had thoroughly wrapped itself around my fibula and the surgeon had to remove a piece of bone and replace it with a pin. I was in no mortal danger, but I was going to be on crutches for at least half a year.

Jamaica High School was (is) huge. Five stories including the basement (swimming pool level) and top floor — the tower where the choir and chorus rehearsed. There were no elevators. No handicapped access. It was also extremely crowded, no place for someone on crutches.

High School, really

Thus I came to be assigned a home tutor. I was not her only client and for reasons of her own, she decided to introduce me to another of her clients.

Mary was older than me, 18 years old. Which, at 15, seemed very mature from my perspective. She was a schizophrenic at a time when the drugs to control schizophrenia had not been invented. She was not at all violent. In fact, she was wonderfully sweet, a brilliant artist … and her view of the world was, to say the least, unique.

She loved cemeteries. Especially at night. One night, we went to see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which had just been released.

“Would you like to go?” she asked.

“Sure, why not.” I was always up for a movie. But this one, I didn’t much like. I still don’t. Just … not my cup of tea. Too creepy.

But my night of creepiness was far from over, because after the movie, Mary invited me to visit one of her favorite place … the local cemetery. Through which she happily danced, kissing each of the stones while declaring that these were the happiest of all souls.

Thus began my interest in cemeteries and tombstones. And the end of my brief relationship with Mary. I’m pretty strange in my own way, but that was a bit much for me.

We have great cemeteries here in New England. Old ones with wonderful tombstones, amazing old inscriptions. Come visit some time.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

12 thoughts on “A GRAVEYARD DANCE”

  1. Shame we live so far apart. I see us together walking between the stones with our cameras of course and pausing here and there to take mental notes. Whenever I was on holiday somewhere I always visited the local cemetry, yes I am a cemetery tourist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought of that too. We have GREAT graveyards in New England. Even the little one in the middle of town with the old stones from the 1700s has wonderful old etchings. We would have great times together. There are, by the way, a LOT of cemetery tourists. I used to think I was particularly odd, but it isn’t considered all that odd. Some people go and make drawings of the stones. They are history, and also peaceful places without crowds or traffic. Good places to go with a camera.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the very old cemeteries that are all over New England. Whenever I’m in Boston I stop by the Granary Burying Ground which I find fascinating. So much history. It also happens to be directly across the street from a nice Irish pub!


    1. I think every cemetery is convenient to a pub 😀 That’s SO Boston! I like the cemetery from the Old South Church because it’s got a bunch of revolutionaries in it, but all the old churchyard cemeteries are really interesting … and you’ll always find a pub nearby.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Something about cemeteries lures me in every time. I have even brought home arrangements and ‘things’ from gravestones that were tossed in the trash pile….I just could not let them go.


  4. When my mother died, many years ago, I bought some grave plots in a small town, just outside Toronto, near where my uncle had his farm. My grandparents are buried there as are my other uncles and aunts. My mother’s ashes were put in the Atlantic, so there is a stone for her but she isn’t in the plot. My father’s ashes are there. Some day we’ll be there, it’ll be like a family gathering.


  5. Maybe sometime I will get to New England and see the old cemeteries first hand. I enjoy them, but keep it to daylight hours please! Something eerie about nighttime in a cemetery; and I’ve read far too much Stephen King to be comfortable in such places after dark. Here in the West, the ghost town cemetery is fascinating — if you’re one that enjoys seeing that kind of ‘art’ and the history behind it.


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