Summer Fun at the Cemetery! Wait, What?

Summer vacation time! Let’s go to the cemetery. Wait, what?

So you might already have guessed this, but my family was a little weird. One of the most disconcerting things about leaving home and meeting new people was finding out they didn’t spend their family vacation days or summer weekends going to cemeteries. And I don’t mean Arlington or a cemetery where someone you knew/were related to is buried, but just going to a random graveyard and hanging out. And by “disconcerting,” I mean those people lived deprived childhoods, because that shit was fun.

Seriously, when we went to Disney World my senior year of high school, we stopped off in a big cemetery in Jacksonville and spent a day there first.

graveyard cemetery florida fl creepy vacation family author jordan l hawk
Actual photo I took on our Florida vacation in 1988. I had to remove it from an album full of pictures just like this to scan it.

In the interest of full disclosure, my paternal grandfather was an alcoholic Welsh gravedigger, so it might be hereditary. He died before I was born, and I never saw a picture of the man, but we owned a photo of his tombstone (he was buried where he worked).

To be fair, a large percentage of the many churches in the area I grew up in were founded in the 1700’s, and quite a few had graves dating back to before the Revolutionary War. We would head for these older parts of the graveyard and spend most of the time there, reading the names and birth and death dates. We’d point out the patterns of reoccurring names in different plots, where families had been linked by marriage, or speculate if a spate of deaths in the same few months might be due to a flu epidemic. I’d try to link the dates to something I knew from history class, like: “Holy cow, this guy was twenty-six when the Declaration of Independence was signed. How awesome is that?!” It didn’t matter to me that he was probably just some poor farmer who was too busy staying alive to know anything about the big events until months later. It still gave a weight to history: I could connect it with real people, even if nothing of those people was left but a eroded stone with their name and a couple of dates.

Like I said, fun. I have no idea why I didn’t have more friends in high school.

What about you? Have any weird family vacation stories you’d like to share? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Posted July 25, 2012 by jordan in family, humor, life / 7 Comments

7 responses to “Summer Fun at the Cemetery! Wait, What?

  1. My family was unconventional in my youth, and while we never vacationed in cemeteries I’ve always been fascinated by them, too. In central NY where I grew up there’s a cemetery called Fort Hill, and I used to love walking through there and looking at the tombstones. Like you, looking at the names and tying them to history.

    Not much here, but the link to Wiki:

    They’re so peaceful. Until the sun goes down. O.O Heh.

    • jordan

      Ooh, Fort Hill looks lovely. All that stonework!

      I’ll admit, I was TERRIFIED of ghosts as a kid, so I’d never go anywhere near a cemetery after the sun went down. I’ll have to post about the one and only time my best friend and I drove through a cemetery on Halloween (we were about 16 or 17 at the time) and scared the bejeezus out of ourselves. She actually made me get a flashlight and check under the seat, LOL!

  2. The only thing unconventional about our family vacations was that they were always to visit family in another state. I always wondered at the luck that many of my friends had–they traveled places other than to their grandparents’ house.

    I have to admit that cemetaries always freaked me out, but the history in the older sections is fascinating. 🙂

    • jordan

      I know what you mean, Diana. Except for the Florida trip, we never left the area unless it was to visit family. We never saw anything on those trips except the inside of the house!

  3. I feel deprived. My family only went to the Florida panhandle on vacation. BUT…my grandmother made up for my lack of stimulating activities by taking me to our local cemetery on Sunday afternoons in the summer. So I guess that evens things out.

    Oh…and hubby and I used to walk the half-mile paved track in our local cemetery to get our exercise, back in the day when we could walk…before our knees gave out. We walked at 10 or 11 o’clock at night, when it was cool and pleasant and there weren’t any other walkers or joggers to slow us down.

    • Sounds like a relaxing place to walk. One of my professors used to birdwatch in one of the local cemeteries, which is an oasis of green in the middle of a heavily-developed part of town.