Today’s mission is to encourage you to spend a sunny afternoon having a picnic in a cemetery.
Oh, now, why are you making that face?Didn’t your mother ever tell you that your face might stick like that? And besides, don’t knock a cemetery picnic ’til you’ve tried it.
Until that lovely day arrives, please, please trust me (have I ever led you astray?): cemetery picnics are great!
We’ve always loved cemeteries in my family, what with our nostalgia thing (on my dad’s side) and our spring cemetery Decoration Day thing (on my mom’s side) and making up outrageous stories about people who lived long ago thing (oh wait, that was me).
Also, I have young parents and they had young parents and they, in turn, also had young parents (that would be my great grandparents now, are you keeping track?) so there’s a lot of living history.
Not to mention birthday cards.
I was lucky, lucky, lucky because my great, great Grandma Jo (that would be my Grandpa Lou’s grandma) lived until she was almost 104.
I was 11 when she died. That’s 11 rare years with my great, great grandmother: the woman who chased my grandpa Lou around when he was a baby.
In the 1920s. Practically yesterday, to Grandma Jo.
She was born in 1876.
That’s a seriously long time ago before world wars and evil, control-top pantyhose and we got to hear all about it, from someone who was there.
How cool is that?
Grandma Jo told stories about her parents and grandparents (that would be my great, great, great grandparents and my great, great, great, great grandparents. Are you keeping track?) and she had pictures because she was the somewhat privileged daughter of a miller/judge.
Who needs ancestry.com when we had Grandma Jo?
Did you know that people in the olden days weren’t all grumpy? Cameras took ages to take the picture and it’s actually really difficult to say CHEEEEEEESE for that long (and besides, their mothers had probably told them that their faces might stick like that).
Also, they had to wear corsets. So, some of those frowns might have been due to a little grumpiness after all, as it strikes me that a corset might be even worse than control-top pantyhose.
Grandma Jo also had a time where she was a frequent fainter, just like I am.
My doctors always say, “you’ll probably live until you’re 100, you’ll just faint a lot”. Little do they know, if my great-great grandma was any indication, I could still be around in 2073.
Wacky to think about. I hope I still have teeth.
Or, at least the ability to eat tomatoes. I lo-o-o-o-ve tomatoes. And goofy hats. I’m definitely wearing goofy hats in 2073.
Anyway, old stuff (and people) don’t freak us out the way they do some families. Hence, the cemeteries.
There is a lovely one, in nearby Prince Edward County, Ontario. It’s right next to equally stunning Chadsey’s Cairn winery (which is currently for sale, so if you’re really inspired by this post, you might want to wander up there for a look-see.)
I picture my friend Pippi spending eternity next to the grapes. Me, I’m more of a water view kind of a gal. I can’t afford it in this life but I’m hoping that by 2073, the afterlife will be cheaper (especially if I agree to share my graveyard with jaunty picnickers.)
The vineyard graveyard was just begging for a picnic but we didn’t have a corkscrew or a lovely bit of fancy cheese, the last time we were there.
I think homemade cinnamon-sugar doughnuts from the stand down the road should count as a picnic, don’t you?
My first almost-grown-up cemetery picnic occurred when I was 15. It was under some big, beautiful trees at Trinity Church, on Wolfe Island, with my friend Gretchen (not really her name). Gretchen lives in Germany where everyone seems to plant their loved-ones’ individual plots completely, which I think is really nice (not to mention tidy) but, not conducive to a picnic.
Wolfe Island is not technically one of The Thousand Islands but it should be, because it’s right next door. It’s just a short ferry-ride from downtown and a picnic in a cemetery is always made even better when a ferry ride is involved.
Gretchen and I sang “In a Country Churchyard” by Chris de Burgh, slightly off-key but enthusiastically, and ate our sandwiches on the grass next to the tombstones.
It was peaceful.
You’re making that face again.
I hope it doesn’t stick like that.
I picture myself with a fetching hair scarf and Sophia Loren sunglasses.
Even though Sophia Loren was a bit before my time and I’m not completely sure my pasty Anglo-Saxon complexion can pull off her sunglasses, I’m sure they are the height of Italian sophistication. So, I need some.
My fetching scarf is blowing gaily around me in the wind and I am mysteriously alluring (despite my slightly sunburned and freckly visage) behind my Sophia Loren sunglasses and I have really white teeth that sparkle in the lemon-scented sea air when I laugh, because we’re on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, of course. Perhaps David Rocco or that guy from Under the Tuscan Sun is there too. Who knows?
After all, it’s a 1970 Fiat 500 I’m driving. I am meant for the Amalfi Coast with its spectacular coastlines and James Bond-y scenes in elegant casinos.
Oh wait. James Bond was in Monaco, I think.
Anyway, close enough.
The Fiat is elegant with its cream paint, streamlined steering wheel and custom 70s-inspired, flowered seat covers.
Of course, there is no room for luggage inside my diminutive little Bellina. I mean, what if David Rocco or that guy from Under the Tuscan Sun are hitchhiking and require rescuing or topping up of their Limoncello? We need room in the “back seat” (and I use that term generously) for such opportune emergencies. Besides, Bellina is too busy being stylish and Italian to worry about sensible things like where to stuff the luggage. Charmingly impractical.
Not unlike the scarf that is barely clinging to my hair.
Hence, the vintage suitcase, which I found last week in a local thrift shop.
If we want to carry anything with us (picnic lunch, sun goo for my pasty complexion, white dresses in case we suddenly feel the urge to change wardrobe for a date with the guy from Under the Tuscan Sun), we need to do so on the exterior of the car with a vintage-appropriate luggage rack over the boot (that’s British for “trunk” because it sounds closer to what a European car should have than “trunk” and besides, I don’t know how to say boot or trunk in Italian). I have great plans to plaster the valise with stickers appropriate to world travellers like Bellina and me.
“Hey, Chris, let’s go to the County,” says my friend, Pippi (not really her name but it makes her more mysterious this way, don’t you think?) She is wearing a similarly fetching Roman Holiday-inspired get-up and we are headed to nearby Prince Edward County, Ontario. There is no Limoncello but they are known for their wine and we plan to amuse the Jaguars and Porsches by pulling up next to them in the parking lots, pretending we are one of them (when, it should be obvious that we are far better). After which, Pippi will sample the local grapes.
“My name is not Chris,” I inform her haughtily. “I am Pia. Do my sunglasses mean nothing to you?”
Pippi grins at me and I notice that her teeth are sparkling in the sun.
It’s not quite Amalfi, but it will do.