Spirits in my pockets

Published 11:00 pm Friday, May 24, 2013

My granny’s word stung like a bee and hurt a whole lot more.

“Get yourself offa there! You know better than to walk on a grave! What’s got into you!”

I jumped off the grave slab and ran as hard as I could to the back of the graveyard. Partly because Mugi was coming toward me with a yard broom but mainly because tears were stinging my eyes.

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I wished that I had stayed home with Mama. She would have come to Decoration Day except we were going to have a picnic and she didn’t want to eat outside where flies were swarming and ants were crawling. If I could have crawled down in one of those holes in the ant bed, I would have — Mugi hollering at me with all those folks … and Uncle John … around.

I busied myself picking up rocks and putting them in my bucket.

I felt sad and ashamed of what I had done. Nobody had told me not to walk on a grave. I’d just stepped up there to put rocks in the jar of flowers so it wouldn’t get blown over. That was my job – picking up rocks and putting them in the Mason jars of flowers that decorated the graves.

Early that morning, Mugi said she wanted to go to the graveyard “over around home.” It was Decoration Day and folks would be coming to clean up the graveyard and put flowers on all the graves. On the way to the graveyard, we stopped along the road and picked wildflowers and outhouse roses that were climbing the fences.

I loved picking flowers and the roses reminded me of Barbrie Allen – that song about hardhearted Barbrie Allen and Sweet William and how they died and a rose grew out of his grave and briars out of hers and wrapped around in a true-lovers knot. That’s how come roses have thorns. That’s what Mugi said.

“Sing ‘Barbrie Allen,’” I begged Mugi and she did. We were having a good time.

A bunch of young’un cousins were at the graveyard but Mugi said,

“Don’t be playing now. We’re here to work.”

I picked up little rocks that were scattered along the road by the cemetery and put them in the bucket. As soon as anybody put flowers and water in a jar, I dropped in a few rocks for weight. That was fun until I stepped up on the grave and got yelled at.

“If you step on a grave you’ll die,” one of my ugly little boy cousins said. “Sometimes, evil spirits will come out of the grave and get in your pockets. They’ll come out at night when you’re in bed and take you back to the grave with them. But, if you’ll turn your pockets inside out, the evil spirits will fall out.”

“Will not,” I said with my eyes as big as saucers.

“Just wait and see.”

Our picnic lunch would usually have been my favorite part of Decoration Day but I couldn’t eat. All I could think about was standing on that grave and evil spirits and dying.

Aunt Eleanor asked me what was wrong and I said I had a “stumma-cake.”

Why are your pockets inside out?” she said, as she looked me over good.

“I don’t know,” I said, telling a big ol’ story. But I was scared and sorry of the bad thing I had done.

I went over to the grave I had walked on and brushed it off real good and whispered to the spirits that I was sorry. I felt better and went back and ate two drumsticks and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

On the way home from Decoration Day, Mugi started singing about hard-hearted Barbrie Allen.

“No, Mugi. Don’t sing about graves. Shhhh.”