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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thank You! You've Been a Lovely Audience

Given my own childhood experiences visiting cemeteries, it seems natural that my kid would join me  on my new venture into Find A Grave volunteer photography.  Elle has enjoyed the hunt in all aspects but one--the mausoleum.  For some reason she is fine with the idea of bodies in the ground we're walking on but not the idea of them stacked in "drawers" around her.  Fair enough, we all have to make our peace and find our comfort level with the end game and the combination is different for all of us.  She is very earthy so it makes sense.  I promised her if she wanted to come with me again she would never have to go in another mausoleum.  Ever.  Still, when I headed out today and told her she could stay home with her dad, I was surprised that she was furious I would consider leaving her behind.  So off we went. 

Elle is a very handy helper and always good company.  We each take different rows looking for our "claimed" name and, once found, the two of us pretzel ourselves into the various poses necessary to block the sun from dappling on the headstone.  Then it is Elle's job to find a little stone to leave behind for us to say "we're your family's proxy and you are not forgotten".

At our last section today I saw the headstone Messerschmidt and thought of my father.  When I was around 14, Dad told me a joke about a WWII hero speaking at a DAR luncheon. The pilot was telling a thrilling tale of battle explaining that "There were Fockes on our left and Fockes on our right" and at the sound of the word Fockes there was a bit of mumbling and gasping from the ladies who thought they were hearing an altogether different word.  The pilot continued  "The Fockes opened fire and..."
The luncheon host quickly stood up and interrupted the pilot's story and said "I think you may need to explain to the audience that Fockes are a type of German plane".

"Oh, of course, Fockes are a type of German plane" confirmed the pilot..."But these Fockes were Messerschmidts".


As often happens with me and Elle, I start a conversation with her that is age inappropriate.  I back myself into a corner with my nostalgia about Fockes, Messerschmidts and Dad and begin trying to tell Elle this joke full of new words and ideas while promising to tell her the joke again when she was older.  The idea of waiting didn't sit well with her so, as we walked the lanes edged with headstones, I push on explaining the difference between the names of the planes and the "F" word.  To some extent, she does know about World Wars but not the "F" word.  It is funny what we find offensive--Anglo Saxon epithets vs. War, but we work within the society we live.  In her most adorable way, to reward my efforts of drawn out explanations, Elle roars with delight at the punch line on the 5th retelling.  I know it was her generous way of wrapping it up for both of us so we could move on.  She didn't fully get it but like any soon-to-be 8 year-old, she wanted to badly enough to pretend. 

For me, it was nice to give Elle a glimpse of the grandfather she never knew.