My grandmother’s words stung like bees and hurt much more.
“Get out there! You know better than to walk on a grave. What’s the matter with you !”
I jumped off the burial slab and ran as hard as I could to the bottom of the cemetery. Partly because my grandmother came to me with a garden broom but mostly because tears stung my eyes.
I wish I had stayed home with mom. She would have come to Decoration Day except we were going on a picnic and she didn’t want to eat outside where the flies were swarming and the ants were crawling. If I could have crawled through one of those holes in that anthill, I would have. My grand’mother. yelling at me in front of all these people on decorating day.
I kept my eyes downcast and busied myself picking up rocks and putting them in my bucket.
I felt sad and ashamed of what I had done. Nobody told me not to walk on a grave. I had just intervened to put stones in a flowerpot so that it would not be knocked over. That was my job – picking up stones and putting them in the vases and mason jars of flowers that decorated the graves on decorating day.
Early that morning, my grandmother wanted to go to the cemetery around Texasville. It was decorating day and people would come and clean up the cemetery and put flowers on all the graves of the men who had fought in the wars. We stopped along the road and picked some wildflowers and outdoor rose bushes climbing up the rows of fences.
At the cemetery, my grandmother said in a loud voice so all the young people could hear, “Don’t play now. We are all here to work!
I picked up the small pebbles scattered along the road near the cemetery and put them in my bucket. As soon as someone put flowers in a pot of water, I dropped a few stones for weight. It was fun until I walked on the grave and got yelled at.
“If you step on a grave, the spirits will come out and drag you into the woods,” said a mean cousin. “Sometimes they come out of the grave and end up in your pocket. Then, when you are asleep in the bed, the spirits will come out and take you back with them to the grave.
Tears welled up in my eyes but I wiped them away with the back of my hand.
The ladies had packed a big picnic but I had a stomach ache and couldn’t eat.
Uncle Ezra came to sit next to me.
“Little girls putting stones in vases on decorating day are very special,” he said. “They make spirits happy. Did you know ?
All of a sudden, my stomach stopped hurting. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a drumstick, then went back to putting pebbles in the jars. But, I turned my pockets inside out and left them outside. Then I returned to the grave I had walked on and whispered that I was sorry and that I would never do that again.