When I was little, my family would make a monthly pilgrimage from Long Island to Manhattan for dinner at Grandma's.  Each time, we would leave late. Each time, we would get stuck in traffic. And each time, I would learn a new swear word from my dad. 

As we crept along the expressway, I began my usual ritual: 
1-Annoy baby sister until she started crying.
2-Find hiding place for newly picked booger. 
3-Repeat steps 1 & 2 until smacked. 

But one Sunday morning, I was too car sick to continue so I fixed my attention on the scenery.  Buildings with broken glass, stacked chimneys and old mills floated by in slow motion until we reached a clearing.  It was a large space  covered with grass and lined with stone slabs that stuck out of the ground in neat rows-almost like giant dominoes.  Some had crosses on top of them, others had angels.  There were stone little house structures too.   It seemed to me there were millions of them.  I was captivated.

“Mommy?”

She didn’t answer. She was staring out the window too. As the car sped up the rows of stone dominoes  passed by quicker and quicker.

“Mommy, what are those? “

“Graves.”

“What’s graves?”

“It’s where they bury dead people.”

Dead people.  All those graves.   So many dead people.  I couldn’t imagine in all of the world that there would be so many dead people. 

“How did they all die?”

Mom shugged.  She was hypnotized by the pattern of the rows passing before our eyes too.   I didn’t think she would answer but then she slowly whispered, 

“They all ate poison berries.”


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