Every Christmas my aunt and my grandmother sit at the kitchen table and make baskets for the graves. They take excess Christmas tree sprigs, holly berries and other woodland decor and fashion small baskets to be placed at each family grave. When I was a kid they used to take us along with them. Now my son Max has become the designated grave decor expert of the family. In his short 6 years of life he has taken on quite the affinity for this activity.
My aunt called to notify me that they were ready to place the baskets and she wanted Max to come along. Max loves graveyards. He thinks that they are one of the coolest playgrounds around. We happen to live near a large famous one that he is particularly fond of, The Mount Auburn Cemetery. He loves the old family mausoleums that pepper the lot. He runs up to the doors and tries to peer into the ancient cracks to see what is inside. As you drive through the cemetery he will strain to see out the window and excitedly point out the intricate statues and memorials.
He took it on this year with a new fervor. Jamie and I were getting ready to leave the house and waiting in the front hall. Max walked out of his bedroom. He was dressed in regular clothes but with a few extra glaringly obvious accessories. He had an enormous light saber stuck through his belt loop, he was wearing his Indian Jones fedora, and in his hand dangled a large rubber skull. The skull was a Christmas gift from my father. It has a trigger button on it that makes it's eyes glow white and it shakes and moans loudly for two minutes. Grandpa Ed consistently nails it when it comes to gifts for Max. Max also had something bulging out of his pocket. I asked what it was and he gingerly pulled out a large chunk of fossilized dinosaur poop. Another gift from Grandpa Ed. He pulled on his coat and his rubber army fatigue rain boots and stood at the door ready to go. He looked absolutely insane. As we drove over to my Grandmothers I tried to figure out the best way to diffuse this. I did not mind most of the outfit. But the skull was unnerving. It was really loud and seemed enormously inappropriate for a somber day of remembrance at the family grave. Especially given the fact that my 97 year old Grandmother would be in attendance. I just was not sure she'd get the joke. I tried to talk Max out of the skull but he protested loudly.
"But Momma, skulls are supposed to go to cemeteries!" he whined
I was the weird one. How could I possibly think for a moment that this was an inappropriate prop for the journey? Skulls do go with cemeteries. He kept hitting the trigger button so it's canned wails filled the backseat of my car. All I could think about is that Gagee was going to be absolutely terrified of this thing. At 97 and teetering on the brink of Alzheimer's, I was not sure how she was going to digest all of this. 85% of the time she thinks that my grandfather is still alive and living in the house with her. So now the were taking a day trip to the place that reminds her that he is indeed gone, and my son was providing the eerie backdrop music.
We got to her house and Max ran in. My aunt regarded his outfit with a raised eyebrow. She began to open her mouth and I stopped her mid-comment. I told her to do whatever she wanted and if she needed to insist he leave something behind then it was her call. He ran into Gagee's bedroom with the skull. I hovered outside the door listening to their conversation. She told him how much she loved his hat. She indicated how impressed she was with the light saber as he brandished it about her room knocking amber colored pill bottles off of her table. He hit the button on the skull and it's wails took over the room, the head shaking wildly and the eyes blinking in unison. I heard her say to him:
"Well Max, I am not sure which thing Papa will love more when we visit him today. The skull or the dinosaur poo? We will find out when we get there."