The northern summer sun was casting long shadows,
making Stella feel very tall.
A farmer riding a John Deere lawnmower was just finishing
up in the little graveyard of a white clapboard church. Stella thought
he looked funny as he rode away, since all we could see was his
head bobbing up and down behind the cornrows. I sat cross-legged
in the shade thrown by the gravestone of Anne Marie Hanson: Beloved
Wife and Mother. Stella twirled and leaped between the gravestones,
humming a waltz and grass-staining her slippers.
I dont think shed ever even been to a
graveyard before, and wasnt yet conditioned to feel the morbidity
of human bones. I told her that some people wouldnt like her
standing on the graves. Im not standing, Im dancing!
And that guy was driving all over them.
Poor dead people, I thought. When youre dead
you cant say anything to the irreverent little girl stirring
up the dust that used to be you.
Perhaps forbidding ancestor worship wasnt so
smart after all. Stella skipped around a bit more, climbing over
the gravestones and singing her clever mantra: You are dead
and Im alive, you are old and I am five. She pushed
herself up onto a rectangular gravestone and straddled it like a
balance beam. Squinting into the sun, she asked me why the flag
has so many stars.