"Grasshopper Funerals in the 1950's-"I'm not a boy."
Ting took us Walking
Walking in Stanley Park
When I was little an English lady called Ting used to take a group of apartment kids walking in Stanley Park. I squirmed and sweated while Mommy dressed me in warm woolen sweaters and tights. I cringed when she started to zip up my windbreaker because sometimes as she zipped it up to the top, the zipper pinched the skin at my neck. Then I ran out the front door into the cold air and jumped down the cement steps to the sidewalk.
I grabbed on to Ting's long scratchy rope and away we went. Ting in front and kids behind in order---smallest to biggest. I started out smallest and gradually worked my way up. When it rained the rope got wet and heavy.
We picked up Garbage and DEAD THINGS.
Ting taught us to pick up garbage and put it in the bins.. And she taught us how to bury dead things: beetles, sparrows, robins, and even mice. We learned to dig the hole with a stick and to lift the dead creature carefully.
“Never touch the dead animal with your bare fingers,” said Ting. “Use sticks and leaves so you don’t get germs on your hands.”
We’d drop the dead animal into the hole, cover it with leaves, and fill in the hole with dirt. Then we would put daisies and dandelions on the grave and make a circle around the bump with rocks. We used grass or elastic bands to tie two sticks together for a cross to put on the grave. Then we would bow our heads and say the prayer. One time I tried making a Jewish star instead of a cross but it took a lot more sticks.
Ting said, “ The body will rot and turn to dirt. The soul will fly up to heaven.
I Get a HAIRCUT
The summer I was turning five I took the train to Radium Hot Springs with my little Grandma. Mommy sent me with Daddy to get a haircut before I left. Daddy didn’t take me to the beauty parlor; he took me to the barber shop. l was dressed in my wonderful cowboy boots, cowboy blue jeans, and a plaid flannel shirt.
"Cut it short," Daddy said. Then he went to talk with the guys sitting at the back. I was high off the ground in a big chair all covered with a white sheet. The barber picked up a buzzing machine and gave me a crew cut. Dad was afraid to take me home.
“I told you to get it cut short, not make her look like a boy!” Mommy yelled at him.
Mommy didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want my little grandmother to see my scalped head and yell at her. Mommy was afraid of grandma, but I wasn’t. Grandma never yelled at me. She always gave me treats and quarters. So mommy got my navy blue tam and pulled it down over my ears.
“Don’t take it off until the train has left.”
When grandma took off my tam she moaned. But what could she do? We went past the heavy noisy doors to the dining car with the white table cloths and shaking silver knives and spoons.
“What a nice grandson,” the waiter said.
“She's not a boy she‘s a girl,” Grandma said. People kept calling me a fine young man, a nice boy.
“I’m not a boy, I’m a girl. I’m a tom boy,” I said.
At Radium Hot Springs, we went down to the dining hall for breakfast every morning. There were heads of big animals with shiny eyes staring down at us. I thought the moose and elk and bear were real animals sticking their heads through holes in the wall. But they never blinked.
“Grandma, are the animals alive?”
“No, they’re stuffed.”
After breakfast we went swimming in the hot pool. After lunch Grandma went to join the ladies bridge game. She told me I could go outside and play.
I climbed up the dark narrow stairs at the end of the corridor and out the back door of the hotel. Outside there was a big field and a house. A boy came out the house and ran across the field to play with me. “What’s your name?” he asked.
“That’s not a boy’s name.”
“I’m not a boy. I’m a girl.”
“Oh. That’s OK. I’m Bobby.”
We hiked in the hills, climbed on the red rock cliffs, jumped along the edge of the stream, and every day we ran in the big field. We caught red and green grasshoppers in a jar and then we let them go.
“Let’s play funeral,” Bobby said. He caught a grasshopper, took a matchbox from his pocket and put the grasshopper inside.
“Bobby, don’t put the grasshopper in the box. He won’t be able to breathe. We can’t bury him alive.”
“It’s OK,” Bobby said as he dug a hole with a stick and put the matchbox in. I had trouble breathing as I watched him fill in the hole. Bobby put flowers and a cross made from two sticks on top of the grave and put a nice circle of rocks around it. I didn’t help. I felt like crying when we said the prayer. I was sorry for the poor little grasshopper.
I wandered off to the center of the field. Bobby joined me and we played look-at-the-animal-shapes-in-the-clouds, but I was still sad.
“Now we dig him up,” Bobby said.
“But he’s dead.” Bobby just ran back to the grave, pushed away the rocks and flowers, and dug up the matchbox.
He opened the box and but the grasshopper didn’t move. He dumped the grasshopper into his hand and suddenly the grasshopper flew away.
“Bobby this is impossible. How can he be alive?”
“It’s just like Jesus,” Bobby said. "He gets dead, he gets buried and then he comes alive again and he flies away.”
“That’s not fair Bobby,” I said. “I’m Jewish. And we don’t believe in Jesus.”
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