Last spring I had the opportunity to visit the Renaissance Fair in Tavares, Florida. I am not a festival girl or a fair girl. I will go periodically if invited and if I really can’t think of an excuse not to go, but they’re not my thing. However, if I am forced to go to a fair, going to one with a medieval-y theme is the best way to go. At the time I was dating a man who was really into it. As in, I was worried that he might dress up for it and expect me to do the same. Fortunately, we met that day and were both wearing shorts and tee shirts like many of the other people there and our relationship plugged along for a few more months. If he had shown up in a costume I wasn’t sure how I’d respond, which proves that I’m just as judgmental as anyone else even though it’s something I feel constant pressure to work on.
He knew at the time that I liked cemeteries and funeral history, and I always had the sinking feeling that he didn’t really like that about me. If we were looking at a display of Hello Kitty items, he wanted to buy me the kitty with the pink bow on her ears, and I wanted the kitty in her coffin with her little fangs showing.
I think this bothered him.
At the time I was considering funeral school and was looking into courses, transferring credits, and embalming textbooks, and he never asked me one question about it, even though he knew exactly what I was doing. I had the curriculum on my kitchen counter with classes like Thanatology, Burial Law, and Funeral Home Management listed. He never wanted to know why I did the things I did or why I felt drawn to certain things, which should have been a red flag. Even though I saw and recognized the flag for what it was (doom), I looked the other way.
At the festival that day we walked around in the bright sunlight and looked at everything. We did a few things, and I enjoyed just being present and taking pictures, but every time we would pass a booth he would say, “Does anything look interesting? Anything you want?”. I always said no, not because I felt weird about him buying a gift for me, but because I didn’t see anything that interested me.
He found one booth that sold incense and wandered in. I followed, and a small coffin immediately caught my eye. It was made out of terra-cotta; it was a little toe-pincher with a tiny cross on the lid. The whole thing was probably three inches long and it had a cork at the top for you to pour in scented oil. I was smitten, and had planned to walk up and buy it myself when he appeared behind me and said, “I should have known that’s what you would choose.”
He took it from me and went to go pay for it, then gave it to me a few minutes later wrapped in paper and with a small vial of lavender oil. It’s hanging in my bathroom at home. I think about that day and about him buying that for me and how for one minute, even if he didn’t understand me, he tried to support me and not judge me.
Toward the end of the day we decided to make one last loop around the entire fair and see if we missed anything.
“I never saw a plague doctor,” I said. “There should be one here. There should at least be a nod to the Black Plague.”
He laughed at me. We walked on and a moment later I looked up to find that the powers of manifestation had worked for me. There was a plague doctor in an incredibly detailed costume right in front of me. People were asking for pictures and he was allowing it, but he didn’t let anyone touch him and he didn’t speak. I waited and asked for a picture. He silently nodded and then graciously posed for a shot. I was grinning so much my cheeks hurt afterwards. I put some money in the coffin shaped box at his waist and he bowed. I wanted to take him home. It was the highlight of my day.
Later that afternoon I sent the photo to one of my best friends and she texted me back.
“ROFL can’t even believe how incredibly happy you look!!!!!!! HAHAHAHA!!!!”
I do not have a picture of myself with my date from that day, and I didn’t realize that until many months later when I was writing this post. In June I applied for funeral school and turned in my financial aid paperwork. He waited until July and broke up with me, giving me a totally lame excuse for doing it. I let him go, but when I was throwing out various reminders of him I decided to keep the little coffin.
I kept the Keurig too. (Wouldn’t you?)
I decided not to attend funeral school after I was accepted. I never could tell if it was cold feet or if I understood on some level that that particular path would only get me out of one office and into another one, when I truly want out altogether. I thought I should wait until I was clear on what I wanted and I started this blog instead since I had racked up so many cemetery photos over the last year and I really wanted people to understand why these sites are important. I was finally able to realize that my interests were really two completely different things.
I may not be on my way to being a funeral director, but I’ve learned so much about Florida, Southern history, death and grief, cemeteries, and myself in the last year that I can’t be sorry for that decision not to go back to school. I think if I had I wouldn’t have met Shawn, gotten engaged, or had time for anything except school and working full time. It’s a true calling for those who enter into that profession, but for now I’m called in a different direction.
I still love that photo of myself with the plague doctor. It’s really the history of things and people that I love. Keeping them alive.