The night before the burial of my mother’s ashes, I slept very badly. My dog and cat were restive also. I woke up depressed. I was sure that I would lose control of my emotions at Tecla’s grave.
I reached into my drawer for pantyhose and picked a pair that did not look familiar to me. They went on easily, too easily.
The plan was to meet my cousin Linda at her office on Market and Van Ness, at the Bank of America where she works. My dog Lola and I found Linda waiting for us outside 1455 Market.
By the time we got to the garage of her building the pantyhose were sliding down to my buttocks. I had to hitch them up several times before himwe reached her car in the garage. As we got to the door of her car I actually had to pull up my skirt and rearrange them over my nether parts.
I realize that they must have been mamma’s pantyhose that I took when I cleaned out her nightstand the day she died. We drove to the office of the Italian Cemetery in Colma and found cousins Stanley and Bob waiting for us. Before we walked out to the cemetery itself I had to duck into the ladies room so I could pull the hose back over my behind.
Italian Cemetery is a lovely place with broad paths, expressive statuary and dignified mausoleums. The sun was shining, a welcome event after several days of cold weather. The trees that line the path are sculpted into halos so the sun casts intriguing shadows of the branches onto the ground below.
Linda, Stanley, Bob, the dog and I walked towards the lot where my grandparents’ crypt is. I was extremely uncomfortable with these damned hose wiggling and slipping. I told Bob and Stanley what I was dealing with and they roared. Linda said, “Why don’t you just take them off?”
“I don’t wear panties underneath,” I said. One of them yelled out: “Too much information!”
What could’ve been and perhaps should have been a solemn occasion was instead slapstick. Every few steps I gripped my skirt and hoisted my hose up under them, staggering all the while like Quasimodo or Frankenstein’s Igor.
When we arrived at my grandparents’ grave it was open. Joanne, the admin at the cemetery, explained the crypt’s interior to us. We looked down a shaft, perhaps 6 to 8 feet down to see a flat surface. Under that were the caskets of my grandparents and their two infant children, Albertina and Albertino. Which you would never know it because their remains were completely sealed by a false surface.
Mamma’s ashes had been placed in a white plastic container about the size of a microwave oven. Andy Canepa at the cemetery office had explained to me that the container of ashes was really quite small but he had packed it in bubble wrap so that it wouldn’t wobble in the white plastic box. Her name “Tecla Brevetti” was emblazoned on the top.
A worker standing by at the grave descended the ladder and took mamma’s remains down to the floor of the crypt. Stanley and Bob had brought a bouquet of flowers — something I hadn’t thought of — and Stanley extracted the one red rose — he remembered that Tecla’s favorite color was red. He threw it down into the crypt and without human intervention it landed right on mother’s box of ashes.
“Tecla is running the show today,” Stanley said.
Later I wondered if Tecla had guided my hands to those pantyhose so that we could have a rollicking rather than a sobbing experience at her grave.
We all looked at each other and wondered what we should be saying or doing because I had decided to prepare no ritual.
Linda said, “Should we sing something?”
So I sang two lines of the Italian song “Mamma”.
And we returned to the cemetery office with me staggering still.
After that I had Andy identify for me the address of my aunt and uncle’s grave. It was just a couple of rows away from the Puccetti site. A very modest affair which kind of surprised me.
And that was the end of our day at the cemetery on January 20, 2001.