Musings on Childhood and Hell

A lot of my childhood memories are of me just trying to figure things out.

My mother and I watched a funeral procession when I was almost four. She pointed out the beautiful white horses that pulled the carriage.

I asked what the box in the carriage was. She said a casket. Then she said the man’s body was in it.

His body. I thought about that for a while. If he body was in the casket where was the rest of him. Where did they put his arms and legs and head?

Of course I didn’t ask my mother about it.

I grew up in a Vampire family but nobody in my house slept in caskets or lived in cemeteries. Where we lived didn’t have a lot of history so the cemeteries were fairly new anyway.

We also didn’t spend a lot of time in church. Like I said, I grew up in a Vampire family and in the Vampire community. That said, my brother Val and I were fascinated with churches.

One Sunday when I was about six years old, and Val was seven, we went inside the tent of a traveling preacher. Many people smiled at the two small, somewhat well dressed children who sat quietly in the back. We didn’t fidget or squirm like the other children, but sat completely still and listened in horror as a man in a black suit hollered about sin, damnation and HELL.

When we got home we asked our fourteen year old brother Andy about what we’d heard.
“Where is Hell?” I asked him.

“Hell is where people who aren’t Vampires go when they’re bad,” said Andy.

“I thought bad people went to jail,” said Val, trying to sound grown up.

Andy smiled with just a hint of fang and said, “Bad people do go to jail. They go to Hell after they’re hanged.”

After that Andy took it upon himself to educate Val and me. He read us Dante’s Inferno. I didn’t understand any of it but the pictures were terrifying. We read bits of the Bible. That was also terrifying. Then Andy read us Faust and sang songs from the opera (which was first performed in 1859, the year I was born.) Faust seemed like an idiot to me but I never told Andy that.

Later my parents sat us down and told us about good and evil. We learned of demons and the fallen ones. We learned of angels and what to watch out for. We learned of things that lived in the shadows. But most of all they told us to beware the darkness in the hearts of men, false prophets, and those who use the beautiful cloak of ignorance to blind and control.

As we grew up and grew the wiser I still remember thinking about what Andy said.

They go to Hell after they’re hanged. 

I suppose Hell is whatever you want it to be, and when or where ever you want it to be. But I’m not really thinking about that much, and I don’t think about much of anything Andy says anymore. He’s the crazy one. Don’t take me wrong, I love my musically gifted and somewhat dramatic and romantic sibling.

Over the years Val and I continued to sit in the back of churches and circus tents, I mean church tents, and listen, mostly for the music. Vampires love music of all kinds. We get it where we can.

We also wonder how we grew up to be so normal, but then again, most people get things wrong as children. That I guess is why we’re not born adults.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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The Quiet Beauty of San Miniato al Monte

Last week, it seems like yesterday, and it seems like a hundred years ago, I was at San Miniato al Monte monastery and cemetery in Florence, Italy.

The church was built in the year 1018 with no power tools, and workers who no doubt couldn’t even write their own names. It is beauty from a dark time.

It was an unexpected, moving, and beautiful find.

We (my husband, children and I) expected to find an old monastery at the highest point in Florence. We did not expect to find the huge cemetery surrounding it.

There was not enough time to spend there. I could have spent a week looking at the hundreds of touching statues that spoke of memories, but there by those who loved and those who lost their hearts. So many dates were from the 1940’s. So many were children.

The ghosts lurked far from us, watching us walk through the rain. More than anything we could feel the love and the loss. It is a special place where those who are no longer remembered by anyone now living, are still touching our hearts and souls.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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City of the Angels Part 2: Beauty in the land of the dead

Last Thursday I visited the city of Colma, where almost everyone is dead. Seriously, over a million graves are there with less than 2,000 living in residence. There are no cemeteries in San Francisco – they were all moved to Colma. People and pets are still buried there to this day.

The photos were taken by my friend Amelia who joined Clara and I for the day. Thank you Amelia. These are lovely.

Click here for Part 1.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Colma: Part 1, City of Angels – A Photo Essay

No cemeteries are allowed in San Francisco. The town of Colma has become the official cemetery spot and now hosts over a million graves. The photos are from The Italian Cemetery, Cypress Lawn, and a pet cemetery.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Children's Area Italian Cemetery, Colma, CA

Children’s Area Italian Cemetery, Colma, CA

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Sweet Sixteen in the Land of Ghosts

11402776_788677647915951_3202576563265530011_n“I suppose the monuments and stones give some measure of comfort to those who are left behind,” said my husband Teddy as we walked along the pathways and trees under which the monuments and stones stood as silent reminders of those buried beneath them.

It was July 5th, our daughter Clara’s 16th birthday. She and her friends wanted to explore the Old City Cemetery. It was founded in 1849, the year of the California Gold Rush. The population of those interned grew by over 600 in 1850 due to a cholera epidemic. Wars and illness, childbirth and accidents added to it over the years, along with old age. Not that many in old age as so many are so young.

The famous are there as well as those less known. All are remembered in some way today even if it only a stone that can be admired by strangers in our strange modern world.

Teddy wandered over to where a few of his siblings rested their bones. There are many there we were acquainted with at one time.

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One learns to thinks of happy memories. Well sometimes. Today I wondered if a dear friend had died in an accident long ago or by his own hand. I wondered if another would be alive today with modern medicine. And there are those times when I wonder if only we had changed a long-lost friend to be one of us, a Vampire, who is considered dead by those who don’t understand.

Teddy called my daughter and her three friends over to a small marker in the sun among many military markers there. There were flowers on it, no doubt from a sister or old friend. My heart broke. He was nineteen years old. He died on June 6, 1944 in Normandy. D-Day. Only minutes before I’d mentioned how horrible and tragic war was and how insane it was that humans would waste so many young lives. I didn’t take a picture of the stone or remember the name. I just thought of a man who would now be in his 80’s. I thought of a man who might have had a life with a woman who loved him and surrounded by grandchildren. A man who would have gone to college with the GI bill and found the cure to cancer, or won an Oscar, or been a High School teacher.

11695844_788677607915955_517776853930036767_nThere is a beauty to the grave markers. Lambs show us where small children sleep forever. Flowers carved in stone bloom in the cold winter nights. Books are piled for a young lawyer who will now have an eternity to read and ponder the universe. Monuments are inscribed with messages of love, loss and accomplishments.

I watched the four teens we were with talking and exploring. And odd way to spend a Sweet Sixteen. Or at least the beginning of the day. Thank goodness for a cool breeze.

11705101_788677614582621_6963382646916935474_nA few ghosts stood under the trees watching us with soulful black eyes. We stayed away and left them alone to their own kind. Most of us can only see the ghosts that haunt our own hearts, the ghosts we allow into our lives and memories.

I’ve shared photos of this place before (CLICK HERE to see them) but this time I spent more time just walking with my husband among the flowers and stones, and quiet statues.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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