There was a passport in his bag, money in his pocket.
For the past few years Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book has been my favorite read-aloud in my classroom. Loosely based on The Jungle Book, it’s a bout a live boy named Bod who’s raised by a family of ghosts in a graveyard. It’s spooky and funny and incredibly touching all at the same time, and the kids usually vote it their favorite as well.
But that last chapter just kills me every time I read it. I won’t spoil any of the plot, but basically it’s about goodbyes, and the main character’s realization that he’s grown up, and that it’s time to leave the graveyard and face the unknown. Perhaps that sounds a bit basic, but it’s written very, very well, and the final moments are well-earned. (You can watch/listen to Gaiman read the entire book for free right here.) The farewell from Silas, and the moment he sees his mother standing at the gate of the graveyard…man…it gets me every time without fail.
I grew up in a small town called Sandwich. Mostly. For a while I thought it was the only town I ever wanted to live in. Eventually I moved away, but it was really just down the road. But ever since I sat and impatiently waited for a shuttle bus that would never come, in London, eleven years ago, I knew that one day I would have to leave my own graveyard.
Bod said, “If I change my mind, can I come back here?” And then he answered his own question. “If I come back, it will be a place, but it won’t be home any longer.”
I head home tomorrow. For the past couple of days I’ve said my farewells to my very, very good friends from Dublin, although tomorrow morning’s will easily be the worst. But my mother will be waiting for me on the other side, and for the first time in my life, I am coming home for Christmas. Those are good things.
It shall remain to be seen whether or not I’ve “gotten it out of my system,” as both Donal and my grandmother have called my desire to leave everything and go live overseas for a while. Sure it was going to be a year instead of six months, but would that have been enough? Or too much? I like to think that my time here was my time here. It was what I got, and that should be enough.
And will I be able to pick up the pieces of an old life? What will be home, and what will just be “a place” now? I think that remains to be seen, although I’m curious what my reaction will be now when I read the final chapter of The Graveyard Book aloud. That might be the true test of whether or not I’ve gotten this business out of my system.
But between now and then there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his eyes and his heart wide open.
This is the 39th post of the 4-T Tales. There will be one more, the 40th, appropriately, and then this part of the story will come to an end. Stay tuned, dear readers…