Family Traditions


Photo A.M. Moscoso

My Great Grandfather Bertie used to be a carpenter- and in the small town he lived in it goes without saying ( but I will anyway ) that he built and repaired and did all of the woodwork in Frog Spitts, Washington.

One of his jobs was to put together the occasional coffin ( he used to say that back in his young day he built more for women and young children then anyone else, which he found sad. So he would take extra care with that work and sometimes he did carvings on the lids and around the sides.

Long after Great Grandfather Bertie died and his Granddaughter who had inherited his house and property and lived there until she was a very old lady and Frog Spitts was absorbed by Seattle and all that was left to say Frog Spitts  had ever existed was that the railroad named the  junction after it.

There’s a white metal sign there at the jucntion with Frog Spitts printed in black block lettering- a basic and no frills grave marker for a dead town.

Anyway, when our family went in to get the house ready to sell one of my relatives had hired a special crew to come in and sort and pack Grandfather Bertie’s workshop.

Everything in there- the half finished projects, the tools, the hardware and plans for his projects were stored and sorted as neatly as a hospital operating room, so it was quick work to get everything crated and ready to move to one of our other relatives who was a woodworker too.

When they were about to bring out the last of Grandfather Bertie’s projects I heard my Mother say from where I was standing on the back porch, ‘crate those up before you bring them out.’- and make sure you go over the shipping directions with Penelope, she’s got the instructions from the airlines-”

Curious about what projects were being shipped out to anyone over 70 years after they were constructed , I went out to the workshop behind the house.

Sitting in the center of the workshop were two coffins- nowdays they are called ‘traditional models’ because nobody calls them inexpensive pine boxes. That’s just not dignified.

My Aunt Penelope was talking to my cousins who were about to start putting the coffins into the crates and she gave me a little wave hello so I walked up and looked at the shipping instructions.

” It’s going to cost a pretty penny to fly these to-”  I read the receivers address and this time I made sure I read the County’s  name a few times  ” that’s weird. ” I said.

My Aunt looked at me and I zipped my mouth shut. She hated it when people were ‘obvious’.

Aunt Penelope went on” these need to be on time- the connecting flights are sketchy and the receiver said the delivery agency at their end is on a tight timeline so let’s do our part to make this work.”

She left the three of us standing there and I said again, ‘ like I said, that’s weird, it’s not like they don’t have coffins there.”

My cousin Percy made sure our Aunt was out of earshot and he said, ” that’s not the weird part. Look in here-” Percy and my other cousin  Franklin lifted the lid and pointed to the inside.

Percy pointed right by the locks that were inside of the casket and straight by  the key that  was resting on a bed of soft dark earth sprinkled lightly  on top the soft cream colored liner.

” You’re right Percy. That is weird. There isn’t as much dirt in there as  thought there would be. ”

Percy and Franklin looked at each other over the coffin and shrugged.

They put the lid back on on got the two coffins ready to go to their final destination in a city called Sighișoara, where two former residents of Frog Spitts, Washington  went to retire years before we were born and in all likelihood before Great Grandfather Bertie was born and they have been eagerly waiting -hungrily -for their sweet memories of home to arrive.