Stretching out along Forest Street in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, this cemetery is not only a place where people come to mourn for their relatives who have passed on. It is also a place of recreation.
Among many other things, it has a very beautiful pond with ducks and geese. People drive in, stretch themselves out on lawn chairs and dip into their mini coolers for snacks while they wait for a fish to gulp on the bait of their stationary fishing rod.
Children nearby feed bread to the ducks while love-lorn teenagers stretch out on the grass with their girlfriends. Now, while I haven't seen anybody taking their driving
lessons or sunbathing by the cemetery's pond with my own eyes, the cemetery workers must have encountered these activities often. Otherwise why would they place the signs
"Absolutely no Sunbathing" and "No Driving Lessons."
Now, I personally can't blame folks for treating this cemetery as park. It's true, that people could
instead visit an adjacent real park, Pine Banks, with which , incidentally, Forestdale is connected by by a narrow path through a small woods that otherwise separates the two places.
The thing is, however, that it's much larger than the park in size and has many more trees. And that makes a big difference in the summer. New England heat is usually unbearable, but the foliage of these trees dances madly to and fro with the wind, effecting a pleasant breeze that cools one's throbbing, sweaty, and palpipated temples. Besides, having a bigger size than the park means that there's much more room in the cemetery for both taking a walk or biking
One reason people might like to come to this place is because it offers solitude. People who come to visit graves usually come one at a time; there are no days where many come at the same time, except perhaps on Veteran's Day and Patriot's Day, and Memorial Day.
Therefore, on any given day, a person will be walking through the cemetery's long tree-lined paths by himself or
herself. Now this sounds somewhat like a contradiction because at the beginning I listed the multiple recreational activities people undertake at the cemetery. But these are not frequent; they usually happen at least of a few days or even more than a week apart.
But even on days, that these recreational activities do occur, the vast size of the cemetery means that you can walk away from the pond where most people gather and take walks in virtual solitude. The opportunity for seclusion here probably explains why a guy would decide to bring his girlfriend here of all places for a romantic rendez-vous. There's no fear of being watched in the heat of romance by the prurient eyes of strangers.
Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe the real reason some romantic couples like the cemetery is because they find the prospect of being intimate in the atmosphere of gravestones exciting. I've encountered enough who romanticize death in general and funerals in particular to find this notion credible.
By the way, another thing that makes this cemetery feel like it's secluded is the fact that its ground level is lower than the surrounding streets. So while you are walking
or biking through it, there's a feeling that the nearby world with its houses, traffic has disappeared because you have to stretch your neck to look up and see it.
And the sense of separation is kind of real because the cemetery, despite being a mile and half a wide has only two exit gates. Of course, you can always climb up on the stone wall that separates the cemetery from Forest Street and jump down to the sidewalk. But if my personal observations of people's behavior are trustworthy, then this strenuous method of going out onto the street is used rather rarely.