We built a little fire pit under our house a few weeks ago (remember, our house is on stilts varying 8-14 feet off the ground). It’s been a nice way to have some fun, relaxed family time on the weekends, as well as be a teaching opportunity for the boys about fire safety. Sometimes we’ll make hot chocolate over the fire, other times we’ll split a pack of Pop-Tarts and talk about the week, and every once in a while we’ll unintentionally desecrate someone’s bodily remains. Like I said, fun family times.
It came about like this: Manny was poking a stick into the fire, trying to get it to light, Tucker was crawling around behind me on our bench trying to “hide from the smoke,” and Griffin was playing in the dirt next to Rochelle.
This particular morning, Griffin was experiencing a little more freedom than he is normally allowed when outside, because we’ve been trying to encourage him to use a few parent-approved playtime survival techniques, so we don’t have to always be on high-alert when we’re outside together. Nothing fancy, just the basics: stay close to Mom and Dad, fires are for looking, not touching, don’t eat cat poop you find in the dirt, etc.
He was doing pretty well, for the most part, but then Rochelle, noticing that he had become particularly quiet, went over and checked on him.
“What do you have in your mouth?” she asked. “Is that a stone? Yucky. Stones are bad, Griffin. We don’t eat…AAAUGH!”
And then she came over and showed me the tooth that she had taken from our 1 year-old’s mouth – a broken, dirty tooth. And, to clarify, it wasn’t one of HIS teeth. It was a molar of anonymous origin.
My first thought was that one of the village kids had probably lost a tooth when they were playing underneath our house with the boys. That would still mean that the situation was gross, but it would also keep the incident within the realms of normalcy. Upon closer inspection, however, we noticed that the root of the tooth was more or less intact, unlike the hollowed-out appearance of a typical lost baby tooth. This made us a little more uncomfortable.
Later on that morning, we showed the tooth to our co-workers thinking they would be intrigued by our story, but they didn’t even raise their eyebrows. “That makes sense,” said Jason. “It probably goes with that chunk of skull that they dug up when they were digging the trench under your house for your water bladder.”
I told him that I had been the one heading up that project, and that we never dug up a human skull.
“Really? You don’t remember that?” he asked.
I told him that I was pretty sure I would remember digging up part of someone’s cranial dome.
“Huh, that’s weird.” He replied. “It must have happened when you stepped away for a minute. The Iski guys all said that their ancestors used to bury people over by your house.”
Personally, I had always been told that the site we chose for our house was an old garden, but apparently the garden thing was a more recent development. Before it was a garden, it was a place to bury dead people. But no one seemed to think that this is something that I might be interested in knowing. Who cares if half of the urban legends ending in gruesome murders happen to take place in homes that were built over ancient burial grounds? What’s the worst that could happen?*
So, for those 8 people who read our little blog regularly, if you someday see newspaper headlines about a zombie apocalypse taking place in PNG, prepare yourselves for hard news, because we’re definitely going to be some of the first ones to go.
* Don’t answer that.