Infants meet mortality: Green-Wood Cemetery hosts stroller tours for new moms and dads

Infants meet mortality: Green-Wood Cemetery hosts stroller tours for new moms and dads
Photo by James Henry

Talk about cradle to grave!

Bigwigs at a local cemetery offer parents-only stroller tours of the burial ground that are tailored to new moms and dads dying for an excuse to leave the nursery, according to one mama who has walked among the tombstones.

“They’re looking for something to do outside,” said Park Sloper Susan Fox. “You can go to a park and sit there, or go to the cemetery — which is like going to an outdoor museum.”

Fox, the manager of the Park Slope Parents Association online-networking group, worked with leaders at Green-Wood Cemetery to develop the 45-minute walking excursions through its sculpture- and headstone-dotted campus so that parents who want to stroll its bucolic grounds with their bundles of joy can do so without using the graveyard’s shuttle buses — which are not stroller-friendly, she said.

Interested wanderers must first register with Fox’s networking group before venturing out on any tour, the next of which is on April 24. And all of the treks unfold at a steady clip in order to keep their youngest participants happy, according to a guide.

“One thing I did learn was to keep it moving,” said James Henry, who works for Green-Wood. “It’s better to do a little hike first, which gives the kids a chance to sleep.”

The itinerary includes several animal attractions, including visits to the cemetery’s koi pond, the famed flock of Monk parrots that nest in the arches at its 25th Street entrance, a massive turtle named Godzilla who swims in another pond on site, and the grave of a permanent canine resident, Fanie, who was buried with full funerary rights back in the 1800s, Henry said.

And the tour showcases the final resting places of some notable human occupants of the graveyard, too, including the man who invented the soda fountain, John Matthews, and suffragette sisters Alice and Phoebe Cary, who hosted Sunday receptions for such famed feminist icons as Susan B. Anthony in their New York City home two centuries ago, according to the guide.

Fox pitched the tours to Green-Wood chiefs after developing her own love for the 19th-century necropolis — a place she’s adored for some time, but learned isn’t every parent’s go-to destination when some moms and dads cried foul after she suggested her now-teenage daughter’s first-grade class take its field trip there.

“I got a bunch of push back from people saying, ‘Oh I don’t think my kids would like that, that’s not a good idea,’ ” she said.

But the excursions already changed some parents feelings toward the graveyard, according to another Park Slope mom who took one and said the burial ground is now one of her favorite spots in the borough.

“I was one of those people who thought cemeteries aren’t places you can walk around in unless you’re visiting somebody, and through Susan I discovered you can go and visit history at Green-Wood,” said Carla Weiss. “And you can see some of the most beautiful views in all of Brooklyn.”

Fox’s parent group is working with Green-Wood officials to arrange other family-oriented events, too, including scavenger hunts for kids, and lectures on death for adults — where moms and dads can learn tips on how to help their youngsters further embrace the concept of mortality, she said.

“It’s not about shielding kids and saying, “Grandpa has gone to sleep now,’ ” Fox said. “Then they’re afraid of going to sleep.”

Parents interested in joining a future stroller tour of Green-Wood Cemetery must first register with the Park Slope Parents Association at www.parkslopeparents.clubexpress.com.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.