Day of the Dead
we had a really lovely Day of the Dead gathering here this past weekend. we made an altar, decorated pretty heavily with marigolds, made about 80 tamales, lit a bonfire, and welcomed a couple dozen or so folks to our place to hang out, celebrate all the good things, and remember our loved ones. the many children were kept happy by running around in costume, smashing open a jack-o-lantern piñata, and eating loads of tortellini and sweets. hosting such a gathering is something that I've wanted to do for a long time now (I have long had a crush on this holiday and find it to be so very beautiful), and this year it just felt like the timing was right. perhaps it is just where I am in my life right now (and perhaps therefore where a lot of my friends in my general age range are right now), but it seems like there is a lot of loss and a lot of saying goodbye to loved ones going on- I lost my grandfather in May, and just among the people gathered at our place a few days ago I can count brothers, a mother, fathers, and grandparents lost in just the last year or so. whew.
it was a good night. with, I think, the right balance of reverence and revelry.
the altar is still set up, and I'm in no rush to dismantle it. it feels.......... good. to have little reminders of lost loved ones front and center. I've always been a collector of bits and pieces of our ancestors- mixing bowls and platters and Christmas cacti from our grandmothers and great grandmothers. the things I requested that my dad bring to me of my grandfather's were a coffee cup and one of his short-sleeved button down shirts- the kind that are embroidered and have the pockets up high and down by the waist. he brought them for me, along with a rhubarb plant he dug up from my grandfather's yard up in the Adirondacks. I planted it tenderly and I hope it will thrive. these sort of things- the kind that can become part of my day-to-day, these are the things that help me remember and honor and feel close to my loved ones who are no longer here in flesh. I drink from the mug and imagine having tea with my grandfather, and I can hear his voice, his laugh. his gentle, wise advice. I miss him. I still want to call him or send a letter from time to time and then I remember he's been gone for months. I watch the cactus bloom (they are both just now starting) and think of my grandmother, and of Mike's, and I smile and recall a specific interaction or conversation. my grandmother's pierogies and mushroom soup on Christmas Eve. I leave dough to rise in a large cracked bowl that belonged to Mike's mother's grandmother. I never knew her, but I invite her into my kitchen and like to think of her somehow, somewhere, using the occasion to get a tiny glimpse into our world and at her great-great-granddaughter. I wonder what subtle bits of her may be in Claire. I put fruit, or nuts, in a bowl that belonged to my great-grandmother, and I think of so many of us cramming into her tiny Memphis house for a meal on a hot and humid summer day, and of exploring the wilds of her small backyard garden.
all of these things, and so much more, make me pause and feel like maybe the distance between us isn't really so great, after all.