Dia de los Muertos was just All Soul’s Day when I was growing up. It meant mass in the mornings and in the afternoon, we would visit Tio Roel. His tomb next to the plot where my abuelos would be laid to rest. There was solemness to this action and I often regret not asking my abuelos more about how the way they were raised.
I often wonder what the consequences of being Tejano meant during their lifetime? Did it mean that the celebrations were different? Did it mean it changed who they were or did they just evolve their celebrations in order to avoid criticism?
There were no elaborate sugar skulls or ofrendas but I could see this holiday in the tiny things my abuelita did. I saw it hidden among the dusty water filled glasses that stood silently on guard in the corners of the house. When I would ask her, she would often times say “So, the spirits would not be thirsty.” and as a child I just shrugged it away.
I saw it in the loving care we took clearing away gnarled vines and broken twigs from Tio Roel’s grave and from other graves of family members I cannot remember.
My mother would be the one to accompany her and now it is my mother who goes to my Abuelita’s site to leave flowers. I wish I could go and see them, my abuelos from both sides.
I felt they were stolen from me. I felt guilt and pondered the thought that if only I had thrown aside my arrogant youthful ways, I could have learned more about who we were. I could have learned their struggles and their accomplishments.
Instead, I glance at the pictures of my Grandma Locha, my paternal grandma, who loved ribs and good coffee. I remember my Abuelo Rodolfo who loved pork and eggs and always had barbacoa for Thanksgiving. My Abuela Estella who loved grapefruits and struggled with her love for Pan Dulce after she became Diabetic.
They have been gone for almost a decade if not longer. I remember the smells of sweet hot chocolate on Christmas Eve and of loud family gatherings. Echoes of memories since now the halls of my home are eerily silent.
It is the movement of the wind among the branches of our solemn mesquite tree on our ranch that reminds me of my childhood. This is a hard day for me because I hold onto those lost memories so tightly that they cause ache. Today is not a day to cry from sadness but to release tears of joy that mis abuelos lived a life well lived.
It is a time to celebrate the odd circle of life. I will rejoice in the ebb and flow of life knowing that each of us will stand at the point where it all started. Life and Death are hand in hand. It is that comfort that they are watching over me as I make my mark in this world. Those happy memories move me forward and keep me grounded.
Dia de los Muertos is more than fancy painted skulls and really awesome jewelry. It is about the memories we keep and the traditons we pass on.
Happy All Soul’s Day or Feliz Dia De Los Muertos!