One of the things I adore about my culture is el Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. It’s said that each year on Nov. 1 and 2, the souls of the dead return to earth to spend 48 hours with their loved ones. I recently wrote a story for Latina Magazine’s TheLatinKitchen.com about wine pairings for traditional Día de los Muertos dishes.
As some of you may recall, I lost my mother a year ago this month, and at the time I didn’t have the strength to make a Día de los Muertos altar for her; it was all too raw and too painful.
This year is different, and I will be assembling an altar for her this weekend. As I gather the sugar skulls, light the candles, place the November issue of Vanidades magazine on the altar along with Mounds candy bars (her favorite), her dragonfly pins and her vintage bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume, I will contemplate what we’ll chat about once her soul completes the long journey from the other side to my living room.
I’ll tell her about how I thought of her each moment I was in Germany this summer, and how I imagined she could see the Rhine river through my eyes. I will ask her if it was she who made the church bells chime the “Ode to Joy” the second after I completed the transaction for the watch I bought in her memory at a tiny jewelry store in Bonn’s old town.
I’ll tell how last year, three days after her funeral as I was walking to the College of Business building at school to take an economics midterm, I was certain the dragonfly that appeared on the path ahead of me was her sending me luck and reminding me of what she always used to say when I was nervous about a test: “Ya te lo sabes,” or you already know it.
I’ll tell her not to worry about Dad, that he’s doing much better and actually took the initiative last week to find a widow and widower’s support group.
I’ll thank her for the new inner strength I’ve gained since she passed, and how I feel as if I’m channeling her no-nonsense, tough-as-nails attitude each time I handle a challenging situation at work or in life with grace and poise.
I’ll ask her if she was sad that Sábado Gigante went off the air, whether she was irked that Sweden’s prince married the girl who was a former exotic dancer, and if she is as enamored of Kate and Will’s new little princess as I am. I’ll also tell her how I miss gossiping about royals with her, an obsession that was passed along to me in her DNA.
Finally, I’ll ask her if she’s noticed how hard I’m trying to be a better person, to be generous, more understanding, more tolerant, more brave, and seizing opportunities before they evaporate into regrets.
Mom, you left a void in your wake, but you also left us with a legacy to improve ourselves, to aspire to find the good in life in the darkest of times, and to always aim for the top, because mediocrity is never an option. I love you, I miss you, I will always carry you in my heart.