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picture by Tom Robinson

I’ll admit, when I first found out about this holiday, I found it a little odd. It was so different than anything I’d experienced. I really didn’t understand it until I started looking at picture books by Mexican author/illustrator Yuyi Morales. They featured a character called Senor Calavera, and eventually I found his website. There was a sizeable Hispanic population in South Carolina, where I used to live and went to graduate school, but nothing like it is here in Phoenix. The 2-day holiday is a huge deal here in Arizona (due to our proximity to the Mexican-American border), and there are at least twelve different events going on this weekend with food, music, educational/art exhibits, parties, processions, children’s activities, and dancing.

I began to know a little bit more about the holiday (at least the part concerning the food)  by going to Ranch Market, a local Hispanic grocery store in town. They have a bakery that makes Pan de Muertos for the celebration. At Talk Time (an English conversation program I volunteer with at the library) this week, we  talked about Dia de Los Muertos and how it is celebrated, as well as other ancestor veneration festivals in other countries (like Japan). I liked this article I found that explains more about the holiday, including common misconceptions. I like the idea of decorating sugar skulls for the occasion, to place on the graves along with the other foodstuffs. Here’s a list of some other crafts you could do to celebrate the holiday in the classroom or in your own home. I, in particular, liked the sugar skull traveling mug craft from that article. They have an exhibit at the library every year where people submit altars to remember a lost loved one or friends and decorate them, just like they would be at a graveyard. This year the theme was music. I also like the idea of using a skull mask as part of a costume for Halloween, so here is a Pinterest page dedicated to that. So maybe I might try that next year. I love the performer’s makeup below, though I would probably do something a bit less complicated.

Dias de los Muertos performer

As Dia de Los Muertos celebrates the life of family and friends that have passed away, I thought I would celebrate it by writing a poem about my maternal grandmother. This will not cover everything I think and feel about her, but I think it will help me. I haven’t written any poetry since my son was born. I started in earnest doing it in college, but have unfortunately lost most of it due to crashed hard-drives. Anyways, here’s the poem.

Grahms

She died nearly two years ago,

though she is never very far from my thoughts.

The one thing I regret

is that she never got to meet her great-grandson,

as I know she would’ve loved him.

I couldn’t properly grief for her at the time,

but I have since then.

It still makes me sad to think about her

even though I know she is in a better place

and no longer suffering.

It is hard for me sometimes

to look at senior women who love interacting with children,

as they remind me of her.

 

I’ll admit,

when I was growing up,

I didn’t appreciate her like I should.

It wasn’t until I went to university

that I recognized that her kind heart

and salt of the earth personality was exactly

what a growing girl needed as a role model.

I have learned,

over time,

that I received  more from her

than just her wavy hair.

My love of baking came from her.

I remember summer days when we’d

go out and pick blueberries from the bushes

and come inside to make a blueberry pie.

Whenever I think of caramel cake,

I always think of the ones she used to make.

My fascination with antique shopping and craft fairs

came from her,

after going to so many over the years.

Important parts of my personality,

such as being a good listener

and loving people with a whole and open heart,

I learned from her.

I’m trying,

unsuccessfully,

not to cry while writing this.

I miss you Grahms,

And I love you.

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