Monday, October 31, 2011

El Dia de los Muertos

October 31, 2011

Dear Andrea,

When life gives you rotting bananas, make a banana cake.  From scratch.  Let the smell of sugar, flour, shortening, eggs all  baking in 8 inch round pans fill the corners of your house and wrap themselves around your heart.  When the cake has cooled on a wire rack set on your counter top, and the smell of baking becomes a memory, pull down a box of powdered sugar, a bottle of vanilla, take the real butter you set out on the counter earlier and make real butter cream frosting.  With real cream.  When the cake is frosted, stand back, admire your work.  Then take the beaters and the bowl, sit on the kitchen floor with your back against the cupboard door and lick the frosting from each beater blade.  Run your index finger along the inside of the glass bowl and suck the sweet taste of frosting from it.

It is Halloween.  The beginning of the holiday season.  Thanksgiving.  Christmas.  New Year’s Eve.  Your 30th birthday.

Tonight I do not need a costume.  I am La Llorana, the Weeping Woman who is ageless and faceless.  Whose wailing can be heard on a rainy windy night.  She is the sound of grief—faceless, ageless.  She is a condemned woman.  And at same time she is a goddess bearing a message. 

I wrap my tongue around a single silver beater blade.   Let the frosting melt in my mouth.  Let the flavors linger before I lick the next one. 

Tomorrow I am going to begin “celebrating” a holiday that will be new to me.  El Dia de los Muertos.  The Day of the Dead.  An acknowledgement of your death and a celebration of your life—and of mine.

Tonight I will pick yellow marigolds from my garden and put them in a glass of water.  In the morning, I will set them on the dining table with photographs of you.  Your letterman jacket will drape across the head chair.  I will put out a glass of water and small bowl of salt. 
Tendrils of lavender incense will carry my thoughts to you.

When I come home from work tomorrow night, I will make a feast.  Plates full of your favorite foods.  Posole, home made flour tortillas, refried beans, chicken enchiladas.  You and I and Sadie will be the only guests at our candlelight dinner.  No one will eat.    

For dessert, home made banana cake with buttercream frosting.

Tonight it is Halloween and  I am La Llorana with a bowl of tiny Snickers, Twix, Peanut M&M’s for the constant parade of Trick or Treaters that ring the  doorbell.  I will admire their costumes, make small talk with their parents.   I will be with my friend Ami and her daughter Sahara.  Tonight I made a feast for the living.  We will laugh and eat at Ami’s table.

It is the beginning of the holiday season.

Tomorrow I will make offerings of water, earth, wind, fire.   The Day of the Dead.  I will turn off the phone, the computer, lock the front door, sit with my memories of you illuminated by candle light. 

In solitude my grief is raw, powerful.

I am La Llorana. 

I am a condemned woman.

I am a goddess of many things bearing a message searching for words.

Sitting on the kitchen floor licking frosting from the tip of my index finger.

                     Happy Halloween—Love You



  1. Breathtaking and brutal. After the death of my daughter in 2007 I began celebrating Day of the Dead myself and also have an altar. Tomorrow I will dress myself up and light a candle and go to her grave Nd my grandparents graves too.

    You are in my thoughts

  2. Sherry, how beautiful that you write regularly to your daughter. I am sure it is as painful as it is helpful. I feel in my heart that she receives your love and voice. The Day of the Dead is a celebration, a ritual to help you through your grief. Your writing helps us through our own. Much peace to you. ~Joan