Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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Publishers' Corner: 11/01/2020

Dia de los Muertos chez nous

Trigger Warning Ė this column contains political references.

Let me start out first by saying how relieved we are to be out of the latest PSPS with no new fires. Finally some good news!

Do you find yourself thinking, ďIím glad [insert name of loved one] isnít alive to see this? After some particularly outrageous political statement from on high, my brother was having lunch with his deceased wifeís best friend and she blurted out, ďIím glad Liz is dead.Ē Fortunately for her, my brother knew exactly what she meant, and she was, of course, immediately horrified at what sheíd said.

No matter what your political persuasion, most of us are troubled, weary, and worried about the level of divisiveness in the United States and what the future holds.

While I can never be ďgladĒ that my father is dead, I do think to myself, ďIím glad Dadís not around to see this.Ē Dad knows what I mean. He was a life-long Republican from the Eisenhower era, and Iím pretty sure he would be a Lincoln Brigader. Sometimes I envision him as a little tornado whirling around inside his urn. I was talking to him about that the other day in front of our ofrenda, or Day of the Dead altar.

Iím not of Mexican heritage and only learned about Dia de los Muertos in adulthood, but itís a holiday that I really appreciate, even more so now that Iím older and more of my loved ones are no longer here.

Ofrenda means offering, so you gather together favorite items of the deceased, along with flowers (specifically marigolds), food and drink, and candles. At our house we donít follow all the rules exactly, and our ofrenda looks like a couple of clueless WASPs put it together, but we think the spirits approve and enjoy it when they come to visit.

Thereís something happy about setting up the ofrenda on the table, placing framed photos of relatives on it, and gathering items that they loved when they were alive. For my dad, itís a golf ball, a fly-fishing fly, and his old minerís lamp. He was a 5th-generation coal miner. That makes me a coal minerís daughter. Full disclosure, he quickly migrated to the management side of things (see Republican Party reference above). But he really did mine coal and work underground until his early 40s before moving to a desk job. That being said, he thought our solar panels were really great, and once took a picture of them to show his friends back home.

My aunt Sara died in June at the age of 93. For her I have champagne (her favorite cocktail was a Kir Royale) and candy for her notorious sweet tooth. Liz has a cat next to her photo. Iím not saying she was a crazy cat lady, but at one point she did have five cats. Alecís mother was an expert bridge player and she loved to gamble (mainly roulette) and bet on the ponies at the racetrack, so she gets a deck of cards and a pair of dice. They were all avid readers, so we just line up a shelf of books for all of them, especially Alecís father who I fondly remember sitting in his chair with an open book in hand. Heís been gone the longest of them all.

At this time of year, as the days get shorter and the nights get longer, the veil between this world and the next seems somehow thinner, more porous. The sun is at a lower angle in the sky and the light is softer; itís easier to imagine the spirits of our loved ones flitting in and out, passing by to say hello, especially at dusk. In front of the ofrenda we remember all their qualities, good and bad. In fact, thinking about their little quirks makes us happy, not sad. We are grateful for their lives, and grateful that they are now somewhere beyond all the troubles of this world. Wherever they are, they are probably laughing at us all.

Ė Ann

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