Oh my! Only one week after deciding to observe Dia de los Muertos rather than Halloween, we gathered for our usual Thursday evening community dinner, bearing food, drink, photos, candles, and a few of us dressed up or in costume. Mariella had handmade what turned out to be an ultra strong pinata, stuffing it with goodies for everyone. Not just candy! More on that . . .
Dinner was the usual scrumptious feast, headlined by fresh tacos that Dario handed out on a plate, two at a time, to each person. You decide the fixings.
Meanwhile, on the mantelpiece, photos of the beloved deceased that some of us had brought.
And meanwhile, the altar, already bearing lit votive candles. Each of us would light a candle for our dead after telling our story about how and why they valued them.
During the entire meal, the music was on, loud, much louder than this 74 year old would have liked, but apparently just fine for all the millennials in the room.
So the atmosphere was raucous, fun, zany.
But then, with the tinkle of a knife against a glass, the atmosphere was suddenly calmed. Music off, and John, who had conceived the idea of celebrating this evening’s event, began the storytelling, of both our ancestors and other beloveds who had died. John held up two photos, of his grandparents, and talked, in a solemn, heartfelt manner, about these Italian immigrants, and how they had affected his life.
I said I’d be next, because I wanted to call attention to Jeff, my husband who died in early 2003, because, “without him, none of us would be here.” Calling attention to the legacy he left me, I mentioned my gratitude for the capacity he bestowed to purchase these three Village properties and turn them into something that in life, he would have resisted as way too radical! — but now, I continued, I sense that he loves what we are doing, and is with us all the way.
From there, the stories poured out of us, one at a time, some with photos, some without. Each of us lighting candles when we finished. What struck me, and housemate Dan the next day, was how so many stories were about grandparents, and how they had all been so hard-working, taking on huge responsibilities! I wish I could recall details, but the only one that strikes me is of the husband who took on the care of the eight kids while the wife went out and worked. And this was way long time ago!
One story did stand out, of an unusually remarkable man, Mariella’s grandfather.
The next day I emailed to ask if she would write down some of what she told us that night. Here is what she sent me:
The final story was from Forest, who lost his dog less than one month ago. He had a very hard time holding himself together as he spoke of his beautiful companion from within his grief.
I was surprised to note that most of the two dozen or so people present did gift us with a story of one whom they had loved who had died. As their stories were told, I felt the room fill with their diaphanous presence.
After the final story, I pulled out my phone, and read a Dia de los Muertos poem “Twixt,” from the collection our beloved former villager Briana had sent just the day before.
The deeply fulfilling solemnity of the story-telling then shifted, suddenly, again with the tinkle of the knife upon the glass, the atmosphere morphing into hilarity as we announced the long-awaited finale: THE PINATA WHACK!
Hmmm. Where can we hang it? Finally we decided to drape it over a bookcase, with a person holding on for dear life to a stick. In the pictures you won’t see the stick holder, because he IS behind the bookcase, but believe me, he had to work hard. (P.S. the stick broke before the pinata did!)
So, first to take a whack, Mariella’s kids, Juakim and Asiri.
From then on it went thick and fast, everybody allowed three whacks, some of them full force!
Until the final whacker, Forest. Here he is with Rebecca and the whacking stick, after his victory.
As the pinata spilled,
we discovered that not only candy was inside, but beautiful cards, one for each person present.
Of course we all read our cards. Here’s mine:
Rachel then asked if we would please get a group shot. Okay. But first, let’s drag the altar over so we can stand behind it.
Okay! Say cheese!