This is the first year I celebrated Día de muertos in the U.S. I have lived here for 9 years and I never saw the need to celebrate it. My first few years here I was a starving student who didn’t own a car, and going around the city in the very inefficient bus system in Utah wasn’t on top of my list. Not to mention that my chances to get papel picado, calaveritas or marigolds was very tiny in this very white state which I love. This is probably the main reason why I didn’t try. But 4 years ago, motherhood knock on my door and now, with a preschooler under my care, I had to pass on my favorite tradition as a little girl: Día de muertos.
All week I was on a mission. First I called my dad in California, who expedited me a box full of calaveritas, papel picado and marigolds, which in my memory, are the main “ingredients” to set up an ofrenda. Then, I retrieved my orange chevron piece of fabric from my laundry room that I bought to craft something “Halloweenish” a few weeks ago. I got a folding table out of my garage and the ofrenda was all set. Then I remembered that a few years back I had brought some old pictures from my abuelita’s home in Mexico with the intention to do family history, and as I went through the pictures, I found my great grandmother and my tía abuela there. The pictures were vintage and they looked pretty awesome!
What I didn’t know is that when we finished putting together the ofrenda, I was going to have the perfect excuse to talk to my little guy about my life in Mexico as a little girl. And every night while the ofrenda was up, he would come to me and ask me to read our “Day of the Dead” book I got in Houston last weekend.
After setting up la ofrenda, Asher (my preschooler), found me crying after smelling those beautiful marigolds and asked with a concern face: “Are you O.K. Dany?” and I replied “Yes, I’m O.K., and I’m crying because the flowers smell just like Mexico.” He then rapidly took the flowers and smelled them. then he ran around the house looking for Zoey and had her smell them, and with all the excitement in the world he told her: “Zoey, Zoey, smell the flowers, they smell like Mexico!” And even for that moment, I knew that all the hassle-frazzle to put together our first ofrenda was all worth it.