Day of the Dead Memories

Is it really Halloween tomorrow?  Has the first fall holiday already descended? Where has the time gone? When my children were at home, we had such fun decorating the house.  We carved pumpkins and baked the seeds in soy sauce, worked tirelessly on costumes (always last minute changes), planned the trick-or-treat route--it was all engrossing. 
Now that Markus and I are alone, Halloween is, well, a bit lame. Yesterday I went to my storage bins and pulled out my electrically lit pumpkin, dusted it off and plugged it in.  Done. I sent off Halloween books to grandbabies.  And I bought the necessary bag of Snickers candy bars "just in case" we get a trick or treater, knowing full well we haven't had a ghost or monster at our door in over four years and I'm just going to eat the whole bag myself.  

Even still... I get that glow that always comes on the eve of a holiday.  The air grows thick with anticipation.  I am a confessed holiday nut. I love to decorate my house for all of the major holidays, saving the big guns for Christmas, of course. Even then, however, with the children gone, and with them some of my energy, I'm now taking a more relaxed approach.  My children are no longer at my heels pointing to their favorite decorations, oohing and ahhing with excitement at seeing the decorations again and pleading for me to put it on display.  There were years there wasn't an empty space in the house for one more decoration.  Instead, now I enjoy being selective.  I choose my favorites, those that carry special memories. 

In the box marked "Halloween" I spotted a raggedy scarecrow at the bottom.  A sad, neglected thing.  My heart clenched at seeing it again.  This decoration once belonged to my mother.  Late in life, in an uncharacteristic gesture, (the mother of ten children, after we all left she rarely decorated) she had purchased this scarecrow at some local store.  For some reason I can't fathom, she really liked it and put it out every fall in the small condo she'd retired to after Daddy died.  When she came to my house to live for the final months of her life, she brought this scarecrow with her.  I inherited it by default.  It wasn't an antique or coveted piece of silver or jewelry.  I don't know why I kept it.  I'm a pack rat, I suppose...  I got teary eyed, of course, seeing it again as memories rushed.

 I always get a bit emotional this time of year.  The trifecta of holidays are approaching: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.  This year we have a wedding to boot.  The season of family gatherings, good food, laughter.  A time memories are as vibrant and bittersweet as the colors of the leaves outdoors. 

Halloween, and more, Day of the Dead, is becoming for me not a time for costumes or trick or treat, but more a time of remembrance.  I look to the Day of the Dead and its connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallow's Eve, All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day for a meaningful holiday.  When I wrote The Butterfly's Daughter, I wrote about what that holiday included for the Mexican culture-- building private altars called ofrendas decorated with marigolds, honoring the beloved departed by displaying there photos of loved ones and their favorite possessions, eating their favorite foods.  We celebrate the lives of our beloved departed.  Those whose memories brush against our hearts and minds like the gossamer wings of the migrating monarch butterflies on their journey to sanctuary.  This time of year is an opportunity to educate our young ones of family members they've never met but whose memories still live on in our hearts and minds.  It is also a time to remember the best of the living as we prepare for the great celebrations with family and friends to come.  

I retied the sagging bow of that scarecrow, stitched a slight tear, and put it in a place of honor by the front door.  I set beside it a photo of my parents, thus making my own simple ofrenda.  I think of mama each time I pass it.
This year it's time for me to pull out some of my holiday treasures from my storage boxes and pass them down to my children.  To give them the joy of the memories the now raggedy and chipped decorations carry in each nook and cranny. Perhaps they'll share the stories with their children.  As the earth blankets itself in preparation for winter, what better way to keep the home hearths warm than sharing memories? 




  1. Enjoyed reading this, my kids haven't trick or treated in years 1 off at college now and my youngest will be gone in a year n a half. The holidays feel different now I miss what children bring to the holidays, it really changes the way you view things. I think it's precious your scarecrow, and I know your children will share in the memories with theirs as you have with yours.

  2. Thank you for a gentle reminder of how we can shift with our tides. Dsy of the Dead will be a time to honor my family story AND Trick or Treat with my grandson.
    Beautiful blog for my sittin still time this morning!

  3. This is Stephanie from KY. i know I just am a big pest! Love reading your words so very much. I was in tears as I read your scarecrow story... precious memory an make sure you share the story behind it. So many times when we were cleaning out granny's things ths summer, I had so wishe she could tell me the story behind the ites so it would not be a dusty trinket but a treasured memory. My grandmother for Christmas did give us something we had given her wrapped up as her left gift to us. When we left, we were to take a favorite Christmas ornament It was a very emotional Christmas and one I will never forget... ever. I know your kids will also feel the same way as you share your treasures along with the memory to be loved in their home.Truly love this post.. bless you for sharing.


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Mary Alice