It’s at the very top of my “Not the easiest thing in the world to explain…” list.
Right there, the top of the list.
Numero Uno: Explaining to a 4, 7, and 9-year-old why you have two plastic skeletons dressed in ballet tutus and oversized Barbie heels on their skeletal feet hanging from your rear view mirror.
The 4-year-old adored the skeletons, or so I thought. She would ask to keep them on a daily basis.
“When they break, can I have them?”
“Audrey, why do you want the skeletons so badly?”
“Well….” A long pause. “I don’t really want them, I just want the Barbie shoes.”
As for the two older boys, they could not wrap their heads around my skeletal passengers either.
“It is called el Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. It is around the same time as Halloween. Many people in Mexico celebrate this holiday, taking the time to honor their dead and remember them.” I had to pump the brakes on this cultural lesson for the little tykes on their way to laser tag. I could have probably spoken about the picnics that take place in the cemetary and the candy skulls but Calder interrupted.
“But death is a sad thing.”
He’s right. Death is a sad thing. I have yet to come across the person who is opposed to this little boy’s statement. You could rattle on about celebrations & fiestas & parades but regardless, Death is still a sad thing.
This post is not about my love for el Dia de los Muertos , my two little skeletons that I found shoved into my center consul by my brother this weekend, or the fact that my mom fully stocked my closet with dresses that would be absolutely perfect for any fiesta when I was a little girl. (If you ever get to see my school pictures, you would know exactly what I mean). It is actually about a lady named Dee. A woman who taught me that Death is a very sad thing. But that Life Well Lived gives Death a massive run for its money.
It begins happening around this time of the year. As the Leaves Fall, the Weather Chills & People Begin Googling the word “Cornucopia” and coming up with those silly bugles full of harvest foods. And I start recognizing the pockets of this earth that still keep her. The memories that hide, like little children, behind any Frank Sinatra ballad or song accompanied by bagpipes. A first chord and I am swept into a mess of tears, nostalgia and gratitude as a swarm of Little Memories tug at my sweater.
I received an email the other day from a reader. She wrote in the email, “How did you become such a good writer?”
The question puzzled me.
I picked up my cup of coffee and walked around the apartment, wondering how I became a writer, and a supposed “good one” at that. Then it caught my eye, a black and white photo of a strikingly beautiful woman. She is looking towards the camera and she is holding my mother in her arms. My favorite picture.
There was the answer. I am a good writer because when I was a very little girl my grandmother told me that she would one day see my name at the front of a bookstore, dancing along the spines and book jackets of hardcover wonders. She told me of days when strangers would wait for my words, find solitude and peace in my syllables, uncover strength in my stories. And that is all it takes. It only takes a single lady who tells you that you will one day be a very good writer to turn you into a writer that is very good.
If you go back and look closely at all my posts, she is there though more Hidden than the most Stealthy of Waldos. Behind every word that attempts to manifest “passion” or “love,” she is there. She showed me that love is an action and a way of life and I am doing best of packing the wonder of that action into my every word. Be it upon this page or in conversation.
I live a life of love and that will make a writer very good, very good indeed.
I like to think we all have people in our lives, dead or alive, like this. Someone who makes you believe that you are not so crazy, not falling short, but Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. And as for the ones who have passed, I find it very important to celebrate their lives. To Eat Delicious Foods For Them. To Do a Little Jig For Them. To Remember Them, not as they are right now but as they were.
To remember the little things: how they loved the color blue. How they found great happiness in filling little notebooks with novels they had read. How they convinced every person they came across of their Native American roots (it is still up for debate if she was actually an Indian or not).
And to honor them in little ways: by buying ridiculous singing cards, by always dancing to Danny Boy and by having Google updates sent to your email on the JonBenet Ramsey case (even though it is 14 years old) just to keep her well-informed and in the loop of the greatest unsolved mysteries that she always loved to solve on her own.
And of course, by moving forward with the gifts she helped you foster: a knack for prose, a special talent for story telling.
Because stories & words & memories are that much more powerful when writing for a beautiful woman, the biggest of big fans, named Dee.