Tag Archives: Dia de los Muertos

Hill Street Blues, Peachy Pancakes, and a Blue Camero Remembered …

3 Nov

Most people tell stories on birthdays, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. Sometimes a story springs up when there’s a flashback moment on a random Tuesday and that sends you back in time to relive the laughter or joy you had with family. These are all good ways to connect with family or friends that have passed away.

In our family we have one more additional day that’s set aside every year in order to remember the life stories and unfinished journeys of those who passed away. My Dad, my Uncle Erick, and my Grandma Julia … I celebrate their lives on Dia de los Muertos. For most people, it’s a two-day celebration with music, art, altars, prayers, and stories used to remember family and friends. We had our private moments at home and at the cemetery on Day 1, and then celebrated at the festival on Day 2.

 

Stories about My Dad’s hardworking-dreamer mentality, love of Guatemalan coffee, and all things of a Hill Street Blues-The Shield-and-The-Wire nature were told. Memories of My Uncle Erick focusing on the importance of education, his blue Camero in the 1980’s that used to take me to the beach, his big-brother persona toward my sister and I, and his enjoyment of family gatherings on three-day weekends flooded back into my present day. My Grandma Julia’s resilience and strength, her sense of humor in her 90’s, her relationship with my Dad, and her love of my Saturday morning peach pancakes with Log Cabin syrup was remembered.

 

 

 

I shared my thoughts and tried to keep them alive through conversations with my kids. Each them had something to do with how I grew up. They impacted my journey on the yellow-brick road, and I wanted them to still matter to someone other than me.

So, on Dia de los Muertos it’s especially important to share these memories and celebrate their lives. So we took to the cemetery with decorations, flowers and prayers. I took time to think about the positives given to me by my Dad and Uncle Erick, and how grateful I was and am to them. Thought about how they’d probably be enjoying a cup of coffee together and chatting away with my Grandma. I thought about them and sent them light, love, and hugs.

The sad part was that before passing away, all three of them had conversations with me about death and not wanting to die. It’s gut-punching-deep-in-my-heart hurt when I think about it. So it’s hard on anniversaries of their death or on birthdays to feel like celebrating, but Dia de los Muertos spins perspective around and folklore helps change the narrative from death to life.

And so … I celebrated my Dad’s love of laughter and dream-chasing-you-can-do-it encouragement, my Uncle Erick’s perseverance and love of family conversations and of the dance floor even though he wasn’t a Solid Gold kind of dancer, and of my Grandma Julia’s faith, love for her family and ability to still joke around in her late 90’s.

The festival brought about a collective love for family and the importance of celebrations strengthening my faith. With everyone sending out positive vibes for their own loved ones it made me feel better to be part of a community who not only mourned their loved ones passing, but encouraged life and celebrating their spirit at the same time.

Hoping for celebrations of life to you all.

Buen Camino, my friends!

 

The Dodger Blues on Dia de Los Muertos

3 Nov

Heartbreaking agony the kind that brings that pang-pang-paning in my chest that only a true fan can feel.

The Blues.

When every fiber of your being is crushed because you dreamed their same dream and wished for them to make it to the top of the mountain, you’ve been wishing for it ever since you watched them take it in 1988, but it looks like you’re gonna have to wait a little bit longer.

Just a little I tell myself.

But through championships and heartbreaks I’m still with My Boys in Blue and remain a fan … always.

A fan who takes at least 24-48 hours to recover from this, a fan who was celebrating Dia de Los Muertos yesterday and feeling the Blues of a dream gone wrong throughout the day.

But things looked better today, don’t know if it was because of Friday, but the feel-goods were trying to make a comeback. They didn’t quite pierce through, but the agony is gone yet disappointment remains. And there are all kinds of people with their what-if-scenarios blabbering about on social media as if they have MLB coaching skills and experience, but no one can really predict the outcome. You can HOPE, based on what you believe to be true, on past performances. But in baseball, as with other sports, there are all kinds of variables that affect the scoreboard. All you can do is believe and give it everything you got. Grit pulls you through when every other avenue seems to be failing. My boys fell short but they made for an epic World Series run.

And as their season was laid to rest on Nov 1st, the next day came about … the last day of festivities for Dia de Los Muertos and it seemed somewhat fitting, you know … The realization of the death of a dream to fall on the Day of the Dead. And so I made my way to the cemetery, wearing my Dad’s Dodgers cap and settling in for a long talk about our beloved team and the insane ups-and-downs of the series.

I talked about other things of course, how big the kids were getting, how he would have enjoyed my son’s hockey games, or playing catch with my daughter, or the pumpkin patch adventure. He would have smiled at the sound of their laughter and exhaled loudly during their play-with-me-you-never-ever-play-with-me exaggerated arguments between each other.

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The kids bringing their best …

We brought things that might have lifted his spirit after the Dodgers loss. Purple and green jars with the festive nature of this holiday, plants, flowers, surprises, and decorative vibes all in an effort to send him messages of love and reverence. Messages to let him know that we remember him and pray for him during his spiritual journey were something we sent his way and I hope he felt that.

Buen Camino my friends … Buen Camino

 

 

 

 

Dia De Los Muertos Inspires A New Conversation

1 Nov

I think about the clicking-clocking sound he used to make when his tongue would hit the roof of his mouth. NUK! He’d knock-knock-knock my forehead simultaneously … you know during one of my McFly moments. My Uncle Erick.

And I think about my Dad and how he used to call me Canela  and how he’d start smiling even before I told the joke.

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My Dad and Uncle Erick back in the 70s

The two most important dudes in my life growing up, with the exception of the tallest Texan I know, he hails from Lubbock and has his own story, which I’ll share later. But today … today I talk about My Dad and Uncle Erick, today I talk about their stories because Dia De Los Muertos celebrates their spirits and everything they brought to my life.

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They’re on my mind every day, especially when I feel how life could have been so much better if they were still around. And after surviving my Halloween Hangover (why was Halloween on a Monday anyway … KitKat overload) I took a moment to celebrate their lives by sharing some vintage Polaroids and Kodak moments with my kids, accompanied by the stories and adventures behind those pictures.

Whether it was hiking waterfalls in Guatemala, road tripping that had multiple detours, watching SC football on Saturdays, toasting pumpkin seeds on Halloween, or listening to the Bee Gees, Billy Joel, or KC & The Sunshine Band, each adventure added something to my life.

And I miss it, I miss them. I miss the conversations and the reminiscing that brought laughter.

As always it hit me in the pit of my stomach. I celebrated them, and talked about their lives, but was also sad in the end. So I was glad to have come up with a new story about them. A piece based on their lives, inspired by my Uncle Erick.  It’s a conversation. My piece is about a conversation they probably had while my Uncle Erick was growing up. It’s about the advice my dad would have given him and the interesting way he’d go about doing it.

It’s a comedy, of course.

And although this conversation never took place I can totally see it happening because I can hear their voices. I can totally imagine them going through this exchange.

So, on this very special Dia De Los Muertos celebration, I was inspired to write a piece about the two men in my family who I learned from the most.

I’ve even submitted it somewhere … so hopefully their conversation, their story, their journey continues and makes other people laugh in the process.

I’ll keep you posted on that.

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Celebration of Life

3 Nov

It was another reminder, not that I needed one to remember him, I think about him everyday. But this reminder called for the celebration of his life.


The fact that he was gone wasn’t something worth celebrating, it was painful and the first time I’d ever felt sorrow. I’d had loss before, plenty of it, depression hitting the core kind of it, but nothing like this loss. It stayed and was felt. Just felt it, gut-wrenching sorrow that sat with me. And even though this sorrow stays with me, in that piece of my heart, settling in that far right corner, I still find happiness in talking about him, in celebrating his life.

I think about him everyday, about his crisp clean white shirts he wore to work, his musky aftershave that lingered every morning long after he’d gone, his briefcase sitting against the hallway, his well-loved dark gray Nissan pickup truck that was on its last wheels, his smile when I’d tell a joke, his love for Haagen Dazs ice cream bars, the ones with the almonds, his passion for movies and HBO shows, his interest in Clint Eastwood, Robert DeNiro, and Al Pacino movies, his messy organization skills where he knew where everything was in that tornado of paper, and his marathon way of tying his shoes in the morning the kind of way that only a Dad would embark upon.

I think about that, but these past two days I’ve been even more present about his life, trying to celebrate it and keep that spiritual connection during Dia de Los Muertos.

The fact that he’s passed away isn’t something that’s easy, it’s never been easy. It’s just a wound I’ve learned to carry, that’s become part of me, but when I think of the adventures we’ve had … that’s when I celebrate the fact that I knew him, that he was part of my life, that part of the way I define myself is by saying … yeah … I’m Julio’s Daughter. That’s me, with all the pitfalls and flaws of manic depression and a dysfunctional childhood that came from that … yeah that’s me.

I celebrate it.

I celebrate his heart, because he had a big one, and I try to pass it on to my son and daughter. So in honor of some of the face artwork I saw, we got inspired to create some to create some art of our own in hopes of sending him light, love, adventure, and prayers.

The Guats Celebrate Dia De Los Muertos

1 Nov

I’m all parented out. On a weekly basis I give about 100 percent, give or take, and with all the festivities that October brought, this month squeezed out every last drop of energy my body possessed. From fall festivals and pumpkin patches to carving Jack-O-Lanterns and trick-o-treating. October kicked my ass.

But like any good parent I didn’t stop at 100 percent … I went for the extra 10 percent on top of that. The overachiever got into me, as did the exhaustion of packing in another activity.

But this one was different. This one had to be done. This one was about culture and remembering family. This one was the Dia De Los Muertos Fiesta. And normally as a good Guatemalan I would have made giant colorful kites and the awesome dish that is fimbre, but I could barely boil water for Mac-N-Cheese so we did without the traditional Guatemalan food, but the festival had plenty of treats to buy.

While exploring all the treats at the festivities, I was happy to explain to my son that this was a celebrations for us … an important day. It was a day of remembering his papa, my dad. We think about him everyday and how much we miss him. And sometimes it sucks and it makes us sad . But on this day we try to remember stories about his life, how he lived it, and how he made us laugh.

Dia de Los Muertos is about honoring those that have passed and I hoped I was able to do that by taking my kids to this celebration and telling them stories about my dad. And in addition to all that reminiscing they seemed to enjoy the culture that came with it.

 

Our day begins ...

Our day begins …

 

As we browsed the festival we ran into some awesome artwork

As we browsed the festival we ran into some awesome artwork.

 

This flask was something I was seriously contemplating.

This flask was something I was seriously contemplating.

 

The little something that caught my eye.

This little something caught my eye.

 

 

But out of all the artwork these tiny hand-crafted skeletons amazed me the most.

But out of all the artwork these tiny hand-crafted skeletons amazed me the most.

 

The altars in the front of the museum were so awesome that my son wanted to know when we were going to build ours ... I need to kick up my Martha Stewart skills.

The altars in the front of the museum were so awesome that my son wanted to know when we were going to build ours … I need to kick up my Martha Stewart skills.

 

After all the artwork we sat to witness the amazing dancers.

After all the artwork we sat to witness the amazing dancers.

 

When the fire came out, my son wanted to go into junior firefighter mode, but I assured him it was part of the dance and it would be taken care of.

When the fire came out, my son wanted to go into junior firefighter mode, but I assured him it was part of the dance and it would be taken care of.

 

As I watching the ladies get ready, I couldn't take my eyes off there awesome wardrobe.

As I was watching the ladies get ready, I couldn’t take my eyes off their awesome wardrobe.

 

These were some of the best dances, but for some reason my kids enjoyed the indigenous high-energy dancers better.

These were some of the best dances, but for some reason my kids enjoyed the indigenous high-energy dancers better. They’re into stomping.

 

As we hung out and watch all the dance troupes take the stage this chic blew me and my kids away with her awesome make-up. My son thought it was so cool he decided he wanted to get festive too.

As we hung out and watched all the dance troupes take the stage this chic blew me and my kids away with her awesome make-up. My son thought it was so cool he decided he wanted to get festive too.

 

It took a while to get to the face painting artist and after my son realized that he couldn't have Batman, he settled on a Dia De Los Muertos masterpiece. He was happy with it.

It took a while to get to the face painting artist, but the wait was worth it. After my son realized that he couldn’t have Batman, he settled on a Dia De Los Muertos masterpiece that had him smiling. My daughter wasn’t into it, she preferred to keep stomping to the music.

 

All of this happened to honor my friend, my dad, my TV watching buddy, the laugher of my jokes, the partner to my adventures, the listener to my stories, and the defender of my dreams.

All of this happened to honor my friend, my TV watching buddy, the laugher of my jokes, the partner to my adventures, the listener to my stories, and the defender of my dreams. It all happened to honor my dad and to remember his life.

 

 

Black with Two Sugars, and Guatemalan Water Slides

1 Nov

Thinking about coffee and water slides all day today. Not so much because I drank some Starbucks and went slipping and sliding down a watery adventure. More so because of Dia de los Muertos  … Day of the Dead. A day where you remember family or friends that passed away.

Every Latino family celebrates differently. They build altars, with marigolds and sugar skulls. Skeleton decorations and massive amounts of food. Me? Thinking about my dad. Thinking about coffee and water slides.

My dad was a big fan of coffee. Coffee in the morning. Coffee in the afternoon. Coffee at night. Black with two sugars. No lattes or frappuccinos. Although he tried cappuccinos every now and then, when he tried to get fancy. But most days it was simple and classic: black with two sugars.

My Dad’s cup.

Most people can’t drink coffee before bedtime. They stay up all night. My dad stayed up too. Not so much because of the coffee. It was HBO, FX and my presence. The coffee was just a savory, cozy after dinner drink. My dad had no problem falling asleep when I wasn’t hanging around. Two cups and then off to bed. No problem. Probably dreaming of more coffee. But when I was there hanging out watching The Shield, The Sopranos, or Deadwood, there was his blue Deadwood coffee cup filled to the brim with the freshly grounded coffee. From? Guatemala of course.

I never drank coffee. I’m probably one of the few people on Earth that doesn’t, but I’d often kid around with him when one of us was ever feeling down.

“Hey, Dad … you finish your coffee already.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s too bad. I was going to invite you to go out … have a cup of coffee … talk about life.”

“Life. Hmph. That takes two cups.”

We’d both crack up. Our little ritual.

But coffee wasn’t the only thing on my mind today. Slides. Water slides. I’d seen my dad laugh before, plenty of times. But there were few where he laughed so much that he cried. These were pretty amazing. One of those instances happened to be on a water slide. And no it wasn’t a fancy Raging Waters slide down here in California. It was in Guatemala. Of all places, right?

We were in a water park by one of the black sandy beaches and it was on one of those large family inter tube slides. We didn’t know what to expect as we walked up all those flights of wooden stairs. We knew it would be fun, but didn’t realize how much.

As soon as we swooshed down the slide, I saw that smile creep up and then as we picked up speed, twirled around through the twists and turns… the laughter. Not the hearty ha-ha-ha-ha either. It was the I-can’t-breathe-this-is-so-funny laughter. And it was contagious. It was the excitement of the slide. The excitement of having fun. The excitement of my dad’s laughter. The excitement of family joining us. The excitement of a happiness moment with my dad I wish I could’ve bottled and stored. Something that could be opened up any time. But I didn’t have it. So I had to settle for the memories in my head.

All day today coffee and water slides.