Friday, October 31, 2014

Hat Tip To The Dead

We're just a day away from Dia de Los Muertos and -- in the recent temperature dip and in the rustle of the leaves -- I can feel the ancestral spirits heating up for their big night out.

It's going to be a wang dang doodle. Everybody gon' meet, just like Howlin' Wolf says.

I'm looking forward to it. I'm making pan de meurtos. It's a "sweet, fragrant" challah-like brioche bread shaped into femur bones, calaveras.  Pati Jinich's adorable accent makes you forget the recipe is a pain in the culo.

I might ice store-bought challah with frosting and decorating sugar in the shape of little bones and call it a dia. Don't judge. It's not the letter of the law I'm after.

It's the spirits. My grandfathers. My grandmothers.  My mother-in-law who was from a line of curanderas, healers, but could not heal herself of breast cancer, and died too soon to know my children, and I find that haunting.

My Aunt Eliza, who was the first person I knew who was an artist. Wonderful the turpentine and pine and shellac smell of her studio. Mrs. J.O. Miller, my great-great-grandmother who was one of the first Pittsburgh suffragettes. I have her calling card (excellent heavy card stock) and her small 19th-century seed-pearl beaded reticule. Of course, I never met her, nor any of my other greats- and great-greats- all the way back to mitochondrial Eve out of Africa.

They are the many links in the chain of my Life; I must honor the dead. But not with woe, and wailing, and rended garment. With whimsy. With verve. With pluck. Because without them, I wouldn't be here in my clown shoes.

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