Dia de Los Muertos y Los Vivos

November 3, 2012 § 3 Comments

I wake up from a deep dreamless sleep with a strong urge to make molé–you know, the Mexican dish that drowns chicken in chocolate and smoky peppers. This is odd because I’ve never made it before, but the urge comes before breakfast and is so intense that I get out the Joy of Cooking and make a list of what I’ll need. I am not pregnant, in case you’re wondering, and it’s not just a craving, but a single-minded desire to make the stuff. I realize this will not be the best or most authentic mole’, but it will do. I don’t have time to search for a more authentic recipe.

Later, mission accomplished and molé in my belly, I find out what is going on. It is the Day of the Dead, El Dia de los Muertos. My friend, Swooze, (I can never call her by her real name) who has family in Mexico, reminds me of this. She has made molé today too. So, I am celebrating the lives of my dearly departed (I suppose chocolate was my mom’s favorite food), but I am also holding on to my living.

Swooze and several other college friends, mostly women, have been my family since freshman year. We dubbed ourselves the Commune, and we have remained remarkably connected. Some husbands have been voted out of the commune, and plenty of children and other husbands have been added in. We’ve made up words, as any family does. We’ve cooked hundreds of meals together. Also, we are perpetually twenty-eight years old. It was a group decision, and what is “reality” but a group decision?

We keep up and share a group calendar thanks to the organizational and computer genius of Loretta (also not her real name). It reminds us of each other’s birthdays, the birthdays of our children, and of course, the Day of the Dead.

Together, we have lost almost a dozen parents. The losses began in college and seem to be picking up speed. The Commune, however, has remained constant. Those who still have parents are generous enough to share. We’ve grown up with each other’s families, after all. We’ve spread the children and grandchildren around too.

I worry sometimes that I have so few blood relatives, so few people to help explain and remember my life. It’s disorienting sometimes. Before a recent flight, I got jealous overhearing a woman in the airport calling her dad on the phone for reassurance. But the Day of the Dead reminds me that my dead and my living all still belong to me. This is my new favorite holiday: I’ll make molé every year and celebrate all of them, los muertos y los vivos, with food and stories that all end in yeep!

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