Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of my mother’s death. Last week I put up my annual Day of the Dead altar. Amid the sugar skulls and paper mache skeletons are photographs. There is my mother in her wedding dress, the one she wore to marry my father. My grandmother sewing a quilt. My father holding my younger son, my older son next to him in my husband’s lap. My grandfather, looking almost unrecognizably young. A small studio portrait of my stepfather.
There are orange and purple candles. My mother’s hairbrush, my father’s ashtray. A couple of teabags, to represent my grandmother. A few stalks of wheat, to represent things harvested. An old Paris metro ticket, representing other things I have lost.
Yesterday at the store I bought a small bag of tiny pumpkins. This morning, when I return home after dropping son the younger at school, they greet me. Shining like smiles, on the middle step to my left, they surround a larger pumpkin. To my right, on the top step, they nestle against a pot of chrysanthemums. The mums are yellow, edged in brown and burnt orange.
Inside, light catches the glitter in the deep-set eyes of the marigold yellow skull I bought in Albuquerque. A pink flower covers its crown. A black cross marks its forehead.
In the kitchen, the kettle sings, calling me to my tea.