Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Dia de los Muertos: Mighty Like a Rose

Today is All Saints' Day, the first day of the Mexican celebration Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It is a time to gather together to remember family and friends who have died. To decorate gravesites and bring gifts of the deceased's favorite foods and beverages.

As I've said before, I prefer Dia de los Muertos to Halloween. It might have something to do with the fact that I'm the only member of my immediate family left, but whatever the reason, I think it's good for us to share memories of loved ones with each other.

Some of you may think the graphic at the top of this post is morbid, but I've grown to love the whimsy and bright colors of Dia de los Muertos art. Besides, using a butterfly graphic is fitting: in many cultures, people believe butterflies are the souls of dead people. What a beautiful thought!

Today I'm celebrating All Saints' Day by sharing a story my mother wrote about her mother forty years ago. Stories like this are invaluable. We can see loved ones in a different light and get to know them better through the eyes of others.

This one's for you, Butch*. You are remembered. You are loved.

What is a mother? A mother is a form in the kitchen seen with the eyes of a little girl in a highchair, a voice raising heck when she found out that your daddy had taken you to the "Pop House"**, feet chasing you around the house to take your photograph. A mother is memories.

The memories grew clearer of what a mother was when we moved to the Gregory place.  She was a lap that was a haven when "Mystery Man" got really spooky. I felt so safe there. I've often wondered if an adult ever feels that safe again.

She was someone who took my dog for a walk on summer evening and earned a long-lasting grudge from me. I didn't understand why she did it until years later. I forgot that that mean hound had snapped and growled at me all day; I forgot that it had to be fed; I forgot that we were having a hard enough time just feeding ourselves-- let alone a dog. She really didn't know how to explain this to me.

She was someone who cleaned the road oil off my new outfit and me, and didn't say a word. She realized how precious that new outfit was to me and just how upset I was. Then there was the time the laxative worked as I was going in the door at school. I walked all the way home with my pants full and "it" hanging off my sock tops. God, how I loved her when she didn't laugh! A mother is feeling.

I remember the back apartment in the hotel. She entertained me through the usual childhood diseases and all those strep throats. One of my fondest memories are all those recitations of "Little Orphan Annie." I remember her singing to me. One song I will always associate with her is "Mighty Like a Rose."

My grandmother and my mother, 1953
I remember the Christmas Eve she sat up all night putting together a doll house and its furniture. I know she sat up all night because I kept sneaking in to see how things were progressing, and I was playing possum when she brought it in. I've marveled at the fact, in years since, that she didn't kill me when she heard me playing with it five minutes later! A mother is patience.

I remember her hands rubbing my legs when they hurt so with growing pains. I remember her hand on my feverish head when I was sick all those many times. She always thought she was useless in the sickroom... she didn't realize how much those hands of hers helped a sick little girl.

There were the times she has let me cry: when I told her I had tuberculosis. and the night she shared her bed with me after we returned from my husband's visitation at the funeral home in Assumption. Neither time did she make profound statements; she just cared. I imagine that her heart was bleeding a little for her troubled daughter, and she wished she had the magic words to say that would make the hurt go away.

There are many, many memories of this lady wrapped with love in my heart. She is a woman who has always done what she had to do whether she wanted to or not. She never did anything by word or deed to shame her husband or daughter. She set a good example for any young girl by loving and supporting her man. I call her admirable.

There have been misunderstandings between us over the years. I know she hasn't always understood me, and I have disappointed her many times. But she's stuck with me, and I hope that someday she can feel the same pride in having me for a daughter as I do in having Irene Brown Brookshier for my mother.

©Glenore Brookshier Cole

*My grandmother didn't want to be called any size, shape or form of the word "grandmother." When I was quite small, I started calling her "Butchie," which she loved. As I grew older, it was shortened to "Butch." I can't call her anything else-- she wouldn't know I was talking to her!

**"Pop House" is what my grandfather called the local tavern when he spoke to my mother. Makes sense that this would upset my grandmother, doesn't it?


  1. What a wonderful writing. We are fortunate if we have a parent or parents who are among the saints.

    Every day, I list three blessings on which to base the day. This morning, my mom and dad (RIP) were first on the list.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I agree that the thought of butterflies being the souls of our loved ones is quite beautiful. And the one you posted is not morbid at all!

  3. what a tribute. I'm fairly speechless.

    I remember spending Day of the Dead in Jerome -- waaaaaay back in the early 1970s when it was mostly a ghost town with just a couple of businesses, a handful of residents, and two restaurants.

  4. Cathy - What a lovely tribute!! And I love that butterfly. I've always liked the tradition of Dia de los Muertos, too. It's a way of connecting with those we've lost, and with those from generations ago. I like that...

  5. What a great tribute you have made to your Mum by sharing this with us. All Saints Day is also celebrated in Italy and I have posted briefly about it on News From Italy today.
    Thanks my friend for your kind words on my Book Review Blog,much appreciated. We had a wonderful trip and I will be posting my first book review of the month hopefully tomorrow.

  6. I'm just dumbfounded at the beauty of your mom's tribute to her mother. She was such a talented writer, conveying such profound thoughts in simple language. You are very lucky to have had her as your mother.

    Sometimes I think we're clones, Cathy. I'm the only one left in my family too. It's a scary thought sometimes, isn't it?

    By the way, according to Bernadette in Oz, there is a crime writer in Australia named Cathy Cole. :D

  7. Joe-- What a wonderful way to begin each day! The people of Mexico tend to celebrate each day by honoring adults who have died on All Saints' Day, and deceased children on the second day, All Souls' Day. I chose to honor my grandmother today because she had to be a bit of a saint to put up with my feisty grandfather for sixty years!

    MJ-- I'm glad you like the graphic. I think it's beautiful!

    Candace-- Jerome has changed a bit. Denis and I ought to visit so I can take a lot of photos so you can see how things have changed.

    Margot-- I like it, too.

    LindyLou-- I'll have to go read about All Saints' Day in Italy!

    Barbara-- Yes, I am very lucky.

    At first, after my grandfather's death, it was scary knowing that I was the last left standing, but having Denis with me has chased all that away.

    I remember coming across an author named Cathy Cole when I was paging through Stop, You're Killing Me. It wasn't as strange as picking up a book when I was a teenager and discovering that one of the main characters was named Cathy Cole! LOL

  8. Wonderful story about love.

    A loving mother is someone who never humiliates you.

    Dorte H


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