Paradise and Parenting: Making Mexican Memories

I love Mexican holidays so much. One of my favorites is Day of the Dead. I’ve always loved Halloween too, so that might be part of why I was always drawn to Dia de los Muertos. But as much as I love the ghost-y thrill of Halloween, I love the beauty and color of Mexico’s Day of the Dead even more.

Not only does Day of the Dead have better food (I’m in my mid-forties and still love candy, but am probably up for a root canal in the next year or two), but it is a wondrous celebration of death as part of life and a way to remember those who go before us.

I like to celebrate this and most other holidays by dragging my family through a variety of rituals which I deem as “special” or “memory-makers”. I won’t tell you what teen and tween children sometimes call them, because then you might feel sorry for me as I attempt to whip unwilling people into a nostalgic flutter.

One of the things I like to do is make my own Pan de Muerto, because it’s a great way for me to help the children connect their Mennonite roots (a sugary carb for every season) to their  Mexican roots (also a sugary carb for every season).

This year was a bust, as I bought bad yeast. I served Rocas de Muerto to my kids as a joke. Then we went to the local panaderia down the street and bought a whole bunch of Pan to dip in our hot chocolate. We planned to have this snack while we watched Coco, after we went to the parade downtown.

Well, at least we tried to go to the parade. I drove into the middle of town and was stopped from getting to any of the parking lots by several traffic police, who wanted people to drive enviously past lots and lots of parked cars in an orderly fashion. Once we were ushered out of the town’s center, I tried getting back in by taking the tunnel road. I entered Old Town and was ushered past that parking lot by more traffic police persons who also guided us back out of the town’s center.

I drove past several decorated cars and people holding candles and bit my lip. In Mom Language this means “I’m going to cry but the children are watching”. My son, who had been complaining loudly about the time it was taking to not actually get anywhere, asked me what was wrong in an entirely different tone of voice. I managed to squeak out “I really wanted to be there” before biting my quivering lower lip again.

My daughter informed the car that this is what happened when kids don’t appreciate what their parents try to do for them (which was great, because then I didn’t have to say it). They both lapsed back into silence. My son wrapped his arm awkwardly around my shoulder as we headed back home behind a long line of cars that seemed, in my emotional state, to be similarly dejected.

And then he said “Sometimes when teenagers complain it doesn’t mean they don’t want to do the thing you are asking them to do. It just means they are teenagers. Let’s go tomorrow morning.”

You know what? I suddenly felt like maybe I wasn’t just uselessly throwing myself against a wall of adolescent apathy, and that deep down (like way deep down), they appreciated my efforts. It was a good feeling. I started to sing my very own version of “Recuerdame” and no one corrected me, or even rolled their eyes.

When we arrived home to find that we left the bag of Pan de Muerto wide open and the dogs had helped themselves, we all just chuckled a bit, shrugged, and heated up more hot chocolate. We may not have Pan de Muerto this year, but I’d say the memories are made.