November 2 was All Souls’ – the Day of the Dead for people in Mexico and their descendants in North America’s Southwest (and around the world.) One way it’s celebrated is by making an ofrenda in the home. Ofrendas honor one or more deceased ancestors, family or friends.
This one was for my maternal grandmother, Nannie Ruth Thomas Howard, who was variously known as Ruthie, Ruth T., and to her grandchildren, Mompsie. Que Dios la tenga en la vida eterna. May God keep her in the life eternal.
Ofrendas include pictures, flowers, candles, salt, water, religious symbols, things the deceased person owned, and food and drink they liked. Traditional flower colors are yellow and orange. Traditionally there is papel picado, the Mexican art of cutting detailed designs in tissue paper. I substituted doilies (!). My grandmother being an Alabama lady, that seemed apt. Where traditional ofrendas have a plate of tamales or even chicken mole with side dishes, I put some fried chicken in the cast iron frying pan on the lower level. With a can of collard greens and a can of peaches on the side. Ofrendas always have pan de muertos, bread of the dead – a slightly sweet yeast bread with bone-shaped decoration on top. This was the first time I’ve ever made pan de muertos. It caused me to remember how my grandmother taught me to separate egg yolk from the white by pouring the yolk back and forth between the halves of the broken shell.
In making this ofrenda, I discovered that imagining, collecting and handling all of these things and placing them just so is the most powerful way of remembering a loved one that I’ve ever experienced.
I love you, Mompsie.