October 29, 2012

Day of the Dead

Hello, everyone. I've been working on a post but slowed down by technology issues, this time with an off-again, on-again camera. For several years I wanted to make a Day of the Dead altar for my mother, but this year it finally happened, although it turned out to be for her and her only brother too.

They were born in 1920 and 1923, here in Houston. Both of them went by nicknames. Roy was named after his father, my grandfather, but after his summer birth went by June Boy all of his short life. My mother was Althea Estelle, called Boukie by her father, a name that stuck.

Another reason for the delay of writing this was my failed search for marigolds. Those are the  flowers, real, dried or paper, that are used on an ofrenda. Could any be located in our neighborhood or anyplace near? Nope, not a one, hence the yellow silk ones from Goodwill that will have to do for now.

I don't know a lot about my mom's brother except that he was considered to be exceptional by everyone who ever talked about him to me, and he was greatly loved. He died a few days after his twenty first birthday, when thrown out of a car that was hit by a drunk driver. There were no seatbelts in 1941. There are several pictures of him. He wore the baby shoes and the little pocket Boy Scout diary from 1933  was a Christmas gift that year. 

My mother liked cats and flowers. She was an amateur painter and always had things from nature in the house, feathers, shells, framed leaves and other elements. She liked to fish and play cards, work jigsaw puzzles, and was always a night owl, staying up late to read and watch tv. She read all the time. We went to the library at least twice a week when I was growing up. She died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1983. It seems impossible that's nearly thirty years ago now. 

My mom was around three in that picture. The one under it was June Boy's graduation photograph. There is a bottle of coca cola there and several pieces of candy because she loved sweets. In fact, when grandchildren arrived it proved a real problem. She'd be pleased to be prepared for an upcoming holiday, then dismayed to find she'd eaten all the Easter or Halloween candy herself before the day arrived.

I love the school picture of June Boy's class in the front. It was taken at Harvard Elementary, a grade school near where we live now. He must have been in second or third grade in 1928. Imagine little boys  wearing ties to school now! The picture to the far left of the picture is a family of circus performers who lived near the family during the months they weren't on tour. They allegedly originated the act where members jump from the  shoulders onto a seesaw and send the person on the other end flying, to be caught by another. Mother said their grandfather trained the group and was very mean. He used a whip to punish poor performance.

Here are some loose snapshots. The long photo is my grandfather during the 1920s. That's very rare because he loved to take pictures, so was seldom the subject. There is June Boy aged around two, a more formal one in a studio. My grandmother with both children by an old car. Love the 1920s short dress with a big hat. My mom as a toddler, running from the camera, then when she married after WWII. The lower left one is down by the water somewhere, not sure who is with my grandmother and the children. My grandmother was one of a family of ten and grandfather a family of seven, so June Boy and Boukie had lots of cousins they spent most vacations and holidays with one family or another.

I'm glad I spent the time to gather these things to honor their memories. It is  sad that June Boy died long before my birth, so I never knew him, and that my mother left us before she was sixty. With the many moves made during my adult life and the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ike there aren't a whole lot of mementos left, which makes these pictures doubly precious.I want to link this to Susan's Met Monday party at Between Naps on the Porch here http://betweennapsontheporch.net/.

Dia de los Muertos is widely celebrated here. A store in the neighborhood has altars built by a variety of people each October, including one for the parents of both the owners. We always go by to see them each year. There is a reception open to the public with food and music which is always fun to attend. Is this custom common where you live? Have you ever built an ofrenda in your home?

Take care,


Tricia said...

This is so interesting, Michele! I like the way you've arranged the mementos and other reminders of your mother and her brother. The old photos are priceless to you, I'm sure! Thanks for sharing with those of us who didn't know anything about ofrendas!

The Pink Geranium said...

Great post, and because my mother was born in 23, I really can see the likenesses in the pictures, with styles..and the cars as well. I put all of my moms old pictures on a DVD with music, to give to my siblings.

That is so sad your uncle died so young, and your mother as well.


Athena at Minervas Garden said...

What a wonderful post. I've never built an altar, but it sounds like a really lovely and heartfelt tradition that I would like. I loved seeing your collection of vintage pictures of your family--they are beautiful. I thank you so much for stopping by my blog today--I am glad that you liked my vintage bookcase!