31 of October
Sorry for the hiccup in my writing; it’s been a busy week!
On Monday the kids and I got up and walked to Papalote with Papa. We had a typical school day: sitting in all-Spanish classes for hours, reprimanded by some teachers for not doing their homework assignments, and sympathetically smiled at by others; I missed my tutoring class, and gave hugs to Kanon and Delilah when I saw them on the little playground at their recess time. The next day- and the next, and the next, and the next, Mum made the appropriate decision, along with the help of us kids, to not go to school. I usually would be disappointed by this, but my workload of finishing the poster for Paamul’s Halloween celebration by Wednesday outweighed a socialite day at school. On Tuesday, I spent the day in Tulum with my family, wandering through the ruins of a grand civilization lost in time. The rocky city limit walls withheld a world of its own, a planet differing in every way from the one I know. The grass was so green, so sprawling, so infinite, and I felt as if I must be in some Mayan Elysium. The city plateaued at the beach, the tide licking the lips of the cliff the ruins rested on. I lost my Steve Madden- John Lennon sunglasses to the churning waters while trying to keep Kanon from getting spit out onto the rocks emerging majestically from the aquamarine waves. I retired to the small space of beach not yet taken by the tide, and cracked open Bearing The Cross. I read a page, decided I wasn’t interested at the moment in the politics of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and its passionate luminary, so I pulled out the second book I’d brought- subconsciously knowing My Sister’s Keeper was what I was going to read all along. The story is fictional, an unlikely genre for the fast paced, melodramatic novel centered on a family ravaged by sickness and a court case. Papa is a lawyer, and I suppose it has rubbed off on me, after all the times I’ve worked filing papers and organizing the big, fat, yellow packages of more paper that indicate a depot. Before I knew it, my family was packed and ready to skeedaddle home from Tulum and its ruins, beautiful beaches, and idyllic landscape to get ready for Aidan and Kalin’s Dia de Los Muertos celebration that evening.
The boys’ faces were painted in bright colors, and the walk from home to the congregation of the pre-parade was but a few short blocks. Everything is easier when you live in the center of the city like we do, even though it means we don’t get a vast estate like in PlayaCar, or a beachfront community like in Paamul. The parade was nothing like I have ever seen, with dancing lights in the matching the last rays of the setting sun and a crowd of hundreds carting Dia de Los Muertos paraphernalia. The celebration was organized between the many schools in Playa- Tepeyak, Papalote, Colegio Ingles, et cetera- for the elementary kids to dance two miles down all of Quinta and sing and basically make a coordinated riot in honor of the Mexican holiday. Dia de Los Muertos and Halloween were always my favorite holidays, but now I’m spending them in Mexico, they are a hundred times better.
When Wednesday swung around, the twenty-ninth, I completed my “Enter If You Dare” poster for the entrance to Paamul’s Halloween fest, and Mum and I took off with Delilah to see if we could get it laminated. Fortunately, Playa has two stores that may possibly be able to laminate, Office Max and Office Depot. We stopped at Office Depot because it was closer and our lemon of a car has a hard time driving far distances on stop-and-go side streets. Turns out, we had to buy clear tape to cover the poster because the laminator machine wasn’t big enough to fit the twelve by twenty-four poster paper. “Mexico”…go figure. Our trio stopped by the community center in Paamul next to see what work could be done in preparation for tomorrow and to give Kathy the poster I made to put up. We left after about an hour of work and drove home as carefully as possible while Mum spoke to Papa over Skype about getting the car to Roger tomorrow. It should be in the shop right now, but our trip to Xcaret that night prohibited us from giving up our mode of transportation.
At four o’clock, after a hassle of trying to get into the park, Mum and Papa, the kids, Kenny, and I were in the Dia de Los Muertos sanctuary. The cracks in the sidewalk were lined by golden sunset marigolds, and parrots and flamingos lingered around the entrance. A beautiful girl in traditional Mexican dress and lacey skeleton tattoos up her arms posed by an arch of palm fronds and marigolds. We walked the whole park, visiting the aquarium (sea turtles, sharks, alligators); the animal exhibits (cheetahs, jaguars, pumas); and then moseyed to the Dia de Los Muertos side of the park. Mum exclaimed,”So this is where they’ve been hiding all the Day of the Dead decorations in the whole town!” Our alter at home is awfully barren. We met up with Kristen, Anthony, Clayton, and Kristen’s dad; Chris and I wandered the park and painted our faces; I saw many teenagers from around Playa working in one of the exhibits. The night was black outside, but festive and colorful and radiant and with a quirky flair of death in the gates of Xcaret. Candles festooned the park in a marching, soldiery manner down passageways and glimpsed off the painted, white faces of the people wandering through the adornments. Pots rested on fiery beds of rocks as the Mayans cooked their supper in a corner of the park. A massive arena, an ancient, stony testament to the Mayan way of life, housed plays and the Mayan ball game where use uses their hips and body to feed the 20 inch in diameter ball through the hoop. But the best part of the night wasn’t when I danced carelessly in the middle of passing strangers to an embarrassed Kira, or when I smudged black face paint under Chris’s eyes- it was the cementario. With Anthony as a guide, we finally found the not-to-be-missed cemetery, resting on the tippy top of a Mayan ruin. The ruins were crested by jewels of flickering candlelight that Aidan and I held up to the monument graves of the deceased and read their tombstone by. We wove our way through the twisting pathways leading up and around through the perfectly crafted chapels sitting at the head of the graves of people with names like Juanita Aranda Francesca Bolanos. I felt a sense of belonging, inseparable attachment to the black night, the soft glow of the candles, and the boisterous horns breaking fragments of a scale in between the chit-chit-chit of the painted skeletons talking. The dark side of things are my connection to reality, my missing link to humanity, my intermediary between insanity and an artist’s brain. If I could live in a land like Jack Skelelington, where it is always centered on one, decrepit holiday, my holiday would be Dia de Los Muertos. It always has been.
- Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte en Xcaret. (onlyinmx.wordpress.com)