Altars are built in homes, and the markets arefilled with special holiday foods. Plays and parades are held in many places. Often people celebrate in the cemeteries. When the holiday is over and the spirits have returned to the spirit world, the celebrants are happy and at peace, knowing they have made the souls of the dead feel love and remembered.
"Wake up!" my mother calls. 'It's the Day of the Dead! We're going to honor your tioFernando."
As I get dressed I watch the sun come up. I miss my favorite uncle, Fernando, but everyone calls him Nando.
Tio Fernando had long, skinny legs, and the second toe of his right foot was longer than his big toe-just like mine. His moustache would tickle my chin when he lifted me in the air. He always brought me coconut candy that got stuck in my teeth.
Yesterday my mother scrubbed TioFernando's tombstone. I painted in pink and blue and pulled up loose weeds.
I helped my mother set up the altar in the living room. First we washed the walls and swept the floor. Then we opened a tablecloth with yellow-and-green embroidered birds. My mother laughed. "Do you remember how Tio's parrot refused to talk?’
This morning my mother places sweet-smelling candles on the table aroundpictures of Tio Fernando. In one of the photographs I am sitting on his shoulders. We are both wearing baseball caps. I remember when Tio Fernando let pick his lucky numbers. He said if he won the loteria he would be the richest man in Mexico and we'd drive all the way to California to see the Dodgers play baseball.
My mother puts my uncle's favorite foods: chocolate, cola, and mole-on the altar. Ilay his wooden flute there, too. When he visited, Tio Fernando would play it for me.
When the altar is done, my mother makes lunch. 'The Day of the Dead is a time to remember people who have died, whom we will always love," my mother says, "Tonight at the fiesta, we will bring Tio Fernando's special things to the cemetery. We will meet with his spirit and show him he has not been forgotten.""How will I meet Tio's spirit? Will I see him? Will he make noise? How will I know it is really him?" I ask
"So many questions!" My mother kisses me. "Some things we just know when it is time to know." She stuck some pesos in my pocket." Go to the market, Nandito. Buy some things that remind you of your uncle."
What can i take to the cemetery for Tio? I wander though the market.
"Bread ofthe dead!" Senor Romero shouts in the marketplace. He holds up loaves of bread that look like twisted bones. He Squeezes icing from a tube and draws a skull and crossbones on a round cake.
"Here, Nando.' Senor Romero hands me a blue-and-pink sugar skull with tinfoil eyes. He writes my name on its forehead.
"Thank you, Senor Romero." I stare at my name on the skull. "How will I meet TioFernando's spirit?"
I don't know, Nando. But when you do, your heart will be full."
I think of the candy my uncle would throw into the air and catch in his mouth. I buy a skeleton of marzipan candy and a cake baked narrow and skinny, like Tio Fernando.
"Devils' costumes!" Senora Magdalia sings. She shows me the silver bells and mirrors she has sewn onto black pants. "I am making devils' costumes forthe masqueraders," she says.
"Here, Nando." Senora Magdalia gives me a white handkerchief stuffed with sticks. She ties a rubber band around the middle and draws two black eyes. "This is for you."
"Thank you, Senora Magdalia." I shake the ghost in my hand." How will I meet Tio Fernando's spirit?
" I don't know, Nando. But when you do, you will feel good inside."
I think of the spooky...