Today on my sister's writing site, Nudged to Write, she talked about Day of the Dead and gave a prompt (or "nudge") of writing about death-related customs. I don't really have any myself and my father is probably furious in the afterlife that I don't go to his grave every holiday with plastic flowers as was his custom. (He always bragged, "Hell, I got these for 99 cents each at the dollar store.") I love to wander around cemeteries, but not the ones housing my close family. I'm not one who thinks that any part of the person lingers where he/she is buried. If I want to visit with my maternal grandmother, for instance, I prefer to go to Morrow, Ohio, where she spent her childhood years. If her spirit was going to hang out anywhere it would be there.
The other day I read an article about pagans preparing to celebrate Samhain and one in particular who held a dinner with place settings for her departed relatives. According to the article, on October 31st the "veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is believed to be the thinnest of any time during the year." I'm always too busy out trick-or-treating with the kids to serve dinner for relatives, living or dead, but I really like the idea and it got me thinking of who I'd invite and what I'd serve.
My father passed away two years ago following a stroke. While he was alive, though, he liked his food. I could go with Montgomery Inn Ribs, White Castles, or KFC chicken strips, all favorites. I definitely would skip his more disgusting taste treats like pickled pig's feet and Limburger cheese. Ultimately I would go for Swedish meatballs. At the buffet at my wedding reception he pretty much single-handedly cleaned out the steam tray devoted to them. When he returned to the head table, my step-mother looked at the plate and said, "I can't eat all that." He returned with, "Goddamn, they ain't for you."
My maternal grandmother shared my love of food...and my weight issues. When I was ten she joined Nutri-System and during counseling they talked about "notorious eating companions." Yep, I was labeled as hers. I can't think of Grandma without remembering her chocolate pudding, the ribbon candy she put out at Christmas, and her "recipe," which was a mixture of Ginger Ale and Mogen David Wine. For my dinner, though, I think I'd go with black walnut ice cream, which she never passed up.
My step-father, who I always called "Imi", died in 2004. He did not have sophisticated taste in food and was perfectly happy with a lunch of canned soup and fried baloney sandwich. He was an avid gardener and would grow zucchinis the size of baseball bats. For that reason only I'd serve zucchini bread at the meal in his honor. (Plus I can't abide the thought of a fried baloney sandwich.)
My paternal grandmother quite honestly never seemed to think much of anyone's cooking but her own. She was known in the family for her apple pie and coffee cake, although I seem to remember lots of Jello cookies and the time she made boxed macaroni and cheese, not understanding you were supposed to mix up the powdered cheese until it dissolved. I doubt she'd like anything I cooked (although she loved me and probably wouldn't have criticized...to my face). I think I'd go with something familiar from my childhood with her but which tastes the same no matter who prepares it: Rice Krispies treats.
|Shirley on left, my mother|
My mother's only sister died just last year and I don't really connect her with food. She was glamorous. She had very blonde hair that was usually very big, brightly painted red fingernails, and rings on every finger. She had a nice figure up until the last decade or so of her life when health problems took a toll. For her I'd probably go back to a treat from her childhood, when her mother would make fudge. So, for Shirley there is Grandma's homemade fudge. (Unfortunately Grandma took the knack for making it to the afterlife with her and we've never quite been able to duplicate it. Same with her "recipe.")
My father's sister passed away weeks after his funeral. I'm sure Aunt Margaret liked to eat, but honestly when I think of her I see her with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. (My sister still remembers, with horror, Aunt Margaret crushing up her Sno-Cone for her with a cigarette between her fingers and the ashes falling in with the ice and sugar.) I believe she gave up both drinking and smoking in her later years, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a heavenly feast for her without a Budweiser.
I've already made clear to my family that I want to be cremated and my ashes put in a Dooney and Bourke purse. My sister is planning how she can line the thing and waterproof it. I used to say I wanted to be sprinkled on Wrigley Field near home plate, so when Ryne Sandberg slid some of me would stick to the back of his pants. He retired before I died so now I go with the Dooney option.
Anyone else already have their burial plans in place? Any unusual requests?