Sobs. Sopping wet bawling. That’s how our story starts—Basil D’Carlo mourning his dear mother on the Dia de Los Muertos. Basil hadn’t been like this for two years, since the day that it happened. He had thought about her, of course, but not tears of this intensity. He looked at her picture and put it up on the altar in its bleached frame of beauty. Basil sat in the living room and just stared into his mother’s eyes. There were so many memories in this place on this carpeted floor he sat on now. He looked at his mom’s old paintbrushes, sitting in a jar by the photo. He gazed at the white sheet over the altar, remembering her favorite color. She would’ve been proud, Basil thought. We’ve honored her memory. Soon enough, Ginger came into the room and put her hand on her brother’s—Basil’s—shoulder.
“I know how you feel. I am what you feel. Still, our primos are here to support us, so we should take this day to honor Mama.” Basil looked up at Ginger with watery eyes and finally saw the white chrysanthemums she was holding. She set the flowers next to the picture Basil had put up of their mother. Ginger smiled a teary smile and hugged Basil until they were both crying. I hope that Mama’s proud of us . . . Ginger thought. The only thing I can do is hope.
Neither of the two could really say for sure how long they were there, clinging tight to each other. One might suppose that only the clock could tell for sure, but we all know that the secrets of time are trapped inside. All that mattered at that time was that there were two siblings, together. Almost as if it were for the first time.
Not very long after, the two found more warm hands on their shoulders. Thyme and Cumin, brothers to each other and cousins to Ginger and Basil, were now standing in the room. “We have her artwork,” Thyme said.
“Even the sculptures,” Cumin added. Both of the brothers looked uncomfortable, unknowing of what to say that would help their cousins through this difficult day. (None of the D’Carlos had been affected quite as much as Ginger and Basil.) Cumin put a quartz vase near the photograph and lifted some of the chrysanthemums into it. He brushed his dark hair out of his eyes and looked at the photo of Tía Olive. She had her long, wavy hair and her olive-colored skin. Before Cumin knew it, a tear brushed his cheek too. “Her sculptures . . .”
Thyme hugged his brother as he looked at the bright reds, yellows, oranges, and blues splashed on the canvases. Tía Olive said she was going through a phase of colors while lost in her art. She always had some sort of color phase in her paintings. Sometimes it was a blue phase, sometimes it was a dark phase, sometimes it was a phase of random colors. Ironic that now it would end with the one color that she always covered up with paint, but still the one that she loved the most— white.
“I—I have something else,” Pepper piped in as she entered the room. As the youngest sibling, it was rare for her to speak out. “Something she gave us a long time ago . . .” Pepper placed five letters that still had a fresh seal on the altar. Each one harbored a separate name in the handwriting of Tía Olive: Pepper, Basil, Ginger, Cumin, and Thyme. “I found these letters a few weeks ago and I—I waited . . .”
At this point, everyone had a dampness in their eyes. No one cared if they waited months, weeks, or years to open the letters, just knowing that they were there was enough. After all, inside of each letter was Tía Olive’s voice. To the D’Carlo family, opening their letters seemed like the voice would be lost to time forever.
No one wanted to lose her forever.
Tía Olive couldn’t do anything but watch while her family wept in her name. They always did overreact, she thought as she smiled at them. “You have made me proud, my niños. No matter what you think, you’ve made me proud,” she said, her face crinkling up with the smile that only a proud mother could produce. Even though they could never hear her, her family’s presence was enough.
“I wonder if we’ve done enough,” Thyme said. “If she’s here.”
“I am here, Tomillo.”
“I feel her,” Ginger said. “She’s here.” Ginger choked in another sob as she repeated, “She’s—she’s here.”
Tía Olive stepped forward to take two of the chrysanthemums. The first she slipped into Pepper’s hair, and the second one she took for herself. To the living, they would never know what she did that day—still, it was enough for Tía Olive. It was enough.
“It just feels so different now,” Basil verbalized. “Without her . . . here.”
“I wish we could see her,” Pepper said.
“Maybe it’s better this way,” Cumin replied, squeezing Pepper into a hug.
“I just—it’s so much to take in . . . it’s like it’s all happening over again . . .” Ginger said, crippling to the floor.
“I WISH IT COULD JUST BE NORMAL AGAIN!” Basil shouted. Lowering his voice to a sad sigh, he whispered, “But it can’t be . . .”
She didn’t look back into the house as she took the white flower with her, but she did utter last words. “I’m going to paint my canvas again, little ones. I’ll be back next year.”
So this is how our story ends: sobs. Sopping wet bawling. Little did the D’Carlos know that it always had been and would be enough for Olive. That would never change.
Greetings and salutations! For some backstory on this short story I wrote, it was an assignment from my English/Language Arts class. We were supposed to write about giving, so I based mine on giving to the altar (and Tía Olive giving her family the letters). I’ve actually also been wanting to write about the Dia de Los Muertos for quite a while now, and I finally received my opportunity to show how love goes beyond the grave.
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this story! Leave a like or a comment below if you did.