As I was talking my art students, grades k-6, this week about the Mexican tradition of sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, I realized that the community we live in and the culture here on the Gulf Coast has a lot in common with what I am about to teach my students.
I began to alter my lesson from a discussion on Mexican culture and art, to one about the heritage and traditions right here in our own community.
The school that I teach at is rural and most of the families are related to one another. The cemetery is not too far away from the school and I have seen on more than one All Saints Day celebration several of my students there.
I could see their eyes lighting up, their hands began to raise and soon they were wriggling in their seats anxious to tell me their cemetery story. I told how the Mexican culture celebrated the day after Halloween by putting out candles, flowers and even brought their loved ones favorite foods to the cemetery.
They were like, "But that's what my family does too!" Soon we began to discuss not just the art lesson, but, family and generations of tradition. A tradition that I once thought may end with my generation.
This morning my husband and I spent the morning out at the cemetery cleaning and putting out new flowers. Getting things ready for next Saturday, All Saints Day. Catching up with cousins and friends that you haven't seen since last year at the cemetery is one of my favorite parts. The cemetery was filled with many people out cleaning, but the people there were mainly of the older generation. Suddenly, I hear the voices of young girls laughter and I look up to see three of my young students heading towards me. I couldn't help but to smile and I called to them, "Did you come just to see me?" We all laughed and they began to look around at the old graves near me, one asked, "Who is this? Do you know?" I told her yes, that was my husband's great great grandfather, Sherrie Moran and the road I live on is named after him. I told her to look at the dates, see how old it is? He was born in the 1800's. They were impressed. They began to ask me questions on how do you manage to clean the graves without stepping on where the person was buried, among other things. Their mother walked over curious to see just whom their daughter's were conversing with at the cemetery, and she told me how they came home talking about the sugar skull lesson and also about how similar our cultures were. I was happy to know that not only did the girls get something out of the art lesson but that they also just might be the next generation to carry on the tradition after all.