Carmela carefully packed a basket of ofrendas for the trip to the cemetery. A cloth doll for Hernanda, a bottle of tequila for Fernando, a bouquet of cempasúchil… The rest of the family would bring their own gifts, but these were hers. And hopefully her lost family would visit and comfort her from Heaven. Abuela Maricela used to say that she talked with her husbands after drinking Los Recuerdos, but Carmela never had. Of course, she'd never sipped the wine of a husband or daughter before, only that of cousins of cousins or uncles or ancestors dead before she was born.
Picking the berries from their graves only four months ago had been one of the hardest things she'd ever done. The temptation to eat them right then and there had been nearly overwhelming, but she knew that all of them would be needed to make the wine. Don Peñaranda was the only one in their village who knew the exact recipe, but he had assured her that it would be ready in time for Día de los Muertos, even if only barely.
He said he would bring the bottles by later that afternoon, after the flight of the kites. Carmela used to love flying them with her family and friends, and would try to put on the best face she could, but watching the messengers to the dead fly overhead was less joyous now. Abuela Maricela said it would pass, that time and Recuerdos would help ease the pain, but Carmela didn't know. The large, colorful kites had been Hernanda's favorite part of the celebrations.
Carmela's hands stilled as she stared off into the distance, the memories of the brightly colored kites mixing with the faces of her little girl and husband, and the green grass covering their fresh graves… Everything blurred together into one great kaleidoscope of thought and grief and reluctant hope and memory and color and love and family and…
…Fernanda came back to herself and looked in awe at the shot glass in her hands.
"What did you see, niña?" asked her mother, as she recorked the bottle and put it on the altar with the others.
"I was Tía Carmela!" exclaimed the little girl in wonder.
"I know, niña. This was her bottle of Recuerdos. Did you see anything special? They say that los muertos can talk to us through them."
"It was her first Día de los Muertos after her family died. She was so sad! But a little happy, too! Why was she happy, Mama?"
"Oh, that is a special memory, niña," smiled her mother. "Sometimes people are sad because someone they love is gone, but happy because they can see them again, like you just did. That's was los Recuerdos are for."
"Will you make tequila like this, too, Mama?"
"Of course, niña, and you will too someday." Her mother scooped her up and swung her around, then carried her out of the room. "Now let's go down to the cemetery and clean Tía Carmela's grave, and watch the kite contest."