KIDLANDIA: Honoring and Remembering Our Loved Ones by Julianna M. Cruz

It’s a stormy day here in Riverside, and memories of my mother-in-law came streaming in as we set out to buy Marigolds. 30 years ago, during the first week in November, a storm passed through Riverside much like today’s and it sent my mother-in-law (to be) into a bit of a panic. Why? Well, I was wrapping up the last minute arrangements for our outdoor wedding at the Botanic Gardens (UCR) and she was afraid it would rain on our wedding day. My easy-going attitude about the weather did not ease her worry; in fact, it made her worry all the more. I didn’t have a Plan B, and she looked at me and said, “What are you going to do if it rains?” She didn’t approve of my response, “I guess we’ll get wet.” I reassured her that even if it rained it would be a wonderful event and that in other cultures rain on your wedding day is actually considered good luck. She just shook her head as I chuckled. That’s when she reminded me that I still hadn’t registered at any of the local stores and relatives were calling her to find out which china pattern we had chosen. Gifts were the furthest thing from my mind, and I never have been the kind of girl that chose china patterns. I just wanted people to share our special day with us (I considered their presence to be their presents). Again, I got the shake of her head and a sigh that let me know she was trying to be patient with me. As it turned out, the day was absolutely beautiful. Stunning cumulo-nimbus clouds floated in a bright blue sky and the garden looked as though it had been washed clean and groomed just for our wedding—I couldn’t have been happier. I’m pretty sure Dorothy was happy too. Thanks for being patient with me, Dorothy. I really miss you. Thank you for bringing this memory to me today. Decorating my in-laws grave today gave me great pleasure. The air was spicy and sweet, kind of like the memories I have of Henry and Dorothy Cruz, the best in-laws ever!

Dorothy and Henry are at the National Cemetery and my Grandma Martha Nunez is at Crestlawn Cemetery in the Arlington area, so we drove along the outskirts of Riverside under a beautifully stormy sky. Both cemeteries are located in such a way that one can truly admire the topography of the Inland Empire.

Standing at the olive tree by my grandma’s grave I drank in the view and breathed in the scent of marigolds. I arranged them in a cascade style and that reminded me that I needed to go get water. It seemed that my grandma was always thirsty, so whenever I visit I pour an extra drink for her. Whenever I am there I remember the times I would ride my bike down the Santa Ana River Trail to sit with her. I would roll my bike up to the olive tree, go get some water, and sit down for some quiet time. As I sat calmly, I could hear the crow of roosters and barking dogs from down the hill. The bird songs and the wind whistling through the olive leaves made me feel happy. My grandma loved birds. We would always feed her little friends the last bits of stale bread. I miss you, Gommy and I feel you with me always.

Dia de los Muertos gives us a day to remember and honor our loved ones each year, but I feel them all around me everyday.

Take some time today to remember your loved ones.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.