Monday, October 26, 2015

A Gift for Abuelita

It's an understatement to say that my life has been crazy lately.  I'm now teaching the English component of a multi-age Spanish Immersion program. I love a challenge and this new assignment fits the bill. Now that I'm out from under the heavy load that a teacher new to a site experiences, I can start posting again.

One of the fun things about teaching in this program is that I have the opportunity to participate in many experiences unique to Hispanic cultures. Before this week, I did not understand the purpose of the holiday The Day of the Dead, or El Dia de Los Muertos.  Since I was unfamiliar with its meaning, I'll admit to being a bit put off by both the name and the symbols associated with it. I'm not big on much of Halloween either, for the record. But now that our program is immersing itself in preparing for the big day, I find that I am touched and appreciative rather than apprehensive.

This afternoon, my teaching partner gave me a book to read to the first and second graders to help prepare them for our upcoming El Dia de los Muertos celebration.  She had read it to them in Spanish, but thought they might like to hear it in English for better comprehension.  And so, I began reading A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead.

Sweet is the perfect adjective to describe this story. It begins with a young girl, Rosita and her grandmother having quiet, meaningful conversations as Abuelita teaches Rosita how to braid, make tortillas, tend a garden and many other tasks. When Abuelita becomes ill and passes away, Rosita misses her dearly.

As El Dia de Los Muertos approaches, the entire family begins to create their offerings -  remembrances for each of their loved ones who have passed. Rosita begins a braid for Abuelita.  It becomes clear as preparations are made that Rosita has misunderstood.the events of El Dia de Los Muertos and believes that Abuelita will be there, just as she was in life.

The family gathers to celebrate and Rosita keeps asking why Abuelita has not arrived yet.  Finally, her father realizes that Rosita doesn't understand and clarifies for her that Abuelita will not be there in person, but that Rosita will feel her spirit and know when she is there.

I fought tears throughout the story, but as the author describes Rosita's gift to her grandmother in tender detail and the moment when Rosita feels her near, I could not hold them back. While this is a fairly common occurrence for me, my new littles hadn't seen it yet.  Well, they saw it today and while it wasn't an "ugly cry," it was one of those squeaky, I-can-barely-read-aloud cries.  The good news is that this group of children understood what I meant when I explained the difference between my crying at that moment and crying because of anger, sadness, or pain. We had a great discussion, and several of them shared their personal experiences with crying because something sweet touches your heart.

I highly recommend this book - as an introduction to Day of the Dead or just to comfort a child who has recently lost a loved one.