My friend, Sandy Allbee Lacy, has written a children’s book, “Pepe and Lupita and the Great Yawn Jar.”
Based in San Luis, it is a deeply cultural story about a multi-generational family who had their own traditions and lived mostly off the land.
They also practiced the traditions of their people, brought from Spain to Mexico, to the Southwest.
In the book, the large family, with its seven brothers and sisters, mother and father and frail, elderly grandfather, live out their lives, which are generally bound by tradition and routine, attending church each Sunday and visiting the grave of their grandmother immediately afterwards.
Generally, the grandfather slept in his huge, comfy chair each day -- and he snored. The two eldest children, Pepe and Lupita, decided to gather some of his monumental yawns in a glass jar, which eventually ended up in a niche on the fireplace.
There, the jar sat, as the family prepared for All Saints Day, Nov. 1, and All Souls Day, El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, Nov. 2, when they would feast at the grave of the grandmother.
Each family member who could remembered the grandmother. The elderly grandfather, el abuelo, remembered her most of all. Married in their youth, they had spent their lives together, raising children, farming the land and growing old. Preparing the memorial, the family had brought along his chair, and he slept off and on. The changes seen in him later were nothing short of a miracle.
As the sun rose, the family returned home, but since the souls of the departed were believed to be awake that day, the family returned to the grave and bid their matriarch goodbye for another year. She may not have returned willingly to her eternal sleep.
As events ranged from a haunted kitchen to a late night conversation between the aged man and his true love. the yawn jar sat untouched. Then the children made a wonderful choice, they used the yawns to end the events for another year.
Later, they decided to capture some more yawns, just in case strange things happened again.
Illustrated by well-known artist Garren Schrom and brought to life by Alamosa native Lacy, the story introduces the reader to life in rural San Luis. It can be bought through Amazon.com.
It reminded me of the traditions that hold each family together, no matter what its ethnic background.
While some people may see them as superstition, many of the deep beliefs are rich with magic that fills the reader with wonder.
In the San Luis Valley, the celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day have been practiced for centuries. Children have grown up going to the cemetery, bringing along and feasting on the departed loved one’s favorite foods, singing favorite music, remembering him or her and trying to stay up all night.
Do the souls of the faithful departed return to the home to perform their normal tasks?
Should they be welcomed or sent away? The family, along with Pepe and Lupita, learned their lessons well.
Maybe the visits of the departed aren’t confined to just those two days, perhaps they happen all year long.
Today, I found a new penny in the middle of the bathtub. No one but me has been there for days and I just cleaned the tub.
Pennies from Heaven are just another sign that, while they may be gone, we are not forgotten.