It was colder than it should’ve been that time of year. So cold, actually, that the hideous scent from the meat factory had become stagnant, even neutral. The lawn was wet from morning frost. The sky overcast. Melancholy, at the very edge of town, this semblance of open land, caged in by rusting chicken wire. With the sun-dried hills in the distance, the place played host to the various stray cats and dogs that belonged to the land rather than the people. Rabbits were nestled between blades of grass, examining the family from afar.
The middle-aged woman with a stern face was handing out tamales to her three daughters and six nephews. Her brother, younger by the look of it, was scolding one of the boys for throwing cornhusks at the girls. As he lightly tapped the back of the boy’s head, he could feel the same sensation on the back of his own. Turning around, his anger quickly morphed into humility, as he recognized the criminal hand as his own mother’s. He sighed. It’s good to see you, he thought, smiling to himself. She gave him a warning look then happily returned to unwrapping her pork tamale. But it wasn’t hers, in fact—once free of the husk, the delicacy went to her husband, sitting proudly with a worn cowboy hat firmly placed on his head. He seized the tamale without glancing at his dutiful wife and took a large bite.
The kids were laughing about a TV show, fighting over the last bean tamale, whining to their parents. The adults were exhausted, trying to keep everyone happy and fed. The grandparents just watched, as quietly as the rabbits.
How exciting it was to see how their children had grown, how the grandchildren were as precocious as ever. They’re gonna be ok, thought the grandmother, as she and her husband shared a look.
All too soon, the sun began to set. Coyotes were calling in the distance. It was time for the family to go home. As the woman packed their baskets, it was evident that she had aged in the last year. Her veiny hands shook slightly and she slowly gathered her breath before calling for all the children to say goodnight to their grandparents. Making sure to leave two tamales, one for each grandparent, the family headed to their cars.
Staying behind, as always, the grandparents smiled and waved. Their nostrils took in the aroma of the tamales, of comfort, of family. Satisfied, they started the short walk home.
Driving out of the Elmwood Cemetery, the family did not shed one tear for they would be back next year on the same day with more tamales to share.
Not six months had passed and the rabbits were stirring. Something was different today. The family had returned.
But it was too soon for their annual gathering!
The family proceeded toward the tree to the left of the rosebush. A modest stone with an etched name, a woman’s name, was in front of the trunk. The grandparents cried. The father looked at the stone. The children ate tamales, understanding better than they let on.