Posts Tagged ‘Bonnie’

El Día de los Muertos and Mayonnaise Cake

November 1, 2009
Feddie, Bonnie, and Bob: Kemah Boardwalk at Christmas

Feddie, Bonnie, and Bob: Kemah Boardwalk at Christmas

Last year I wrote about how I’d grown up with the tradition of El Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead celebrated November 1 and 2 – through my family’s several spins of Air Force life in San Antonio and our eventual adoption of it as our home.  Coming just a year after my parents’ passing, it was a special and poignant time for me.  This year, I’m remembering them, and I’m also making a special remembrance for Freddie’s sister Bonnie who left us in February.  My ofrenda for 2009 is Bonnie’s Mayonnaise Cake.

The tradition described in Wikipedia:

Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto (“bread of the dead”), sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the “spiritual essence” of the ofrendas food, so even though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value.

My own tradition, of course, is to eat the foods and talk and tell stories about our beloved departed.

Bonnie sent us this recipe on January 24; less than a month later, she was gone.  She had come to live with us briefly in San Diego in late 2001, not long after her diagnosis with leukemia.  Within nine months, we all had relocated, first Bonnie back to Indiana, then Freddie and I to Galveston.  She visited us once on the Island at Christmas, but her most fervent wish was to get back home to be closer to her adult children.  I last saw her around Thanksgiving, 2007 in Indianapolis when we stopped by on our way to spend the holiday with Freddie’s parents.  Freddie grew so much closer to Bonnie in those couple years, often speaking with her on the phone every day.  It’s a loss that has not healed.

In any case, the cake is wonderful and easy to make:

2 cups flour
1-1/4 cup sugar
3 or 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix flour, sugar, and cocoa powder into a large bowl.  Stir in mayonnaise.  Gradually add in water mixture and vanilla.  Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch pans.  Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

For Bonnie

February 14, 2009

Freddie’s sister Bonnie passed away sometime late this week.  We’re not sure exactly when.  She had had leukemia.  Although she had been in remission a few years, she got sick again in December and had to start chemotherapy again at the end of last year.  Her daughter found Bonnie yesterday evening at her apartment when she stopped by to take her grocery shopping.  There was nothing to be done.

Hers was a difficult life and troubled.  I don’t know too many details, but I remember Bonnie well.  She left a strong impression wherever she went.

Bonnie lived with us for several months in San Diego shortly after her initial leukemia diagnosis.  When she had gotten out of the hospital, she had no place to live and little money, so we offered to bring her out to California from Florida, her home at the time.  After a few rocky months she took a trip back to the family home in Indiana for her son’s graduation, and she decided not to come back.

Bonnie had a complicated relationship with faith.  Her ex-husband was a fundamentalist minister, but he treated her very poorly and with cruelty.  She left him, and left her children, too.  Later she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, later still with borderline personality disorder.  She believed in God; she was angry at churches, angrier still at church people.  I can still hear asking about the leukemia, about the emotional disorders — “Why?  Why?  I’ll never be normal!  Why?”

There could be no answer, except reassuring noises and the help to help her do as well as she could.  Sometimes “as well as she could” was very well:  Bonnie dearly loved her children and never stopped trying to make up for leaving them.  Sometimes, however, it was very poorly, with a string of angrily broken relationships, bounced checks, abrupt life changes, and more.

I wanted to dedicate a song for Bonnie.  I don’t know if she would like it or not, but it’s from her tradition.  She would either love it or hate it, strongly.

I searched for the Happy Goodmans, specifically looking for Vestal.  She’s always been a favorite for both Freddie and me.  Perhaps Vestal satisfies that atavistic diva-love that many gay men have, even though she’s in a gospel miliue.  Wave those white hankies…  The higher the hair, the closer to God…  I can imagine Bonnie laughing at that.  Anyhow, Vestal Goodman and George Jones, Angel Band: