I went to Portland last week, and when I got back to Madison, I noticed that everyone was talking about gifts for their dead.
Devin was at his parents’ house, so I made a mental note to ask him later in the week. And I kept overhearing the phrase: “Gift for my dead” … “Gift for my dead” … “Gift for my dead.”
Wisconsin has a large Catholic population so I started to wonder if it was a tradition similar to Día de los Muertos.
I imagined little altars topped with cheese curds and Green Bay Packers memorabilia, rhubarb-scented veladoras, a polka band instead of mariachis, and calaveritas made of maple syrup instead of sugar cane. I’ve passed a few cemeteries in Madison, and I wondered if I’d get to see some of the celebrations.
It wasn’t until I overheard someone say “I’ve really got to get a gift for my dead. Father’s Day is on Sunday!” that I realized they weren’t preparing to accept the reality of death by participating in a collective mourning ritual commemorating loved ones lost. They were buying gifts for their dads!
And that’s when I had my big epiphany: the Upper Midwest accent is really just a game of musical chairs for short vowels.
The “a” in “dad” sounds like the “e” in “dead.”
The “o” in “Wisconsin” sounds like the “a” in “apple.”
“About” sounds like “a boat,” and round and round.
Now I know to run through all the vowels before I imagine another elaborate scenario (though I’m not ready to give up my daydream of a Midwestern Día de Muertos quite yet).
* The ceramic skull pictured above was a souvenir from Puerto Peñasco, where I guess they also know about Wisconsin’s Day of the Dead. ; )