Hey, Y’all. When my Alabama friendgirl Ruby told me she felt deprived by having been denied the South of Louisiana’s Mardi Gras, as if something very important had been omitted from her youth, it made me think strongly of how that foreign holiday had come into my life and how deeply, after all these years, it is engrained into my very fiber. Thank you, Ruby, for the inspiration of this writing. You have been inspiring me for a while, and I do like having you in my life.
Imagine a young woman in Mississippi in an antebellum town of the northern part, rededicating her life to Christ on knees in front of the television evangelist’s show after seven years of marriage, one miscarriage, and troubles within but begging God to change her life. At 29 that was my plea. Two weeks later, Man of Mine came home to say he was going to interview for a job in Louisiana. Two weeks after that I was crossing the old Huey P. Long bridge in New Orleans (pretty scary crossing) in a rental airport car to let the banking people make sure I was not a two-headed escapee from a foreign universe before they could hire the man. It was Mardi Gras season, but I hadn’t a clue what that was or meant.
February in Louisiana shows her bare bones, and as we drove to interview in this small South of Louisiana town an hour southwest of New Orleans, the sight of so much trash abandoned and tossed beside the highway made my visual self-recoil within. Everything green was somewhat dead so man’s tossings in what was obviously a beautiful land made me angry and agitated my sense of beauty. I approached this interview with trepidation but with the remembrance of the prior prayer. However, put a Mississippi Delta girl on a stage, and the least she will do is smile. They liked me, but honestly, I liked them more.
We moved into a rented house, thanks to a friend’s charity, in April after the interview with these warmly loving people. Real estate was so expensive because of the oil boom that Man of Mine and I could afford little on the market to compare to what we had left behind. I was dumbstruck at the change that had come, but it had begun. I had begged God for an intervention in life, and He was answering that prayer shockingly in our lives!
The weekend we moved Ganny and Big Daddy, my parents, surprised us by coming to help us settle. The four of us dove into the boxes, and by Saturday’s eve, we were so settled that even the pictures were hung! Therefore, it seemed only right to invite their only local friends to come for brunch the following day. Hah! Make a plan, and God shifts a gear! The rains came and came and came and came that night until the ditch outside filled and filled and overflowed and crept and crept to the front door and stopped. No brunch, but, thank God, no flooding! What had I prayed?!
But as the land greened and the people showed their marvelous “joie de vie,” joy of life, my joy and love for the land prospered. They welcomed these strangers, they included us, they adopted us……….this childless young couple who had come to them a little bit broken and in need of a land and a people to love. The people in the South of Louisiana love you back! We were lost in their affections and kindnesses! We were home! Even if we talked funny to them with their French accents!
And then we truly met their Mardi Gras the following year! Mardi Gras is based on things Catholic, but that does not mean it is Catholic. By then I was as well, but that’s a tale for another day. The words actually translate to “Fat Tuesday,” which is the day of celebration prior to the Ash Wednesday of sin’s remembrance and forty Lent days before Easter. This celebration has a lot to do with their culture, which was now becoming ours. However, people from all over the world get caught up in it, but to experience it on the South of Louisiana is precious to me. There it is a local, harmless celebration of life during which people do just that. Many abuse it wickedly, but in our town, it was a throw-back to sweet, harmless family joie de vie with everyone’s “Mama and dem.” Always was, always will be there, I pray. It is part of the heart’s Love of the South of Louisiana.
Everything stopped on parade days. Bedecked in purple, gold, and green, the basic colors of the Church’s domain, we stood outside a friend’s home on the “parade route” and frantically shouted for favors. The colored beads were aggressively sought and the best were proudly displayed on one’s neck with hopefully mainly fancier ones over the plain. To get the extraordinary beads or rubber ducks or plastic crowns or dolls or anything other than the normal beads meant “special” in the minds of rabid paraders. After laboriously screaming for gifts from the floats, we returned to the home’s happy party and tables loaded with King cakes and goodies of the region, many family recipes handed down for generations and happy occasions. Mardi Gras, the Church, and these loving people were now in my heart, and my heart told me I was home.
This was 38 years ago. I live the first memories even now in my heart. My heart was moved to pray so long ago, and thus the greatest adventure of my life began. It has been and still is a roller coaster ride on the road of life. My advice? Experience what your heart says, but do everything sweetly and in love in order to live life radically and with passion in joyful anticipation of the road ahead. Look past first impressions and find the heart of what’s before you because then you find the real treasures. Amen.
Should God say the same, I look forward to sharing a little of life’s road adventures with you again! Thank you for the “read.” Stay safe and love well!