March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras = FAT Tuesday

I sooooo love New Orleans, or as the locals say it "Nawlins".  I love the flavor, the feel, the idea of New Orleans.  There is so much to do and so much to see right in the French Quarter that you needn't go far for a good time. 

I guess I have such a connection to New Orleans maybe and mostly because my Grandma was born there.... in 1895.  My grandma died just five years before the new millennium in 1995.  Talk about a long life of changes and experiences and family and babies!!!  I can't even count how many cousins I have... first, second, third and probably even fourth.  My Grandma was 44 when my mother was born and that made her the 13th!!

My Grandpa was born in or around 1878 in Louisiana also.  I believe he was born in Baton Rouge.  What a gentle "giant" he was.  While Grandma was about 4' 10", Grandpa was at least 7' tall!  Well, as a child it sure seemed that way, but in reality he was about 6' to 6' 2".  He had the most beautiful cool, blue eyes!  Those eyes, or very close variations of them, are sort of the trademark of the Benoit family.  Sadly, I didn't get those eyes, BUT I did get the "Benoit Butt".  Okay, at least you can tell I'm related to an extent.

I used to love to talk to Grandma about being a little girl in "Looziana".  I loved hearing her accent with the softness of her voice.  She rarely raised her voice at us that I can remember, but when she did you knew she meant business.  She'd threaten that she would either shoot us in the pants and make us whistle or would tell us to go play out on the Boulevard (that would be Bellflower Blvd. to be exact).  Right across the street from here....

This is the house that we were at so often.  For Christmas Eve, the family would get together and there would be an easy 200 people eating homemade Gumbo... the BEST Gumbo on the planet! I have so many wonderful memories there as so many kids do of their grandparents' house.  I have to credit the memories to the fact that there were ALWAYS aunts, uncles and cousins galore!!!  You were never alone. 

But I completely digressed here...

I always wanted to go to Mardi Gras, but would NEVER go against Grandma's wishes.  She always told me to never go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  It was too dangerous.  "There's too many bad things that happen", she would say.  Whether she was right or wrong at the time, I heeded her warnings and just never went.

I may never get the courage or the gumption to go... just plain out of respect, I guess.

I have, however, been to New Orleans enough times to know that I like it and know that a part of myself was borne of the city.  Both my parents are from Louisiana as well as all of my mom's immediate family.  The state just calls out to me somehow. 

So, aside from walking down my little memory lane with me, I wanted to wish everyone a very happy Mardi Gras and hope you get all the hethenisms out of yourself today.

There's a thing I've dreamed of all my life, and I'll be damned if it don't look like it's about to come true—to be King of the Zulu's parade. After that, I'll be ready to die.

Louis Armstrong, Time magazine, February 21, 1949

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