Being from Louisiana, I know a good party; and Mardi Gras season is not just about partying before Ash Wed. and lent season; No, not at all: to a child, Mardi Gras is a magical time where beads and candy are thrown from parade floats, getting tons of junk from vendors peddling carts that you don’t need but want, music and bands that you clap and dance around to. When you are a pre-teen and think you know everything, you go off by yourself with your friends (at least in Lafayette daytime parades). As an adult, this is not nearly as fun because you get pelted right in the face, (whereas when you are a child, the adults catch the beads, and if you were as spoiled a child as I was, many adults would catch and give beads to me.), when you have whiney kids begging and crying for the junk on the carts (karma is a butt LOL) or because they didn’t get any “catches” from one float or any “good catches” like toys and such (and for some strange reason, at least in my case, the older I get, the worse my anxiety and nerves get). Then there is also the yummy sugary goodness of the season also known as King Cake! YUM! King Cake is Mana from heaven itself (LOL Just kidding); in all seriousness, King cake is is a ring of twisted cinnamon roll-style dough topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold (the traditional Mardi Gras colors) with food coloring. King cakes may also be filled with additional foodstuffs- the most common being cream cheese, praline, cinnamon, or strawberry, etc. King cakes also usually put a little plastic baby in the cake to represent baby Jesus; and in Louisiana, the person who finds the baby is required to purchase the next king cake.
Mardi Gras was so much fun for me as a child and I have many humorous stories about it. When I was a young child, Dad worked in Oilfield as a service manager or technician manager at Sola Communications. Sola Comm., as we often called it, would have an area for their employees to pitch a tent (or a few tents) and lay blankets on the ground in front of UL Lafayette’s Maxim Doucet building off of Johnson Street and across from St Mary Street. They would have so much yummy food, mostly BBQ, and chips and such (I had a sensitive stomach so I would usually bring picnic sandwich from home). There was a girl around my age (her dad worked with my dad); I can’t remember her name, but that was my play-friend for the parades: stood together for the parades, catching beads together, when parades weren’t going all (because we were there all day until early evening) we’d play chase or hide and seek from the adults, or we’d go walk down to the “junk on carts” with our money from our parents(She always made sure no one shoved or pushed me by accident, or any other way that I could’ve gotten hurt.) we just had a lot of fun together.
I remember one year specifically; I was in second grade, I believe: A lot of things happened that one year: My brother spray painted my hair green, I got a lot of beads (thanks to Jared, his girlfriend at the time, Dad, and some of Dad’s really tall co-workers). Dad scared the “be-jeepers” out of me, and Mom got so drunk that Dad had to put the child lock on the windows.
I remember we had 3 cans of colored hair spray: Purple, yellow, and green; I wanted purple, but Jared (being the jerk that he was at the time) thought it’d be hilarious to give me green hair instead; I was a brat, so when I saw what he had done, I had a full on meltdown: crying, hitting him, throwing stuff at him, etc. Mom was the same way she is now, “Jamie, it isn’t that big a deal,” (and I agree with her now that I am an adult), but I’ve always been one for being melodramatic about stuff (I’m a girl so of course I’m dramatic!)
Dad always loved to get me “all wound up” and aggravated (I honestly think, he believes that it is his one job in life), but this one year when I was in second grade, he honestly went overboard or maybe he was trying to teach me a lesson, I honestly don’t know; but, anyway, my friend and I were running around playing hide and seek behind the pillars near Maxim Doucet building: I had my back turned and was looking around, Dad somehow snuck up behind me and put his hands over my mouth like he was a kidnapper! (Talk about scary, right?!) I wriggled and kicked and squirmed, crying my eyes out; once he brought me near our spot, he put me down and turned me to face him. I was so upset! I was calling him a jerk and all kinds of stuff. He told me “that is how easy it is for someone to kidnap you! You weren’t even together (talking about me and my friend); separated from each other, makes it a lot easier to kidnap one of y’all!” Let’s just say, after that incident, I never wandered off too far without my friend being next to me.
On the way home that same evening, Dad had to put mom’s windows on Child lock. She had been drinking crown Royal Whiskey all day and was totally drunk! She must have thought she was in a parade or something because next thing we all know, she is throwing beads out of her window, into the tailgates of pickup trucks and pissing other drivers off: and making me cry in the backseat because she is throwing all of “my purple” beads; I didn’t care about the other beads, just don’t throw the purple, momma!
That was such a fun and funny Mardi gras, although going to parades with my godfather, his family, and his friends, is a lot of fun too! We once went to New Orleans for Mardi gras in 2006, right after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita—that was also memorable. We took my grandmother, Maw-Maw Verdine Meche with us, there was this big biker looking dude (later found out he was gay –but I hold no judgments against him about that, LOL) the kids and I were bored waiting for the parades, so we broke some old beads we found on the ground, and took the little ball beads and were throwing them at people; this biker dude played along and soon we were having a broken bead war—us against him and his friends. LOL! Another memory which was probably scary for mom was the fact, I kept wandering off to the front of the barricades (leaving them somewhere in the middle); there was this couple who were Latino heritage I think, and they would give me the beads they caught, along with one of the older grandparents who still could move and dance without breaking a hip, would try to dance with the high school dancers ( I think he was pretty drunk!), but we ended up with a lot of beads and “good throws” that year. Do You want the big stuff? Go to New Orleans for Mardi gras!
We are all from Louisiana, so we all pretty much know how to have a good party; Just have the right food, the right music, cute kids, and lots of drinking and king cake….hell, sometimes, you’d think our party was the parade with the lot of us all dancing! Like we say in Louisiana, Laissez Les Bon temps roulez, which is Cajun French for “Let the good times roll,” and in Louisiana, we do just “dat!”