Nov. 20, 2013 02:01

The beauty of our roots

I hope to give Eleanor memories she will cherish.

I grew up in the country. I didn't take swimming lessons or dance classes or play soccer. "Fast food" was leftovers, PB&J or a ham sandwich on Evangeline Maid bread with whatever fruit was in season. I drank "coffee milk" at breakfast, lived next door to my mawmaw, who mostly talked in French, and knew a thing or two about making a roux and pralines at a young age. I ate organic long before organic was cool, thanks to my grandmother's chickens and green thumb. We didn't have a lot of money, but we were rich in love.

Like most of us, I have a few childhood memories that stay forever etched in my mind. I lovingly recall baking cakes from scratch with my mom and her drawing pictures for me to color. I remember my sister and I making homemade kites out of brown paper bags and paper dolls from construction paper. Hot sunny days bring me back to a time in my childhood when I'd grab sticks that were just sturdy enough to pop the tar that bubbled to the top of the dead-end street where we lived. And on those final days that marked the end of summer, the neighborhood kids and I would walk through the thirstiest of ditches and driest of pastures searching for blackberries. We'd search for hours for those juicy, finger-staining berries so fervently, like we were panning for gold. Our prize would be a blackberry pie, wonderfully made by one of our moms, for all to share.

When I grew up, I had a backyard, a front yard and a small library of books; those were my "extracurricular activities." I don't mean to sound like I was missing out because you don't know what you're missing if you've never experienced it, but naturally, I'd like for my children to have opportunities that I didn't have as a child.

Now a mother myself, I often seek new experiences and "memory makers" for my daughter and I, especially in the last year. Since she's barely 3, these activities have ranged from painting her toenails, to going to the zoo and Children's Museum, to making cupcakes. We love shopping, arts & crafts and playing dress up - typical activities to do with a little girl. (Truth be told, if it were up to my daughter, we'd watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse from sun up to sun down.)

I've felt for some time that it was time to introduce her to something new. Luckily, we live in a city that never has a shortage of things to do.

So when I saw the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra was performing Disney's Fantasia, I thought that was something my Eleanor might enjoy. I agonized over whether or not I should buy tickets; I didn't know if she'd be terrified or enthralled. I'm so glad we decided to go. From start to finish, she was completely engaged and so incredibly happy. She sat (yes, sat) on my lap the entire time, clapping on cue. We arrived with her asking for Mickey Mouse, but we left with her saying, "I want more music, Mommy." And then she asked for a peanut butter & jelly sandwich - her favorite.

Kids will be kids.

After the concert, it was back to coloring and playing dress-up and eating PB&J. I realized that night that who we become as adults is really a collection of our experiences - the unicorns, the rainbows, the pretty music and the not-so-pleasant times, too. I thought about my own childhood - the happy memories, the loss of my father at a young age, all the books I read - and how all those things made me, me.

My children will likely have a much different upbringing than my own, especially since they live in the city and have two parents who work full-time. My experiences were unique to my rural upbringing by my widowed mother, who did the very best she could and knew how. I turned out alright, if I do say so myself. And it's okay that I didn't attend my first symphony concert or theatrical performance until I was 21.

I'll always remember my roots. After all, your past largely determines the choices you make for yourself, your future, and ultimately, your children. And in this incredible journey of life, having children has certainly been my favorite adventure to date, and I'm very much enjoying living in the present and making memories.