Beyond the beads
I grew up in Breaux Bridge - not so far from Lafayette, unless you had parents who thought that driving to Lafayette was tantamount to driving to the North Pole. For our family to drive to Lafayette for any reason when I was young was almost unheard of -for us to drive to Lafayette for Mardi Gras was COMPLETELY unheard of. So I grew up watching the Mardi Gras on TV, back in the day when Mardi Gras was carried live on TV.
We spent Mardi Gras at home settling on our penances for Lent and then trying desperately to gorge on whatever we'd decided to give up. Mardi Gras was less of a celebration than the preparation for the upcoming sacrifices. And the time when I got to hear the stories from my parents and grandmother about the time when Lent was really Lent and penances were really hard.
I told Amanda that I would write about Mardi Gras, and then realized that I didn't have any Mardi Gras stories to tell. My childhood memories (see above) are small and family and not much concerned with celebrating. When I was a student at USL (UL to you youngsters), Mardi Gras became the center of a lot of celebrating - and friendships with some of the amazing people who created the Krewe of Couche-Couche some 30-plus years ago, one of the finest krewes around. But when I think about Mardi Gras with those people, I think about the friendships and not the Mardi Gras.
Once I had my own family, my version of Mardi Gras had to merge with the rest of my family's, and for a long time, that meant no Mardi Gras at all. Eventually, the Mardi Gras came back to my life.
Now, when I think about Mardi Gras, I am filled with gratitude, because what I remember is love and friendship and good times. I remember the street fairs because there were people to share them with. I remember parades and beads because there were friends to compete with and trade with and get lifts from. My memories of Mardi Gras are filled with treasures - with laughter and family. I think it's probably perfect that the day before the penitential season of Lent has come to symbolize to me the coming renewal of all the good things that we know.