This is my first Mardi Gras since my mother passed back in November. It feels different somehow, if for no other reason than that link to my Cajun heritage is now gone. I often think, I want to go back to visit, but whom would I see now? Being single, I have no one to share this longing for home with.
Living up here on Whidbey Island (Washington) is a bit like being on the moon, celebration-wise. I often imagine floats making their way down sleepy little Pioneer Way, masked revelers tossing beads, doubloons, and favors, and that cheers me up. I wonder what the locals would make of Zulu coconuts. After 14 years here, shouldn't I be considered a local? A million years here won't take the Louisiana out of my blood, though.
I am throwing a party on the day. It'll be my first party in many years. I'm making my chicken and sausage gumbo--beef instead of andouille, which I couldn't find this year--shrimp boil, and a King cake I've ordered from Gambino's bakery. Randazzo's was sold out when I tried to place my order last week. That idea makes me somehow more homesick in ways I can't exactly explain.
I flash back to eating King cake at the tiny kitchen table in my then mother-in-law's house. I got the baby nearly every time. She liked to ignore the fact that I'm half Cajun. She preferred to call me a Wop, like the salad at Rocky & Carlos' down in Chalmette. That's okay, though. It's been enough years since she first did it that the sting is long gone.
I flash back to my first parade in the French Quarter--the Krewe of Clones. Of seeing flambeaus and a giant cow that was spraying the crowd from it's udders with God only knew what. I want to believe it was only water. It's one of those sights that makes you say, "Only in New Orleans."
I flash back to getting drunk on cold meds and Hurricanes at Pat O's with the ex, as if we were tourists and new comers to the city that care forgot. He told me you could always tell the outsiders by the way they sat, as if their wallets were too fat to sit their butts flat in a chair. He pointed out examples and that would always make me laugh.
Mardi Gras always makes me homesick for the early years of my marriage as well. Though my friend, Roxanne, says that such longing is for the things we wish had been, not what really was. I think she's right. Still, I'd pay good money right this moment to be standing, shivering in an unseasonably chilly night, watching a truck parade with the my mother, the ex and his mother, if for no other reason than to feel Mardi Gras one more time.