A little over three years ago, my husband and I, newly married, packed up all of our belongings and made the drive from Dallas to New Orleans. I can still vividly remember waving at my parents as we left their house and me staring out the window with tears rolling down my eyes thinking “How in the world did I get stuck moving to this weird city?”
Now, as a navy brat, I grew up moving to my fair share of places, including Japan at one point so I am very used to moving to different places with different cultures. But New Orleans was just never on my bucket list of places to visit or live. And honestly, I had never been to the city until a few months before that when my husband and I took one weekend to hastily find a “suitable” living situation.
That first weekend in June, we moved everything into our tiny little apartment and started our new life together, and for the next six months, I hated it in New Orleans. I joined different organizations and events to meet new people, but I just couldn’t understand all of the bizarre nuances of the city. Why do people “make groceries?” How is it appropriate to bring open containers absolutely anywhere? And last of all, as Mardi Gras got nearer, why was the city losing their minds to spend a few weeks in total debauchery?
When the season finally arrived, I begrudgingly made my way to parades. I, at least, wanted to know what all this was about. I quickly found out that it wasn’t at all like what I saw on TV. It wasn’t a bunch of crazy tourists (well there are, but just in select locations), but rather it was families of all ages and sizes. I must admit, New Orleans is generally a hospitable place, but it’s like the city was instantly magical for those few weeks. People seemed a little cheerier. On the parade route, you saw people of all backgrounds and walks of life talking to each other, dancing with each other, and sharing whatever was in their coolers as if they were best friends and had known each other all their lives. Families laughed and kids ran around catching as many throws as they could. And to top it all: it’s completely appropriate to eat king cake at any time of day!
Come Ash Wednesday, the city goes “back to normal,” but for those few weeks, it’s like we’re in our little alternate universe and I love it! Each year I look forward to it more and more as I learn new things and tricks of the trade – this year especially. As the first Mardi Gras with the newest member of the family, our daughter, I can’t wait for her to experience the love and magic that I feel every year during this time.