It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the hap, happiest season of all! No, I’m not talking about Christmas; I’m talking about Mardi Gras! While I love the spirit of Halloween, the tradition of Thanksgiving, the excitement of Christmas, and the good cheer of the New Year, there is no season I love more than Carnival season.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with Mardi Gras. As a little girl, I would insist on arriving to the parade route hours in advance to ensure I got a front row seat to the greatest free show on earth. I can remember my heart quickening as I started to see the street vendors, who had once been strolling leisurely down the avenue peddling cotton candy and snap pops, begin to pick up their pace along the route, signaling that the parade would soon be in view. I can remember the excitement I felt when, on my dad’s shoulders, I could see a flashing light growing ever so near. After what seemed like ages, I could feel the beat of the drum rumble through the ground below my feet and hear the bloop-bloop of a police siren that seemed to shout to the crowd, “the gang’s all here.”
I strongly believe that there is nothing quite as magical as Mardi Gras. While I’ve always felt this way, it was not until adding Jane to our family that I knew it was not just an opinion; it was a simple truth. To see the making of Mardi Gras through her eyes brings tears to mine. It is an excitement, a happiness, an experience of learning so pure that it changes you. If there is anyone out there who questions the worth of the greatest production to come out of New Orleans, besides Leidenheimer loaves, you should spend one day with Jane during Mardi Gras.
While we are just beginning the 2013 carnival season, our family has already experienced some wonderful annual traditions. On January 6th, we put Jane in her purple, green and gold polo and had beignets at New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood. We had intended on taking her there by way of her Mardi Gras wagon, but Mother Nature stepped in and changed those plans. It was good practice for the flexibility you need when preparing for a day of bad parade weather. We now know that her rain coat works and that my leather flats don’t. Later that day we went to my parents’ house for our first taste of king cake. We went for the traditional McKenzie’s version, and Jane agreed that it was delicious!
Just last weekend, we took Jane and my parents to the den where Mark’s parade keeps their floats. Every year they have a big den party where they serve Lucky Dogs and king cake and banana’s foster. There’s brass band music and face painters and ladies and gentlemen dressed in their Sunday’s finest. Jane loved sitting on daddy’s shoulders and waving to the floats that served as the backdrop for the party. She got to go with daddy and perch herself high on top of the float to see what it looks like to peer down on the crowd. She loved every second of it. Who wouldn’t?!
This Saturday, we headed out to one of my very favorite parades: the Lakeview Scout Parade. If you haven’t been, it is truly the sweetest little parade. The scouts from all around New Orleans decorate wagons and wear costumes according to the theme they have chosen. This year was “They All Asked for You.” There were lions, zebras and flamingos! Jane loved seeing all of the colors and watching the “big kids” as they rolled down Harrison Avenue. There was a very sweet little boy standing next to us who gave her tons of treasures. She went home with a stuffed flower that she clung to, some lovely green beads that she insisted on wearing today to my parents’ house and a sword that she now uses as a pointer. While she can’t talk to us yet, if she could, I just know she would have said, “Gosh I love this town.”
We ended our weekend with a visit to the Krewe of Muses float viewing party yesterday. Jane got to come up on the float with me and stand in the very spot I will be riding in in just a few weeks’ time. She got to throw beads from the well to my dad and Mark as they shouted “Throw Me Something Sister!” It made me think about the future, and how, with any luck, seventeen years from now, Jane will be at my side as we take on the Mardi Gras revelers together from “The Sidewalk Side.”