Break out the Beads

“Mama, my friend at school said Mardi Gras is cancelled.” He looked at me with his big brown eyes, waiting for me to assure him that Mardi Gras would go on as usual.

I knelt and wrapped my almost four-year-old in a hug. I wished he had heard it from me before someone else, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him. “Well, parades are cancelled this year. We won’t be able to go to any parades. But Mardi Gras itself isn’t cancelled. Mardi Gras is a special day, and you can’t cancel that.”

Like all of New Orleans, I was heartbroken when I heard that parades would be cancelled this year, even though I knew deep down it was the right move. I reminded my son how hard we’re all still trying to keep other people from getting sick. It’s a message he’s heard over and over and over, but it’s still not easy for him. 

It’s not easy for any of us.

But one thing I’ve learned about parenting through this pandemic is that while it’s my job to empathize and show my own disappointment and sadness with my kids, it’s also my job to teach them how to make the best of a situation if we can.

In the past year, we’ve “Fested” at home, trick or treated with tables of goody bags instead of bowls of candy, downsized our Thanksgiving feasts, and figured out new Christmas traditions– so there’s no question that we’re going to come up with something amazing for Mardi Gras. New Orleanians are creative to their core, and as desperately as I wanted us to have a normal Carnival season, I’m equally excited to see how people are going to answer that Mardi Gras call.

It’s time for us to go deep into the dustiest corner of our attics. For decades, our boxes of Mardi Gras beads have lain waiting for their moment to shine. If you’re like me, you’ve been hanging onto them for years waiting for when you finally decide to ride. They haven’t seen the light of day since they were last thrown to you from their original float. You’ve been saving them indefinitely, but…

It’s time to break out the beads.

It’s time to make “bead trees” in our front yards since krewes won’t be throwing this year. It’s time to turn those one-day king cake parties where we all bring and sample king cakes into a month-long family feast where we eat a new kind each week. It’s time to use those old beads to make art to pass the time. It’s time to make our kids second-line umbrellas and dance around the block, if nowhere else. It’s time to set up our ladder seats in the front yard and wave to our neighbors and the mailman. It’s time to decorate the fronts of our houses for Yardi Gras!

I don’t know if my son’s preschool will still do its annual courtyard parade, but you can be sure I’ll be decorating our wagon anyway and pulling him through the neighborhood in his little float. We’ll throw beads from our front yard to grandparents on the sidewalk; we’ll eat our Popeyes with more gusto than usual; we’ll wear our Mardi Gras colors; we will figure this out.

Now if anyone knows how I can get a few street sweepers on my block to really make it feel like Mardi Gras, y’all let me know…

What are YOU doing with your family this year to keep the Mardi Gras cheer?

Erica was born and raised in Metairie and now lives in Kenner with her husband Michael, her two sons, Benjamin (3 years; truck enthusiast) and Joshua (1 year; budding foodie), and the bane of her existence, Cuddy the Fish. After graduating from UL Lafayette with a degree in advertising and landing her dream job, she left her chosen field and now works part time as an administrative assistant for a Catholic retreat movement. She spends the rest of her time at home with her boys, finding lost trucks and actively ignoring various messes. In 2019, she self-published her first book, The Sister. In the rare moments she's not working, reading and writing, or chasing her kids, she's probably sprawled on the sofa with a Coke Icee and pretending her house is cleaner than it is.

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