Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy (And Sad) Mardi Gras!

Today my husband and I celebrated Mardi Gras (I think that we're the only ones in Arizona that do so) by eating leftover chicken and sausage gumbo and by listening to Dr. John and Professor Longhair on YouTube.  The gumbo was stinkin good, but in our hearts we really wish that we were eating a fresh, hot muffaletta from Po Boy Express, with maybe some bengets for dessert.  I've been thinking of Mardi Gras a lot this past weekend, not just with wistful fondness of parades gone by or memories of good food and good times, but with extreme sadness that I'm missing that culture right now and that my college and former town got creamed on Sunday by a wicked tornado.  Hattiesburg, USM, and it's vibrant family was devastated here and there by this horrible event, and my best friend's house got squished (again) by the wrath of trees.  We survived Katrina in Hattiesburg a year or so before moving to Arizona, and this brings back sad and really good memories.  I won't even dwell on the sad ones right now, but I will think of the good ones.  How much our community gathered together (especially our neighborhood) to help each other out, laugh together, and cry.  How the buzz of chainsaws and the smell of barbecue grills wafted through the air for over a week.  How hard my babies from Thames hugged me when school finally resumed.  How resilient and strong Mississippians are in the face of tragedy.  Sometimes I wonder how we could have left a town that still calls to me, usually in the night when my face is wet with tears, or when I'm looking at pictures that my Thames children drew for me.  My husband and I are different than we were ten years ago.  Every place that we have lived since then has left it's mark on us, good or bad.  Somehow Hattiesburg has become part of my fingerprints, or DNA.  I'll never forget how I felt when I stepped onto campus the first time as a very young freshman.  Those live oaks were spreading their green leafy branches out in a huge hug just for me.  When Jack and I bought a house on 13th Avenue, we had three huge oaks in our backyard (the biggest I named "the general") that had survived Camille and goodness knows what other storms, and then Katrina.  They shed their large branches all over the yard, got a good shaking, but stayed put.  Maybe Jack and I should have done the same.  I want my roots to grow somewhere, anywhere where they feel at home and loved, where I will look at them years from now and be astonished at their strength and breadth.  I pray every night, "Heavenly Father, help us find our place, and then help us stay put".