Mardi Gras isn’t really my thing anymore. I’m not Catholic so there’s no preparing for Lent. I’m not a huge party person, so, you know, the revelry doesn’t appeal much. But, I was born in New Orleans and lived my first years looking forward to the annual Mardi Gras festivities.
Here’s the Mardi Gras I remember—
For about a month we got to have a slice of king cake once a week during our reading group time at school. Once I even got the baby! It was a little nerve-wracking since I had to be queen for the week and I didn’t know how to handle that kind of attention. But, true to my New Orleans sweet tooth I would not have given up cake once a week for a month at school for shyness sake! King cake was one thing I really, really missed when I moved away.
We also had great fun at the Boy Scouts parade in our neighborhood. The troop was sponsored at church so I knew most of the paraders. Once my brother drove a little covered wagon pulled by a Shetland pony. I think it was a Shetland anyway. At this little event I could learn how to yell, “Throw me somethin’ mister!” and run and grab for treats and beads. I’m sure that I was too quiet for anyone to really hear and didn’t scramble like some of the other children but I learned how to do it all the same.
My mom and dad always took us to a parade downtown too. And sometimes a night parade. Those were exciting to a small girl. The parades by those big krews, Rex, Zulu, et al, were pretty raucous even way back then. I doubt mom and dad would have taken us to too many more.
One of the most joyful things was going home and assessing all the treasures. Truly, Halloween candy hauls have nothing on Mardi Gras hauls: strings and strings of bead necklaces, ratchety noise makers, kazoos, candies—ahhh, the sweet life. I felt like I had a pirate treasure. Each year I remember how my stocks of Mardi Gras giveaways would slowly diminish and how I’d look forward to loading up again.
I do, however, have one Mardi Gras heartbreak. I never got a dubloon. I wanted a real dubloon more than anything I could imagine. The gold, silver, and copper dubloons represent the coins that the Spanish grandees were once supposed to have tossed as they paraded down the streets on their horses. New Orleans has a lot of history and I loved the idea of the catching a dubloon and feeling like I had gotten a coin from a Spanish grandee. And it almost happened. At the very last Mardi Gras parade I attended I was standing on a step-ladder and a dubloon came my way. I couldn’t catch it but it fell at my feet and I stomped on it hard. It was mine! I thought it was probably only a copper dubloon but it was a dubloon—the thing I’d waited my whole life for. But, alas, before I retrieve it a little boy pried my foot up and snatched MY dubloon. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to yell thief, thief! But Mardi Gras is Mardi Gras so laissez les bons temps roulez, y’all!