Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mardi Gras

My brother in New Orleans is moving through the rituals that will carry him to Mardi Gras in four days.

A man in his late sixties, he does not choose to leave such rituals to the younger residents and visitors who each night watch parades roll through the Crescent City. Experience is something that gently guides my brother and his friends through this marathon. On tables in their homes, they have framed photographs of sunny smiles that they wore when they used to mask in troops twenty, thirty, forty years ago.

There is no outrage or scandal that they would hesitate to hint at if someone asked about the people in those photographs.

It is like yesterday to some of them who recall the balls and parties into which they ventured themselves as younger residents and tourists. Long before Stonewall, a hierarchy of New Orleans personalities prescribed the rules by which anyone younger or prettier laid claim to a thrilling sense of belonging and acceptance.

Neither my mother nor my father was a natural at this time of year in New Orleans. My mother sewed costumes for my brothers and me. My father found one of the safer parking spaces blocks from the parade route. Neither my mother nor my father, though, knew about the kind of world into which Mardi Gras could seem an entrance.

Neither would be the mentor that my brother and the other people in those framed photographs sought. Sought and, in circumstances worth a round of drinks to hear, found.

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