Lettres d'amour: Mythical Mawmaw
Cajun grandmothers are the stuff of myth and legend
In all my days at my mawmaw’s house I never saw the woman stop. In the mornings she was over the stove. Breakfast landed on the table and her feet landed in the boots outside the door. Her shadowy figure was forever flashing past the window, heading to the garden — always looking ahead with a determined stare. She only paused long enough to give us a task, scold us or gift us with one of her witty remarks.
Everywhere you turned was a piece of her handiwork. Fresh plum juice in your glass; glass jars full of her jams; bowls of veggies on the countertops. Her hand crocheted floor mats were in front of every door. I truly believed she never slept. It was like she survived off air and determination.
Pawpaw had wicked sense of humor and loved nothing more than to scare us innocent children. Knowing not to wake anybody up or waste electricity, my nighttime bathroom trips were that of a stealthy ninja. Creeping down the hallway I would find the bathroom door, tip toe to the toilet; and take the position. Unbeknownst to me there were two intruders in the room with me. With one swift move of my arm I set off a motion-sensored clown head.
Its eyes lit up and out of its grizzly mouth came a heart-stopping cackle. I jumped up only to be taken down by my PJs.
I am not the only one on the floor. Curled up next to me is a black snake.
As my shrieks are close to outcrying the clown cackles, the light comes on. Through my now blinded eyes I see a figure — my mawmaw as I have never seen her before. Is that a nightgown? She snaps me out of it: “Mais! What you doin’ in here?” Tears streaming down my face. Frozen in fear. Trying to absorb the shock that my mawmaw might actually lay her head down at night, I point at the snake. In what felt like one single move she reaches down, grabs it by the head, makes a swift motion with her wrist and storms out the bathroom. I hear the screen door slam open and shut and her familiar stomps down the hall. I am still standing there, pants around my ankles, just me and the clown, wondering what happened.
She looks at me with that Erath scowl and mutters: “Mais, I told you to pee before bed, now go back to sleep.” I head back down the hall wondering if my mawmaw was really invincible. Forget She-Ra; my mawmaw was a true super-hero.
The great Cajun grandma, the maker of jams and juices, the grower of all things, the canner of all items, soap maker and snake handler. Her cape was built of leftover butter tubs filled with rice and gravies.
About the author: Jolie Meaux is an Acadiana native with deep Cajun roots. She currently resides in Downtown Lafayette. Meaux is also the creator of the food and story blog “Porch, Wine and Gravy.”