I am pretty over the whole “Only in New Orleans” craze and also have about had my fill of “You know you’re a mom when …” And yet I still find myself shaking my head sometimes about just what a mom – what a New Orleans mom – I am.
Nothing drove this home to me more than my recent trip back to St. Louis. It has been a long time since I’ve been back, so it was all the more striking to me how much different my life is now than it was when I lived there in my child-free days – and how different my life is than that of my mom friends’ who live in St. Louis.
The last time I’d seen my friends Amy and Sally together, Amy was driving a cute sporty Jetta, Sally was driving a cute sporty Ford and I was driving my beloved but dilapidated Chevy Nova. Ruby was the only kid, and as such she was a novelty. This time, we all pulled up in our gigantic black minivans and disgorged a combined seven children.
Ruby, partially because she was the first kid in our group of friends and partially just because she’s Ruby, often assumes the role of social ambassador at gatherings, and she was horrified to learn that not every child she met in St. Louis was having weekly King Cake parties at school.
“So between Christmas and Valentine’s Day, they just … do nothing?” she asked me later, and it did sound pretty bleak when she put it like that.
And when I told my friends about the big PTA Fundraiser I’m working on, Pints for the Playground, they all looked at me like I was a circus freak.
“You’re selling alcohol for your school?” my friend asked. “Isn’t that … like … frowned upon?”
“Hell, no,” I said. “You know that bumper sticker about how it would be great if schools got unlimited money but the Air Force had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber? The money isn’t in bake sales. The money is in booze.”
But don’t get me wrong; I love bake sales. I have baked literally hundreds of cupcakes for the school. Cupcakes are great. But the ROI on cupcakes versus alcohol? Please.
And until we start getting unlimited money to buy whatever we need, I’m going to support whatever we can do to raise whatever money we can.
After that exchange, I started thinking about some other things that set me apart as a New Orleans mom. Such as: I fed my daughters King Cake for breakfast this morning, justifying it by saying it was basically just a big cinnamon roll (and by making them drink milk with it). Or: Every Monday on the way to school Georgia gets really excited and yells, “Red beans and rice for lunch, yay!” Or: I’m pretty sure Ruby thinks the only possible way to make a left turn is to drive three blocks the wrong way, cursing, and then make a U-turn, drive three more blocks back the way you came and make a right turn. (Of course, that’s pretty much the only possible way to make a left turn here. The cursing might be optional for some, but it isn’t for me.)
Then I asked some of my New Orleans friends. Their answers:
Mindy: We were driving to Florida for vacation and stopped at a Subway for lunch (where my kids had never been before). My son ordered a roast beef with gravy and when they said that they didn’t have any gravy, he said, “What do you put on it to keep it from being dry?”
Morgan: My child’s first “food” was a wedding cake Plum Street Snowball at the Jazz Fest (with condensed milk).
Katy: My sister’s kids know every vagina euphemism thanks to the women’s dance groups in New Orleans.
But I think my favorite came from my friend Erika: When my son was little and we would go to the Northshore, (or anywhere across any of the bridges required to leave and enter the city), heading home and crossing the Twin Spans or Causeway, William would always ask, “Are we going back to our world now?”
I liked that one because that’s exactly how I felt coming home from St. Louis. It was really fantastic to see all of my college friends. It is amazing to see them as professionals and moms after so many years of seeing them mostly bleary-eyed and hungover – through my own bleary eyes – over plates of greasy omelets at our favorite college diner. I love watching my friends parent. I love that one of my friends was a, ahem, dancer in college and is now a Girl Scout leader. Visiting was a truly great experience.
But I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back in my world now.