It’s all about the beads, my little nephew Comus informs me.
And you can’t catch beads on Zoom, he says.
I tell him this is a historic Mardi Gras.
He says if historic means no parades, he don’t much like historic.
After all we been through, now we can’t even stand outside in the weather and wait for the parade to come, and haul our kids up on our shoulders and chase 20 or 30 floats while screaming for beads; then limp home and come back the next night and do it all over again. And then you sort what you caught and put it in the attic.
How can we live without that?
When my own kids were little, they were sick one year at Carnival and couldn’t go out, so I turned on the TV showing the parades and squatted behind the set and threw beads over the top for them to catch.
But the TV is a flat screen mounted up on the wall now.
Still. We try. My mother-in-law Ms. Larda hears that a lot of people are having treasure hunts for beads, so we did that. We brought all the kids in the Gunch family over to Ms. Larda’s one evening last week. She had hidden a whole bunch of beads and doubloons and Carnival throws around the yard. We gave the kids flashlights and they rushed around all excited, and found beads and trinkets and a few other things – cigarette packs, dead lizards and what we hope was petrified chocolate Easter eggs. We had to wash everybody’s hands while singing “Happy Birthday” a BUNCH of times after that.
This year they also got houses decorated like floats that we can drive around and gawk at. They are gorgeous. Some of the owners even give out nice favors.
But you can’t chase a house and scream for beads, Comus says.
His own mother, my sister-in-law Gloriosa, has turned their house into a float, and it is something to see. She took classes in float design and created a giant beaded Covid mask that covers her entire first floor and part of the second-floor balcony. Above that, she got a pair of googly-looking eyeballs peeking over the mask.
Unfortunately, from some angles, the googly eyes can be mistaken for boobs spilling over the top of a corset. Evidently a lot of people are making that mistake. It is causing a few fender benders.
Some people are calling her house “the big boob house.” This does not make her mother-in-law happy, since she lives next door, and her house is being described as the house next to the big boob house.
I went by last Sunday to sit socially distanced with Gloriosa in the front yard, and wave at people driving distracted past us. I ask if she is giving out favors and she says, “Wait for it.”
Then three kids from down the street come into the yard pulling a wagon. They say hello, then they proceed to run in a circle around the house yelling “Throw me something!” Inside, Gloriosa’s kids run from window to window throwing last year’s beads they got down from the attic.
Comus dreamed this up, Gloriosa says. “It’s like trick or treat, but with screaming and running and beads.”
The kids leave with a wagonload of stuff. A few minutes later, Comus and his little sisters go out the front gate with their wagon. They come home 20 minutes later with it full.
This goes on all afternoon. Neighborhood kids come and go; Gloriosa’s kids go off and come back. Finally, Comus says, “Come with us this time, Aunt Modine – help pull this wagon.” So I do. We run around this very nice house – it’s not decorated like a float, but that’s okay; the kids who live there throw very good stuff. I got two pairs of glass beads, which I am going to keep. Plus a spear, a Muses shoe, and some stuffed animals.
I might come back for Carnival Day, see what else they got.
Maybe historic ain’t so bad.
As long as it don’t repeat itself.