Most people in New Orleans have a tradition for Carnival day – circling their ladders on St. Charles Avenue, riding a truck behind the Rex parade or walking from the French Quarter to wherever the parade is.
My daughter Gumdrop has a new Carnival tradition. She has babies.
She’s done it twice now. Last time, back in 2005, she was dressed like an apple on a stick and she had to get down off a truck float on Napoleon Avenue and waddle over to Baptist Memorial to have my grandbaby Lollipop.
This time she didn’t even make it to the parade. She and her husband Slime are living up north of the lake and they were coming across the Causeway to meet up with the rest of the Gunches on St. Charles when she started with her pains. So they headed for the closest hospital, East Jefferson. Before Rex toasted the mayor, she had a boy.
And she lost her bet.
My son Gargoyle bet her that this baby would be born on Mardi Gras. If he lost, he would personally provide 12 Saturday nights of free babysitting.
But if he won, he would get to name the baby.
Gumdrop figured the odds were astronomical against her having two babies on Carnival Day. So she took the bet.
Which is why my grandson is named Go-cup.
Gargoyle said if Gumdrop wanted, she could call him Geaux-Cup, but she said that’s too Uptown for her taste.
And since we’re Catholics, the next thing we gotta do is get him baptized. My mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, is worried because Go-cup ain’t the name of any saint she knows of, and sometimes priests are picky about naming babies after saints. Also, she got it in her head that he should be baptized in St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter, since I’m temporarily living there now, in a apartment behind my gentleman friend Lust’s bar, the Sloth Lounge.
This is our chance for the Gunch family to show some class, she says to me. So she’s been making me go pick her up and bring her to Mass at the cathedral every Sunday, so they’ll get to know us there.
Well, they know us all right.
Last Saturday, we two spent the evening sorting throws for the Annual Sloth St. Patrick’s Parade. My gentleman friend Lust owns the Sloth and he said he’d treat us to red beans and rice. Now, when Ms. Larda cooks red beans, she’s very careful to prick every single bean with a pin beforehand, so nobody gets no problems. But Lust ordered these beans from Popeyes and they’re what you call potent.
And because of St. Patrick’s Day, we had cabbage on the side.
Next day, we still have problems.
“Just call me Katrina, Modine, I got enough wind,” she says to me on our way to Mass the next morning. “Not to be undelicate.”
I tell her I feel like Rita, myself.
We walk into the cathedral, and she says, “They been burning incense, thanks be to God. We’ll just sit in the back and hope we don’t disturb nobody.”
God got other plans. This usher rushes up and whispers that one of the ladies who was supposed to do the reading from the scripture didn’t show up. He looks at Ms. Larda and says he’s seen her there at lot, and he knows she’ll be happy to fill in. This means she’s supposed to stand up there in the pulpit in front of the entire congregation and read some scripture passages out loud.
Now, Ms. Larda ain’t in no condition to be anywhere near a microphone, and while she’s thinking of a mannerly way to explain that, he says, “Thanks and God bless,” and scampers away.
So, she digs out a roll of Tums and pops one in her mouth. “Say a quick prayer to Our Lady of Prompt Succor,” she says. “Sometimes she works faster than Tums.”
But neither of them comes through in time. So she walks up to the front and stands a little way back from the microphone. She clears her throat, real soft, but the “ahem” bounces around the walls like thunder.
And then she starts reading from Jeremiah: “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne …”
I gotta say she looks real dignified, and she got a powerful voice.
“… with the trains of his garment filling the temple …”
She is reading faster and faster. That ain’t a good sign.
“Seraphim were stationed above … ALLELUUUIA!”
I jump, and I notice other people looking startled. “Alleluia” ain’t in the script. But it drowned out any other noise from up there, and everybody automatically sings “Alleluia” back at her. She reads another couple of lines and then she roars out “Alleluia” again, and everybody Alleluias back. By the end she has belted out four more Alleluias, the people in the pews are wide-awake and Ms. Larda looks like she feels much better.
Afterward, we’re slinking out the cathedral and into Jackson Square and Ms. Larda is furiously whispering that this is Lent, and you’re never supposed to say “Alleluia” in church because Alleluia is joyful and Lent is sad, but she was desperate. Then I see the usher running up behind us.
He says Father wants us to know what a lively service that was, and he certainly wants Ms. Larda back for the Easter services when her expressions of joy will be an appropriate inspiration for the congregation.
Ms. Larda thanks him, and we hurry away.
“Our Lady of Prompt Succor done it again,” she says to me. “You never know how your prayers will be answered.”
Amen, and pass the Beano.