I’m 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’s 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.
(One of which is, as I suspected, the weather. Jeez, dressing a toddler is annoying enough when you’re just trying to wrestle her into a diaper and T-shirt, but having to get the kid into layers topped with a coat that you need to wear to the car but not in the carseat … gah. I was exhausted before I’d gotten out of the parking lot at the hotel.)
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 (next Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Bayou Beer Garden; y’all come now!), 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.”
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: I keep a baggie of King Cake babies stashed in my purse so that I can sometimes hide them in slices of King Cake and brighten up my daughters’ days by ensuring that they always get the baby. Or: I had a beer with Ruby’s teacher. Or: Every Monday on the way to school, Georgia gets really excited and yells, “Red beans and rice for lunch, yay!” Or: I am 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 pretty much is the only possible way to make a left turn here. The cursing might be optional for some, but it's not for me.)
Then I asked some of my New Orleans friends. Their answers:
Alicia: Does “my son got really upset because he couldn't get crawfish while we were in Tennessee” count?
Mignon: I took my son to his first Mardi Gras parade when he was 11 days old and didn’t think twice about it.
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).
Andy: Our kids have made it to at least one day of Jazz Fest every year of their lives. That means my son was a 3 weeks old at his first Fest and my daughter was in utero. If they go to college out of state, they are going to have a serious conflict on their hands: stay at school and prep for finals, and other unnamed activities, or keep the streak alive.
Katy: My sister’s kids know every vagina euphemism thanks to the women’s dance groups in New Orleans.
Emily: This doesn't really count, but from 4-7, my daughter always thought King Cakes were in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. The timing is just confusing.
Katie: My son’s favorite toys are plastic Mardi Gras cups and a foam football we caught at the Krewe of Jingle. Also, the night before his first birthday he woke up while we were eating a late dinner and proceeded to put away about half of a large surf n turf po-boy from Parkway. I was so in awe of the sheer volume (not to mention his good taste) that I didn't stop him.
SarahJane: I let my kid play with fake poop and shot glasses because that’s what they threw her during a parade.
But I think my favorite came from my friend Erika: When my son was little and we would go to the North Shore, ( or anywhere across any of the bridges required to leave/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’s 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.
P.S. I’m not kidding about that fundraiser. Come out and buy a beer or a cocktail at Pints for the Playground and help Morris Jeff Community School get one step closer to a real school playground for our kids!