Mardi Gras Reflections 2006
I had wondered after Katrina whether or not it was a good idea to celebrate Mardi Gras this year. We had so many other important things ( like recycling debris and rebuilding our city) that we needed to accomplish and was it right to expend our energy celebrating Mardi Gras? The air of uncertainty about our future hung over our city. But once Mardi Gras began, the atmosphere was different. Mother Nature on Sunday finally cooperated and gave us the gift of beautiful weather and sunshine to go along with the smiling faces. We spent the whole day in the sunshine enjoying the 5 parades that went down St. Charles Avenue. My favorite memory of this Mardi Gras was the celebration and spirit in the street that I witnessed waiting for the Bacchus Parade to arrive. We were on St. Charles, a block from Gallier Hall, waiting for Bacchus which obviously was delayed, probably due to the typical broken-down float. For once I was glad the parade was delayed to be able to witness a Mardi Gras miracle that truly touched my heart and lifted my spirits. Usually between floats or parades, a few kids pour into the streets to throw the footballs and balls they caught from the floats. The grownups stroll down the street talking and visiting with friends. But Sunday night we were in for a special treat. The DJ from the stands next to us started to play on the loud speakers, line dance music and it was if the lazy street became alive. All the kids young and old poured into the street and began to dance with smiles lighting up their faces. After the second song, the whole street was packed twenty people deep for a block and a half with people dancing smiling and helping the person next to them keep up with the steps. The little ones danced on the toes of their parents. The tipsy crowd joined in, with the children helping them remember the steps to the dance. The smiling was contagious even if you were not dancing. I saw people in the crowd who had lost their homes smiling and dancing their heart out. Tears came to my eyes as I watched people truly enjoying the minute and forgetting their cares and woes. The dance celebration went on for over 45 minutes. This is what Mardi Gras was about this year and I knew then that we had made the right decision to celebrate. The last dance was the Hokey Pokey and everyone “put their whole self in”the dance laughing and singing with the music. I think for the first time I truly believed that we would recover and go on after our lives had been changed. The crowd disbursed and the parade began.
As I sort through the beads we caught, I find a new treasure. Glass beads from India were a new “ throw” this year. Unlike the big, gaudy, plastic beads, everyone strives to catch, these beads were small and not as noticeable. As I looked closely at the crude glass beads of different sizes and shapes, the difference from the usual gaudy Mardi Gras beads, caught my attention and reflection. The glass beads were not perfect, irregular in size and color, some shiny, some dusty and they were fragile. These beads made me think of the people of New Orleans. Our colors and shapes are different and irregular but when placed all together the uniqueness of each person adds to the beauty of the whole city as the many colored glass beads made each necklace unique and beautiful. We are also very fragile, easily injured or hurt. No one color of beads stands out when you look at the necklace. The many colors and shapes of the glass beads add to the beauty of the necklace. If the beads were all alike and the same shape, the necklace would be a like the gaudy beads everyone wears during Mardi Gras and discard when Lent begins. The usual Mardi Gras beads are a dime a dozen. The glass beads are not. Their fragile nature and uniqueness to me truly embodies the struggle New Orleans faces after Katrina. We are fragile, a little dusty and more aware of our irregular sizes and shapes. We are beginning to understand that we need many different colors and shapes to be New Orleans. No one color bead or shape will make as beautiful a necklace or city as one with many different colors and shapes. The smaller, fragile beads will shine next to the large, shiny ones. The most beautiful necklace or city will be the one that reflects the many colors and shapes that make up our lives. I saw these many colors and shapes dancing and smiling in the street Sunday night. This glass necklace I will wear even after Mardi Gras as a reminder of the lesson I learned this Mardi Gras. I will protect its fragile and unique nature as we rebuild together our remarkable, colorful and one of a kind city.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.