I get homesick a lot. Certainly around the holidays. Always during football season. Occasionally when I’m acting as an interpreter for my husband while watching Gator Hunters. Often when I see a fleur de lis. But around this time of year especially.
Today is Mardi Gras in my hometown. And for me, Mardi Gras does not hold the same significance as it may for some. It was never a drunken boob fest for me. It was a family event! An event that started on King’s Day in January with the beginning of Carnival season. The day I looked forward to every year. It was the day that bakeries started selling king cakes and parades began. And there was no one that enjoyed the parades more than my paternal grandfather, Paw Paw. He loved going to the parades. It was from him that I learned how to scramble for beads, stamp my foot down on a doubloon, the international sign for “Mine!”, and how to scream out “Throw Me Something Mister!” with gusto. I can see him so clearly running alongside the floats catching as many beads as he could carry “for the grandkids“. A couple of times he knew in advance that a friend or relative would be on one of the floats. For that entire parade, Paw Paw would tell us what float this person was on and to get ready. He would be downright giddy with anticipation. When that moment finally arrived he would yell out their names and they would bombard us with a gross or two of beads, doubloons, cups, stuffed animals and once or twice, underwear. It was from these moments that a plan was formed. He theorized that out of all of the parades we went to there had to be at least one guy on one of the floats named Charlie. It was a pretty common name after all. He decided he was going try out this theory the next time we went to a parade. I wasn’t sure it would work because even if there was a Charlie and he heard his name being called he wouldn’t recognize us. Apparently, Paw Paw had already thought this through because he said they most likely couldn’t see much anyway given that they wore masks with tiny eye holes and it was dark outside. What he didn’t add but I just now thought of was these “Charlies” were most likely half in the bag thus making recognition nearly impossible. So parade after parade, year after year Paw Paw would yell “Charlie. Hey, Charlie!” or “Throw Me Something, Charlie!” to no avail. And then it happened. I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old but I remember it as if it was yesterday. Paw Paw yelled, “Charlie! Hey, Charlie”. Suddenly a man on the float looked directly at him and started throwing over bags and bags of beads and doubloons. I will never forget the look of pure joy mixed with shock on my grandfather’s face. It had worked! It was like he had won the lottery.
Later that night while walking home with our 3 pillowcases full of throws he was still smiling and kept repeating “It worked. It really worked.”