I’m a native Californian, Orange County born and bred. But while my feet are firmly planted in the West, my connections branch out from there.
I’ve spent a great deal of time in the South, for example, so I’ve got deep-rooted friendships in – and affection for – that region of our country. The result? Over time and by example, I’ve become a cultural hybrid of palm tree and magnolia, a quirky combination of “Hey, how’s it going’?” and “How’s your mama ‘n ‘em?”
So this week, the ironic confluence of Mardi Gras and the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, my blog entry’s a shout-out of admiration and support for my sisters in the South.
I’ve learned many valuable life lessons from my Dixieland friends, some taught symbolically through their individual expressions of Mardi Gras traditions: The crowning glory of finding the small plastic baby Jesus baked into a Kings Cake; the delicious decadence of Fat Tuesday, a last opportunity to “eat hefty” before the dawn of Ash Wednesday; the collecting of beads, each color representing closely-held values; and the sharing of family recipes for great gumbo, whose secrets often lie in the roux.
But more recently and by direct example, these Steel Magnolias are teaching me something very valuable: how to maintain grace, dignity, and resiliency – come high winds or high water.
So I’m hereby producing a mental Mardi Gras parade in their honor, a rolling tribute to the Southern women who’ve successfully weathered (triumphed over!) last season’s storms. And in my mind, I’m playing the “bead game,” tossing them these symbolic gifts:
Purple beads, representing justice. May sunlight serve as disinfectant for the political impurities and social injustices exposed by the storms, and may it also serve as a spotlight for the important work they’re doing to address those concerns.
Green beads that stand for faith. I pray that each of them will be tangibly rewarded for their deep, abiding belief in the power of prayer, combined with a personal commitment to doing the hard work. I share their faith that livelihoods, homes, communities, and traditions can and will be restored.
Gold beads, signifying power. Not in the form of backlit, bloviating speeches by policy wonks; but rather, a roll-up-the-sleeves, dig-deep-into-the-pockets kind of commitment by politicians and private citizens who are willing to put their collective muscle behind putting things right.
White beads, serving as long-distance kisses. May they heal your hurts and reaffirm your connections.
As the “parade” passes by and last year’s troubles fade into the distance, may the lives of each of my friends and their families be blessed with the fulfilment of this traditional Mardi Gras wish: Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez (Let the good times roll)!