Category Archives: Family

A Cajun documentary nearly 30 years in the making….

Through a wacky series of events, I had an experience a few weeks ago that left me speechless. Let me tell you the story of 30 years of activities that culminated into a single experience that confirmed that the path that I’m on is where I’m meant to be. Grab some popcorn and settle in for a good ol’ Cajun tale.

It’s no secret that I love arts & crafts, but I LOVE to sew – it’s likely my favorite crafty medium.

Because of my love of sewing, I’m a member of the American Sewing Guild (ASG) and as part of our Atlanta ASG Chapter, we’re affiliated with the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance organization (SEFAA). SEFAA has some really excellent shows, classes and demonstrations and since I’m a group leader in ASG, I also get SEFAA emails. In February, SEFAA sent out an email that caught my eye – they listed an upcoming screening of the film “Coton Jaune: A Cajun love story” – I looked at the description of the documentary and watched the trailer and I and thought “Yeah, right. How can this Cajun tradition exist and I haven’t heard of this? I was born + raised in the HEART of Cajun Country and I’ve never heard Acadian Brown Cotton. Could something this important really exist and me not know about it?”, but something whispered in my soul “Desi – you should go.”  So, I emailed a few friends, tried to drum up some folks to come with me (even other Cajuns that live in Atlanta) – no one responded. I was on my own.

Coton Jaune - a documentary about Acadian brown cotton

Coton Jaune – a documentary about Acadian brown cotton

The day of the film screening came and since I’d paid my entry fee, I decided I’d go – what did I have to lose? I was still a bit skeptical about this tradition I’d never heard of, but I went with an open mind. I walked into the building, knowing no one, but seeing a group of knitters working on projects they’d brought with them. These were my people – I’d fit in with these folks — a sigh of relief. I must say that SEFAA folks are a very lively, friendly and creative bunch. Continue reading

When tragedy strikes your hometown

Last night, tragedy struck the place where my heart lives – Lafayette, LA. When something like this happens in a place that you don’t know well, it’s easy to send prayers, support and keep moving on with your life. When it happens in a place where the majority of your family lives, where you have so many memories and where your heart lies, it’s a whole different experience.

The Acadiana Flag + LOVE

The Acadiana Flag + LOVE

I remember grieving after my father died. I got the news around 3AM and I thought “Let me get some sleep and then I’ll drive to Lafayette.I’ll be thinking clearer in the morning. There’s nothing I can do at this point anyway.” (I lived in Baton Rouge at the time – about a 45 minute drive to Lafayette). I was physically ill all night from the grief. I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I was in a fog. When grief like this occurs, it’s amazing that you can feel that your whole world is falling apart and the rest of the world keeps turning. It’s mind boggling, but oddly reassuring at the same time.

For months and months after my father’s death, I’d try to sleep and wake up and think “Wow, I had this awful dream – that Poppa died of a heart attack” and then I’d realize that it was reality – it had actually happened. I’m having a similar experience tonight when trying to sleep. I keep waking up thinking this was all a bad dream. I wish it were – as so many do.

Tonight, I find myself recalling so many memories of the location of this senseless tragedy. The movie theater was once a GIANT supermarket called “The Real Superstore”. I remember how you’d have to deposit a quarter to get a grocery cart and that was a highlight of our trips there.  I recall the store being HUGE and it seems like you’d get lost in there for days while shopping. It was an epic grocery shopping experience. That’s my most succinct description of the place.   Continue reading

An unexpected gift that’s lasted generations

A few years ago, one of my first cousins on my father’s side of the family informed me that she’d found a book that my father had given his mother back in the 70’s. She asked if I would like to have it and that my father wrote a personalized note in the front cover.

Not really knowing what the book was about nor its history, I gladly accepted her offer to send it to me. What arrived was so much more than I anticipated. Both my father and paternal grandmother passed away many years ago, and this gift that was given to TaLa (my grandmother) has now become a gift to me 40 years later. What a treasure.

The cover of "Apples of Gold"

The cover of “Apples of Gold”

Upon receipt of the book, I was stunned to see my father’s handwritten note on the opening cover. The date at the bottom is 1975 – a few years before I was born. At the time of this gift, he was attending law school and he and my mother were living on a meager income with 2 children while he invested in educating himself so he could provide better for his growing family.

My father's note to his mother - from Christmas 1975

My father’s note to his mother – from Christmas 1975

The quotations in this book are pure gold. None of them credit an original author, but a note from the compiler of these quotes wrote in the beginning of the book: “Do not inquire as to who said this, but pay attentions to what is said”  <–tweet this–> Continue reading

Ruby Red

As I’ve covered in a previous blog post, my father collected and restored antique cars. Yellow Bird (1922 Chevrolet) was always the constant in our family, but we also had various other cars that he owned throughout our youth. Another family tradition was that we gave the cars names. My mom’s brown station wagon was “Buckskin Bill”. It was just normal in our family to name the automobiles. I suppose we’re silly that way.

One of  our other favorite antique cars was a 1954 Candy Apple Red Chevrolet Bel-Air. Her name was “Ruby Red”.

Ruby Red - the 1952 Bel-Air in all her glory

Ruby Red – the 1952 Bel-Air in all her glory

Ruby was a show stopper – but she was also heavy and slow. I suppose you could say she had some “junk in her trunk”.  She was curvy and beautiful – typical for cars in the 1950’s era.   Continue reading

What being Cajun means to me: Resilience

As I outlined in a previous post, I’m writing a series of blog posts about what being Cajun means to me – the traits typically found people who identify with the Cajun culture. In previous posts, I blogged about resourcefulness , our joie de vivre and the incredible value we place on our family. In this week’s post, I’d like to talk about how being resilient is one of our most valuable qualities.

I looked up the definition of Reslience in the dictionary and here’s how it’s defined:

the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

The Mayo Clinic describes resilience as:

the ability to roll with the punches. When stress, adversity or trauma strikes, you still experience anger, grief and pain, but you’re able to keep functioning — both physically and psychologically 

I think this quote is resilience in a nutshell

I think this quote is resilience in a nutshell

I’ve seen this trait demonstrated consistently in our culture. When the state was hit with 2 large hurricanes within weeks of one another in August and September of 2005, it certainly tested our resilience. Residents housed those who had lost homes and they helped one another rebuild. When the Cajuns were exiled from Nova Scotia, they settled in the swamps of Louisiana – a place no one else wanted to live – and they made it work.

During times of economic instability in the main industry in the region – oil & gas – they’ve adapted and survived.

I’ve already discussed the resourcefulness trait and when combined with resilience, the outcome is an incredibly strong individual who refuses to give up or run out of options. They can adapt and overcome when others would have simply given up.    Continue reading

Good, clean family fun – Antique Car rallies

As mentioned in a previous post, my father bought and restored a 1922 Chevrolet that we nicknamed “Yellow Bird”. This car is like a family member to us – and some of our favorite memories as a family were when we’d participate in Antique Car rallies and caravans.

It’s likely a little known fact that there is an Antique Automobile Association with chapters all across the United States. The chapter our family belonged to would have rallies at least once a year and caravans/informal rides multiple times per year.

The informal rides were where we’d gather with a group of other antique car enthusiasts and caravan to a location. The caravan rides didn’t have rules like the rallies – they were more informal and more frequent. The caravans were fun, but the rallies were the main event.

Yellow Bird (1922 Chevrolet) and another member's car at an antique car rally

Yellow Bird (1922 Chevrolet) and another member’s car at an antique car rally

An antique car club rally isn’t a race in the traditional sense. I’ve done my best to explain the rules and process below to give you an idea of what was in store for us as we cruised the backroads of Louisiana in an open air car, usually at the end of May – one of the hottest months of the year.    Continue reading

Meet our unique family member: Yellow Bird

Describing my father as a unique individual would be an understatement. He had varied, interesting hobbies and an outrageous sense of fashion. One of his more prevalent hobbies was collecting and restoring antique automobiles. My mom remembers that she and my father originally had a beautiful navy blue 1932 Chevrolet as their first antique automobile. She described it as car that looked like it belonged in the mob – it was beautiful and they both loved it.

However, my father had a friend in the area’s Antique Car club (yes, these clubs do exist) that had a 1918 Chevrolet that my father loved, so my he sold the ‘32 and bought a the 1922 Chevrolet in 1971. My mom described the car’s original condition as very poor and she was very disappointed that they gave up such a beautiful car to trade it in for another that needed an immense amount of work.

My father driving yellow bird in the early-mid 1970's, just after completing the restoration

My father driving yellow bird in the early-mid 1970’s, just after completing the restoration

Over the next 3 years, my father and his friends disassembled the car – saving the pieces in fried chicken boxes in his shop to keep things organized. Each piece was rebuilt and restored – from the chassis up.

This car has been in my family since my oldest sister was a baby – it’s almost like a sibling to us and we refer to it as the “yellow bird” – a reference to its canary yellow color.   Continue reading

What being Cajun means to me: Family

As I outlined in a previous post, I’m writing a series of blog posts about what being Cajun means to me – the traits typically found people who identify with the Cajun culture. In previous posts, I blogged about resourcefulness and our joie de vivre. In this week’s post, I’d like to talk about how family is vitally important in the Cajun culture.

As I’ve expressed previously, I wasn’t aware how unique our culture is until I moved out of Louisiana. I thought it was commonplace for everyone to grow up with their first cousins nearby.  I actually consider some of my first cousins to be more like sibilings to me than cousins. As children, we spent a great deal of time with one another and we pretty much grew up together. It was completely foreign to me that other families might go months, even years without seeing their first cousins.

A family gathering at Easter - early 1980's

A family gathering at Easter – early 1980’s

In Louisiana, it’s not uncommon to meet someone and when they find out your last name, they ask you “So, do you know so-and-so <insert last name>?” and the common reply is usually a “Yes – that’s my uncle/first cousin/great uncle…”   Continue reading

Remembering the traditions of my Cajun family

Family traditions are something that you’ll always remember. As we all grow older, it’s common to remember those traditions and yearn to create your own family traditions with your family.  This morning I had a memory of a tradition that my mother began in our family when I was a small child. On Sunday mornings when we’d skip church, she’d fire up the deep fryer and roll out some beignet dough and we’d fry up a batch of beignets. Our job was to shake them in a paper bag filled with powdered sugar. On the mornings when we did go to church, we’d head to Meche’s for a donut run after mass.

Homemade beignets - a Sunday morning tradition

Homemade beignets – c Sunday morning tradition

Dinner on Sunday evening was always the same – my mom baked cornbread in a black cast iron skillet and the warm cornbread was served in a bowl filled with milk – similar to a hot cereal. The kids would usually pile sugar into their serving, but my parents opted for some fig preserves that my grandmother would put up each year using figs from her tree in her back yard. Both of my parents LOVED my grandmother’s fig preserves.   Continue reading

Meeting Darth Vader

I met Darth Vader. In real life. When I was a kid.

As I explained in an earlier post, my family owned a video store. This means that the stores received posters and other promotional materials when new movies were released. Movie posters were a dime a dozen and as store employees, we’d call dibs on any really awesome ones when we received them prior to the release of a new movie. It was like free wall decorations for our rooms all the time.

I remember one particular time we received a bumper sticker when “Top Gun” was released and it said “I feel the need…the need for speed” and I stuck it on my 3-ring binder for school. Some punk kid came up and told me that “speed” really was a drug and that I was advertising that I was jonesing for a hit of speed. Really, dude? I was in elementary school at the time, I was just trying to be cool – and likely failing miserably. I had no interest in recreational drug use. What a turd.

Promotional events were also hosted at the stores for new releases of particularly popular movies – like Star Wars. When the Star Wars movies were released, my uncle somehow got his hands on a Darth Vader costume and there was some promotional event at our flagship store on Johnston Street in the Time Plaza store. Customers could come in and get their photo taken with Darth Vader.

Darth Vader, me (Desi) and my father in his business suit + cowboy boots

Darth Vader, me (Desi) and my father in his business suit + cowboy boots

Continue reading