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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Geraldine Belinda Marybel Scott

By Carolyn Pons
Once there were two little girls, one perhaps seven-years-old and the other a toddler. The older girl had saved 25 pennies, and she decided to spend them selfishly on toys for herself. Since it was a cold day, she put her blue coat and hat over her long pigtails, stuck her hands into a white furry muff, and set out for Mr. Twiddle’s notion shop. The nice man at the store put her little toys into a brown paper horn, but as the little girl ran back home, all of her new toys fell out onto the ground.
Geraldine Belinda was the older girl’s name, and Geraldine lived in a book in the toddler girl’s house in New Orleans. From the first time the book was read to her, the little New Orleans girl loved hearing about Geraldine Belinda, whose name was the book’s title. The smaller girl probably asked to hear the story a million times. She remembered the complete name of the girl in the book, Geraldine Belinda Marybel Scott, until she grew up and long beyond that. That little toddler girl was me.
Thanks to Google, I now know that Marguerite Henry authored Geraldine Belinda and Gladys Rourke Blackwood drew illustrations (called pictures) for the book. The tome was published by Platt & Munk in New York in 1942, the year I was born. I could now purchase an old copy of the book, the price increasing as the book’s condition improves. I’d rather just remember that sweet first book of my life.
From Geraldine Belinda, I went on to read many other books during my childhood and continue to read eagerly and enthusiastically now.  Most of the books I read during elementary years came from Annunciation Grammar School Library during the school term. I assisted our school librarian, my seventh-grade teacher Sr. Francis, M.H.S., during recess and after school. One day Sister gifted me with a worn-out copy of Little Women.  I treasured that flimsy book a long time.
In the summer, New Orleans Public Library sent its bookmobile out with a wide variety of reading from which the children of New Orleans could choose. I don’t think I ever missed the Bookmobile when it stopped at Gayarre Elementary School on Almonaster Avenue and North Robertson Street, the school that my daddy had attended. The bookmobile arrived every second Wednesday morning during our school summer vacation, and I brought home as many books as I could carry.
Draping my legs across the arm of our living room horsehair chair, while my head rested on the other arm, I read. An open window provided breeze in hot Louisiana summer, and since the living room was virtually unused by our family, I was left alone to slip into the world of people, animals, places, and adventures. Mostly, I traveled back in time with the subject of a biography, like Mary Todd Lincoln or Clara Barton.
During high school and college, there was not much time for pleasure reading. Reading for knowledge became more important. But always, when I could steal the time, I loved reading stories of lives lived in another time. Historical fiction became my favorite genre.
Married and a mother, I joined a Book Club in New Orleans. We read a book each month and discussed the book at our monthly meeting. Each member got a turn to choose the next book for members to read. Mostly the books were best-seller non-fiction, and many times about women’s issues. This was during the 1960s, the Women’s Lib era. No matter how busy I was, I managed to finish the assigned book.
After I moved to Lafayette in 1974, a new acquaintance named Judy Poteet invited me into another Book Club similar to the one in New Orleans. I vividly remember attending a meeting at Camille Copeland’s house on Duclos Street. Camille was the perfect picture of an earth Mother, sitting in a rocking chair breastfeeding her twin boys.
Then life and a full-time job happened for me, and my reading time was once again limited, although there was always a book on the table or in the basket beside my recliner. Irving Stone was my favorite author, and I read his works on many famous historical figures. St. Luke, Mary Todd Lincoln, Sigmund Freud, and Camille Pissarro are but a few. A period of reading preceded my regular Saturday afternoon naps.
Now retired, I can read whenever I choose. Initially, I didn’t spend too much time during the day reading but rather left it for evenings. I soon learned that doing that limited my reading, as the reading induced early sleep.
Now I try to fit some reading time into my afternoons. After lunch, I attempt to accomplish something that I loosely call work, whether house chores, record-keeping, writing, or some other. When I have completed some worthy endeavor, even a small one, I allow myself to sit and pick up whatever book I am currently reading, usually one on my Kindle. Soon, any worries I may have had disappear, and I feel lighter of heart and happy.
I learn so much through my preferred fiction reading, about history and geography, about cultures and ethnicities, about problem-solving and socializing.  My mind and heart open to what a lovely world this is and what wonderful people inhabit it.

And it all began with Geraldine Belinda Marybel Scott.

I Am a Cajun, I Am Really

By Ellen Labry

I am a Cajun girl who never learned
how to speak French.

I am a Cajun girl who never
lived in a swamp.

I am a Cajun girl who has not lived on a farm
except for maybe a week or two.

I am a city girl who is a Cajun.

My dad was a Cajun boy who
spoke French at home.

My dad was a Cajun boy who was not allowed to speak French at school.
English was the language spoken there.

The school punished students who didn’t obey the rules.
It was a modern thing to do.
And my Daddy was a modern boy.

He was the first in his family to finish grammar school and high school.
He was a modern man.

He was a Cajun, who married Ellender,
a non-Cajun girl who only spoke English.

She was an Irish Baptist girl who lived in the city all her life.
They were a modern couple.
There were no French words spoken in their home.
There was no French music in their home, just the Top 10
on Hit Parade.
They were a modern couple.
He was Cajun.

My brother and sisters knew our
grandparents were different than our grandmother.
They lived in the country on a farm.
They were Cajun.

My grandparents were 5 generations
Cajun from Nova Scotia.
They dressed different, spoke different,
believed in the old way.
Remember we are a modern family.
They were Cajun. We were Cajun.

As a child I did not like to visit out in

the country as we called it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Laissez Les Bon Temp What?

By Carolyn Nicholson

When our family moved to Louisiana from Alabama 31 years ago, we had never experienced Mardi Gras before. We had heard of the parades and decadence in New Orleans. We were aware Mobile celebrated the oldest Mardi Gras in the country, but we’d never gone down for that Alabama carnival either.
            We moved to Lafayette at the end of February and started settling into our unique new community. The best way to get a feel for a new place is to read the local newspaper so we made sure to get a copy of the Daily Advertiser the next day. That issue included a special Mardi Gras insert for newcomers. It told of the history of Mardi Gras, listed the krewes, dates and times for parades, and even a crash course in some of the most common Cajun French expressions. One Mardi Gras custom that stood out for me, though, was one I’d never heard of before – Courir de Mardi Gras.
            As I read, I discovered the details of this rural Mardi Gras custom and grew more anxious with every word. The article told of how masked, costumed riders on horseback rode through the countryside, from farm to farm, drinking, dancing, chasing chickens, and begging for all the ingredients for that evening’s gumbo.
            Keep in mind that we had only been living in Louisiana for a couple of days. I was really getting worried! I had no idea where Mamou, Church Point, and the other small towns mentioned were. Galen was at work, and I was at home with two small children. What was I going to do if these drunken, masked men rode up to my townhouse, demanding a chicken or some rice? Would they accept a package of frozen chicken or a box of Minute Rice? What would they do if I just didn’t answer the door?
            Needless to say, I made it through the day unmolested. I soon found out that my fears were unfounded and we grew to love all the distinctive customs of our local pre-Lenten celebration. But I always warn newcomers to the area to have a live chicken ready, just in case!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Witch in the Window

By Carolyn Nicholson
When you’re a small child no one believes you when you say you’ve seen a witch or a monster. They laugh and try to explain it away but you know what you saw.
            I was 5½ years old in November, 1957, when my mother gave birth to my baby sister. Mother and Daddy had taken my 2½-year-old brother, Mike, and me to Mama Jay’s and Papa Jay’s house in the country to stay while Mother was in the hospital. I was having a hard time, missing my mama and daddy, and did a lot of whining about it. Mike even told me, in his toddler wisdom, “Well, we can’t walk home, Carolyn.”
            There were two adjoining bedrooms, just off the kitchen, in the back of my grandparents’ house. Mama Jay slept in one and Papa Jay in the other. That one contained his double bed and a small twin bed in the corner where Mike and I slept.
            One night I woke up, feeling homesick, and turned over facing the window across the room. In the light of the full moon, silhouetted against the paper shade, I saw a witch! She wore a big, cone-shaped witch’s hat and was sitting on a broomstick. It was the scariest thing I had ever seen! I started crying and called out to Papa Jay, “There’s a witch! There’s a witch in the window!” I don’t think he even opened his eyes because he just chuckled and said, “Aw, that’s not a witch; that’s just a tree. Go back to sleep.”
            It took me a long time to go back to sleep. I kept my eyes on that witch and she never did move. I finally drifted off after I decided that she was outside and I was safe inside.
            The next day Daddy came to pick up Mike and me to bring us back to Birmingham to be reunited with Mother and our new baby sister, Sharon. In all the excitement, I forgot about the witch until the next time we were at my grandparents’ house. My brother slept in that small bed many times over the next few years but I refused. I knew what was lurking outside that window!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

How do you know, Meimers?

By Carolyn Pons
One lovely spring day I picked up my eighth-grade granddaughter from middle school.  As soon as we reached my house, Maddie went to the patio and pulled out her canvas and a set of acrylic paints.
Fascinated, I watched her paint, and I was compelled to question Maddie.  “How do you know which angle to paint, Mad?  What do you do to make shadows?  Is size determined at the start?”
Hearing Maddie give clear, concise, and intelligent answers pleased me, as much as her beautiful artwork.  “Oh Maddie,” I said, “I could never do that.”
Fourteen-year-old Maddie turned her head in my direction, looked up at me seriously, and immediately replied, “How do you know, Meimers, did you ever try?”
Thus began my sojourn into unfamiliar right brain activity.  Soon after Maddie hit me between the eyes with the truth of the matter, I enrolled in art classes at the Lafayette Art Association.  I told my instructor that I wanted to draw, thinking that to be easier for a beginner.  I then worked on a drawing in class each week, and also at home, until I declared the drawing finished.  Basically, I drew and our teacher commented, giving me hints and direction.
“You need to quiet your left brain, Carolyn, and let your right brain take over,” the teacher told me over and over.  At her suggestion, I drew upside down, in an attempt to “not see” the named object that I was drawing.
The instructor told me about an art teaching method that uses techniques based on left-brain versus right brain.  Our left-brain is our analytical side; my whole life had been spent analyzing.  Our right brain is our creative side, the side that sees lines, contours, shapes, color, and negative space—but does not see the named object itself.  I continued to search for my right brain and teased it to come out in my drawing.
Mostly I worked on my own.  I struggled, because my left-brain learning style required more teaching.  I kept at it.  After about four months though, the rest of my life interfered, and I dropped out of class.
“Amazing” was what I thought of my accumulated drawings.  I was genuinely surprised that I could recognize what I drew.  Some looked better to me than others, but overall they pleased me.  My struggle had paid off, but I wanted more and knew that I needed more.
Other activities, writing and traveling, seemed to take all my time.  My interest in art sagged.  I wondered if I would ever return to it.  Suddenly, another of the Art Association studio artists offered a class called “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.”  I immediately knew that I had to register for this class.  I felt like it was meant to be.
The six weeks of lessons energized me.  The method did not squash my left-brain; rather it allowed me to use it in my drawing.  I drew from life, progressing from drawing my own hand to drawing a profile of a real person.  I also did an amazing architectural drawing, this one using my right brain for measuring.  I drew fruit, bread, vases, and even shoes.  I copied pictures, with a likeness that thrilled me.  Until my self-portrait at the end of class, my family was as impressed by my drawing as I was.
I know that I am not a natural artist.  If I were, I would continually make art.  Something inside me, an instinctual force, would push me.  I am a learned and learning artist.  The work does not come easily to me.  I have to push myself, and be in the correct frame of mind, to start drawing.  The few times that I painted, I dragged my heels even more.
The best part of my foray into doing art is that I see so much more than I did previously.  After my initial look at a piece of art, I wonder at the artist’s technique, at the struggle to achieve.  I note the lines, color, and depth.  In many ways, despite my years of museum and gallery visits, my eyes have been suddenly opened.
Thank you, Maddie, for asking if I ever tried.