Do You Know What It Means …

Tonight, as the final hours of the Carnival season wind down and Mardi Gras closes along the Gulf Coast, I keep humming Louis Armstrong’s version of “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”

Because of pandemic, parades were cancelled in Mobile — the origin city of American Mardi Gras — and New Orleans, its American capital. I have amused myself with online viewing of New Orleans-based “Yardi Gras” displays on porches and yards throughout the Crescent City. In my years as a teacher, I would throw beads to my students at the end of Fat Tuesday classes to celebrate. Last night, before I went to bed, I realized that my stash of beads is depleted and I only have a few strings of purple, green, and gold beads to distribute to neighbors.

There were enough. I will remind myself to order beads before Mardi Gras next year — when we can only hope that things will seem substantially more “normal.” The word “normal” has taken on new meaning in the past year. In the past, I often spoke it with a sense of scorn and condescension; who decides what’s “normal” and what’s not?

Now, “normal” just means being able to go out more or less fearlessly, to socially interact. “Normal” means having our lives back in whatever sense of “normal” that used to apply.

A Mardi Gras wreath adorns my front door. It was a gift from my next door neighbor who died a year ago. I always put it out two weeks before Fat Tuesday; as a traditionalist, I must have it down before midnight tonight.

It will be adorning my door in a new location on Fat Tuesday 2022.

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