We’ve managed several more parades this year than last. A certain little baby grew up into a toddler, making it both easier and harder to get out of the house.
We’ve done a few Mobile parades, but NOLA Mardi Gras always beckons, and we have made a tradition of going back to the Mardi Gras Mother Ship* for the last weekend of Carnival. Endymion on Saturday, and on Sunday the triple header of Thoth, Okeanos, and Mid-City. We have friends who live on each route, and close bathrooms and a good “home-base” make parade-watching with three young’uns much more do-able. I love it.
Hanging at a friend’s house, waiting for Endymion to start
Seen in mid-City.
Together again – Jack, Liam, and Owen. Owen lived in the apartment above us when we lived in NOLA, and he and Liam were born just a few months apart.
Often when we are with other kids their age, the kids are drawn to Jack and tend to exclude Liam. This is partly of Liam’s own doing, since he tends to take or leave company (while Jack would always rather be with friends). Anyway, Owen is pretty much the only one who seems to bring them together rather than drive them apart, and I love it.
Endymion is a super krewe, with dozens of double decker floats, many of them linked into a “float train” that’s 6, 7, 8 floats long. The floats are elaborate, and often each of them have their own, float-specific throws. We were right at the beginning – in fact, we missed probably the first ten floats as they were way up ahead of us. I saw enough! This one up above was really gorgeous – we saw it right at dusk, sparkling and lively.
We actually had two Endymion parties – we went first to a friend’s house in mid-City, where they had preserved us a parking spot. We got the kids out to run around in the backyard for a while, and the two men went over to set up a spot on the route while the two women watched all five kids (our three and their two). People began to filter in to the party, wandering in and out with plastic cups (“Cajun china”) and complaining about parking and meter maids. The weather was glorious – sunny, warm but not hot. After the men finally wandered back, the Professor and I loaded up our kids on the trusty old double stroller and walked a mile or so to party #2. That home had a small front yard surrounded by a nice black fence – a convenient “pen” for the children to run around in while we had adult conversation. We ate some purple, green, and gold frosted cookies, and some mini hot dogs wrapped in bacon and maple glaze, and then collected the boys to walk out to the route.
We had a wide neutral ground spot, where most of the marching bands were resting and waiting their turn. The floats were lined up and parked around us, and the boys occasionally managed to sweet talk a throw or two out of the bored (and drinking!) riders. We played some football, ate some snacks, basked in the glorious sun and chatted with friends.
As the sun started to go down, the parade started to roll. We actually saw floats twice – we were right at the spot where the parade did a U-turn, and so we saw them coming and going.
This was the last float this year – called E-TV, it focused cameras on the crowd and broadcast our pictures on a huge screen. I caught it while it was waiting to move, and the camera focused in on me and the boys. It was a neat one.
After Endymion, we hung around under a street light for a few moments to perform a special task that we had been assigned by my sister’s boyfriend. Saturday was Valentine’s Day, and he had made arrangements to take my sister out to dinner. He planned to ask her to marry him at this dinner, and he wanted my boys involved since they are very special to her (crazy girl regularly takes vacation days and spends them chasing my children instead of relaxing! She really loves these boys, and they love her). So we had worked out a little cute schtick – we would Facetime them while they were at dinner, and each boy would ask her to be his Valentine – Jack first, then Liam, then Craig would hold up a sign with the same question. Then Craig would “ask” her to marry Uncle Justin by holding up a sign that said “Will you be my Valentine . . . and . . . will you be Uncle Justin’s wife?” Meanwhile Justin’s there with the ring suddenly, my sister is caught unawares, tears and joy all around.
So this is actually how it went down, believe it or not – the children largely cooperated. However, since I had forgotten that Valentine’s Day was also Endymion day, we had to work out doing this from the parade route, amid all the noise and chaos and out in the dark. I found a really powerful streetlight in an area several feet back from the route, and so at about the right time I pulled the kids over there and we waited for the cue from Justin to call in. He texted “CALL NOW” and, heart pounding, I facetimed while collecting children while trying to keep everyone under the light and trying to get the boys’ focus in the midst of such chaos. We did it – Jack was enthusiastic, Liam was sort of distracted, and Craig did his part perfectly (he had signs, so it was kind of hard to mess it up). I’m so pleased it all worked out so well, and my very deserving sister got a memorable engagement story, and the boys got to be a part of it! We had fun delivering such special news. A Mardi Gras/Valentine story for the ages!
After discharging our duty as agents of Cupid, we walked a mile back to the party house, said our good-byes, and then drove on “home” and went to bed in the tiny room-over-garage that is the Professor’s NOLA apartment. When we sleep there we unfold a futon couch, and the side of the unfolded couch almost touches the side of the bed, which almost touches the side of the pack and play, which does touch the head of the stairs. Pretty much no room to walk up there with all of us, but we managed one night together.
The next morning is always the best day of Mardi Gras – the uptown parade day. We have a great spot with friends, and the big boys borrow their ladders a few times to sit up high and get a great vantage point. This year we saw tons of friends from the law school days, including one that just happened to be walking by. It’s like a huge street party with thousands of your closest friends – love it! We even saw the Professor’s sister, who drives down from SC with her NOLA husband every year to spend the weekend and Fat Tuesday with his extended family.
Owen’s sister Anna was desperate to hold a baby who did NOT WANT TO BE HELD, NO THANKS.
Up on the ladder
When the parade stops, the kids get up close and riders hand them special throws. Mobile has crash barriers around most of the routs, so it’s hard to do this in Mobile parades.
We had a late lunch at a seafood place with friends and then drove home. The boys were in bed almost on time, and everyone slept well after a long weekend of fun. The kids have Lundi Gras and Fat Tuesday off, so we parents took turns doing kid duty and working on Monday. Today is Fat Tuesday, and we’re about to get dressed warmly (that gorgeous sunny weather fled, leaving clear and cold days in its wake) and go out to the final parade of the year in Mobile, the Order of Myths. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday – I’ll have to think of something to give up for Lent. Meanwhile, we have enjoyed another fun Mardi Gras season with friends old and new, in the two Gulf Coast towns that we have called home. Happy Mardi Gras!
*As any Mobile native will remind you with a sniff, Mardi Gras started in Mobile before it started in New Orleans. Be that as it may, NOLA remains our first MG experience, and first in our hearts. There is a good deal more snobbery and haughtiness about the Mobile Mardi Gras experience – only “certain” types of people and old-Mobile families are permitted to participate in parts of the revelry, and there is a hierarchy and class exclusion that I never saw in NOLA. So there.