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  • Writer's pictureArthur Severio

Happy Mother's Day

With everybody Jazz Festing in place last weekend, I started digging in my archives for pictures from festivals past. While looking through my photos, my phone rang.


I usually never answer my phone that early on a Monday morning, especially before having my first ritualistic cup of coffee. My nephew Amber was calling to tell me about her morning and how she had been "a ripping and a running"doing errands and had gotten a Mother's Day card to mail to her mother Jane. Of all of our family, Amber is the one most like my mother. She has all of her mannerisms and loves some good gossip. She told me how grateful she is that both of her parents are still alive. "Janie Belle,"is from Ville Platte and in her day was quite a sexy woman. Even after having my 5 nephews including one set of identical twins, the girl kept her figure.

Mattie Rae

After hanging up, I started walking down a Facebook memory lane looking at photos of my family and my mother, Mattie Rae. "Matt-A-Rae" was our family's matriarch. She made every holiday special. She would cooking a feast for my father and her three sons and six grandsons. In my family, food is a celebration and she loved for us to be together at her dinner table for all of the holidays. She was ahead of the game on the gay movement-welcoming my brother's and my lover to join the family. Her daughters-in-laws were welcomed to make a dish, but Matt was a little judgey of their cooking . Cousins or neighbours were welcomed to join as long as she wasn't mad or aggravated with them. She had no problem speaking her mind saying why was p-o'ed. She did not hold her water holding her feeling in and would let 'er rip on them. On Sundays she would start cooking early in the morning for "dinner," as we called lunch which was always served promptly between 11:30 am and 12:00 pm. If you came to visit between meals, there were always some kind of leftovers on the stove and in the "icebox" ready to be heated. She believed no one should go hungry. My favourite meal of hers was her red beans and rice with southern fried chicken served with along with her famous "cat head biscuits" Cat head biscuits are drop biscuits the size of a cat's head. Her biscuits were light and fluffy. If you had room left in your belly after eating a meal, you could have one as dessert smeared with "real" butter mixed with one of her homemade fig or strawberry preserves or her may haw jelly that she canned herself in a Mason jar. Even to this day, no one can talk about my mama without mentioning her biscuits. Her biscuits are legendary. Like all her dishes, her biscuits were simple and made from her soul. She never used recipes. I watched her make biscuits many times. They consisted of a bowl of "self-rising flour, a cup of whole or butter-milk, a cup of water, a handful of lard finished off with with a spoon of bacon drippings. She kept her bacon or "salt meat"drip ends in a can on the stove. Fancy people now call this pork belly. As many times Ive made biscuits, I've never came close to getting it right.

Irma Thomas and her Mother's Day Celebration

The Audubon Zoo holds an annual Mother's Day celebration with a concert by the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Miss Irma Thomas. On Mother's Day, Irma is the city of New Orleans' very own matriarch. You have to get there early to see the animals and then rush to save your spot for for your chair to watch Irma in the afternoon. If your lucky, you can find a spot under the shade tree. We love Irma. Irma is the festival queen of New Orleans. The first time I saw her perform was inside the main room at the Treasure Chest Casino. She was scheduled to perform outside under a huge canopy tent. Coming out on stage, she let it be known that she was mad as hell at the casino staff. They did not have the "Queen's" tent up and was not prepared for the rains that came.

"Sing 'It's Raining,''' a drunk female screamed.

"Lady, I've been singing that damned song since 1962-you know I'm gonna sing that one damn song!"

Later, when she was doing her monologue for "You Can Have my Husband, but Please Don't Mess with My Man," she let that same woman know to stay away from her husband Emille.

My friend Dennis and I attended on one of the Mother's Day there because his mother, Miss Imelda was out of town. He usually spent all of his holidays with his mom. Dennis was a native New Orleanian who grew up in the east. Every Sunday he was at church early to get his seat in the fifth pew on the left side at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Shrine to St. Jude's that is located on the corner of Conti and North Rampart with mass led by Father Tony. I've never met a man more devout in his faith. Dennis prayed novenas for everyone in his life including me. That boy loved music and all things New Orleans culture. We went to all the festivals - the Po-Boy Fest, the Jazz Fest, Essence Fest, and the French Quarter Fest. He loved the food served at the festivals from the crawfish bread at Jazz Fest to the pulled pork at Oak Street PoBoy Fest. We loved to go see our divas at Essence and Jazz Fests and even went down to the Mississippi Gulf-Coast.

This is sweet Winter as we were leaving the gates.

When Dennis' family held the service for his passing, his brother Larry did the eulogy for it. "Our guardian angels on earth become our guardian angels in heaven." His words touched my soul. I have had loss of the major relationships in my life- my parents and my brother. Those words gave me a vision of Dennis sitting in his pew praying for all of our souls. If Dennis had faith in me then I knew my life could make a difference.

Today at 54, I have many surrogate mothers figures. My mother raised me in a way to love women. Truthfully, I am spoiled rotten by them. I want to wish them all a Happy Mother's Day.

If I could leave you with a sentiment today,: Love your mother and not to take your relationship with her or anyone else for that matter for granted. Say all the things you want to say because one day, you will not be able to and if your mama's gone then love on someone else today.

Happy Mother's Day 2021


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