Updated: Apr 18
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. Amber is the one of our family most like my mother. She has all of her mannerisms and loves some good gossip. She told me how grateful she was for her parents' existence. "Janie Belle "is from Ville Platte and, in her day, was quite a sexy woman. The girl kept her figure even after having my five nephews including one set of identical twins.
After hanging up, I started walking down a Facebook memory lan,e 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 cook a feasttfor myy father, her three sons,s and six grandsons. In my family, food isacelebration and she loved for us to be together at her dinner table for the holidays. She was ahead of the game on the gay movement-welcoming mybrothers and my lover to join the family. Herdaughters-in-laws were welcomed to make a dish, but Mattie Rae was a little judgey of their cooking . Cousins andneighbors were welcomed to join as long as she wasn't mad or aggravated with them. She had no problem speaking hermind and saying whyshe wasp-'dd. She did not hold her water holding her feeling i,n and would let 'er rip on them. OnSundaysy,s she would start cooking early in the morning for "dinner," as we called lunc,h which was alway served promptly between 11:30 am and 12:00 pm. If you came to visit between meals, there were always some leftovers on the stove and in the "icebox" ready to be heated. She believed no one should go hungry. My favorite meal of hers was her red beans and rice with southern fried chicken served 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 haww jelly that she canned herself in a Mason jar. Even toda,y 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 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 I've made her biscuits, I've never come close to getting them 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 your chair to watch Irma in the afternoon. You can find a place under a shade tree if you are lucky. 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 at the casino staff. They did not have the "Queen's" tent up and were 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 told that woman to stay away from her husband, Emile.
My friend Dennis and I attended one of Mother's Days 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 attended 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 on the corner of Conti and North Rampart with a 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 celebrations, from the crawfish bread at Jazz Fest to the pulled pork at Oak Street PoBoy Fest. We loved seeing our divas at Essence and Jazz Fests and even went down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
This was sweet Winter as we were leaving the gates.
When Dennis' family held the service for his passing, his brother Larry did the eulogy. "Our guardian angels on earth become our guardian angels in heaven." His words touched my soul. I have lost significant relationships in my life- my parents and my brother. Those words gave me a vision of Dennis sitting in his pew, praying for our souls. If Dennis had faith in me, 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 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