"They say every atom in our bodies was once a part of a star. Maybe I’m not leaving, maybe I’m going home." Vincent Freeman, Gattaca
I was raised first celebrating Hanukkah, then Christmas a few days later, and later I added Solstice to my list of holiday celebrations. Most of our Christmases were spent down South. Yep, I'm getting sentimental this week.
No matter where we lived, we would always converge in the South. It was weather relief after so many years in the North. Momma's from the South, and that's where her Momma lived. It was the only place on the planet I wanted to be when she was alive during the holidays. Near Mawmaw - even when I was a twiteen.
There was something about the way the air smelled...like refinery's and ocean salt. Gross to some, but it's the air I knew from my childhood summers growing up. It's air I miss often.
We would land in Houston, pick up my Aunt (we say Ant not Aunt, where my mom calls them Aint's). It's a southern thing and I love it. We'd hit I-10 and stop at the gas station/BBQ joint for my dad, and head to Mawmaw's. We'd eat lunch then head over to Lafayette, where my Ant Effie lived.
The foods we ate: Divinity, Fudge, Ham, Seafood Gumbo, Po'boys, hush puppies, cornbread stuffing and the regs. We'd hit up Cafe Des Amis near Breaux Bridge, which is still my favorite town on the planet. Sometimes, we'd get wild and drive towards NOLA, but usually we'd just stay in the heart of Cajun country and do very little but take long walks around parks and old plantations, watch movies and football. When Lafayette started getting "hip" we'd go out for Sushi or something, but usually we'd stick to the regular Prudhomme's and this amazing fish shack along on the Atchafalaya River next to a really high bridge.
As slow and sluggish as the South felt to me, I felt like I was in a secret world. A world where only you and the others know "the language" you speak. When you'd say Louisiana and East Texas to someone who "knew" in the North, the conversations would go for hours. As one man later put it to me in life, "I'm down in your people's country." That meant Cajun Country.
Cajun Country will always be sort of an enigma to me. People work hard, live on very little, and there is this energy for joy that is contagious. It's old and slow and mysterious and the beauty is beyond words. It is a place that fired me up, academically, as the Maternal Mortality Rate is one of the highest in the country. But, I'm not bringing us down in this post...It's just something I want to address and provide some relief to in my lifetime.
What you need to know about this part of the Earth: the food is really good. Rich but really good, unless you're eating seafood and rice. The divinity, and sugar kills me, is divine. The music...oh the music makes me happy even if I can't fully understand their blurry Creole. There are lights and decorations - EVERYWHERE. You've possibly seen a house decorated this way, but I don't know...I've been a lot of places at Christmas and the Cajun's do it up real festive. One might say tacky.
Cajun's celebrate life. There's a vibe to this part of the South that feels like home. The people, they're really short and fun and bright. They are poor as shit for the most part, but they are "working it." Summer and Christmas in this part of the world raised me, as well the women.
It's one place on Earth where I'd deliver babies, again, just so women could have access to an excellent Midwife and care provider, who'd collaborate with MD's to bring them to the hospital if there were complications. The one place, other than an airplane.
This little amazing, broken part of the US holds some of the most exquisite natural beauty, wild-life, and plant life. The bird habitat alone is mind-blowing. There's a little woman in a small town who is one of the best Cajun cooks in the world, she only takes phone reservations. I wonder if she's still alive? Last I knew, she was 89.
Going South means going home for me. Going West means going home for me. Right now, I'm learning what it means to be home in the middle of the US...the flattest yet most grounded land I've been in over 19 years. I sort of like the wild and deep and grounded, it's home.
But what if home is like Vincent says, part of our body? Not just a physical place, smells, stories or memories? I teach to my clients about Coming Home. How we rediscover ourselves after being rearranged from a big life event. For instance, how it feels to come home with a brand new baby, into your already lived in home. How you feel new. You feel bigger. You feel scared. You feel love and loved.
Do you believe home is within you? It makes so much sense to me.
Now, the holidays have shifted West. Maybe they'll shift South one day again in the future, but we're a dying breed. Going off to our bodies in the stars. Every night before I go to bed (I will teach my children and little loves this), I still count my lucky stars for being born into a family that breathes and believes in peace, love, goodness, joy, music, dance, food, celebration, honoring death, sharing love more than presents, and living incredibly rich lives.
I hope this week you feel all the magic I do if you're going home for the holidays, even if you can't stand your family. Just for one day, let some light in. It's a blessing to be alive and living this amazing life. The opportunity to share it with you and be part of your life is a total pleasure. I love you like my own, it's just what you do.