Can you imagine living in south Louisiana and not being enamored by Mardi Gras? The parades! The floats! The throws! The bands! The galas! The king cake!
That imagination is my reality, as someone with a low tolerance for crowds, lack of facilities access and not knowing what to expect or where to park. This year marks my tenth Mardi Gras season, and my lack of enthusiasm has slowly built up since that first year, mostly because of my parade experiences.
A transplant from Oklahoma by way of Maryland, Virginia and NYC, I was excited by the new experience Mardi Gras brought that first year. Colleagues took us to a Baton Rouge parade that was so much fun, and with my visiting in-laws, we made the trek to New Orleans.
This was all pre-kids, but just barely. I found out I was pregnant during this time of year, and the unbearable all-day “morning” sickness of pregnancy began on our way home from that Big Easy trip. That set the stage for my less-than-favorable view of the carnival season, and to this day, the sharp smell of cheap plastic beads makes my stomach turn just a bit.
We also didn’t have the best experience at the New Orleans parade itself, which we attended without veterans to show us the ropes. We were unaware of parade etiquette, but our ungracious fellow parade-goers made their disdain at our presence quite clear. I learned part of the experience must be staking out space and glaring at anyone who dares enter your “neutral” ground, no matter that there was plenty of physical space to go around!
The weather didn’t help matters either, as we were soaked by a torrential pop-up downpour on the long walk back to our car. Of course, that’s just the nature of Louisiana weather, and I’m more prepared with rain gear these days. (Motherhood has helped with my planning and packing skills too, of course!) We did get plenty of beads and other throws, which was exciting and fun. But we’ve never repeated the trek to the big parades, despite having children who would delight in the full New Orleans Mardi Gras experience.
I have two real-live Louisiana girls in my house now, and they love a good parade. But I’m still kind of a Mardi Gras grinch. I’m fond of the preschool-type parade, with decorated bikes and throwing beads to siblings and grandparents. I can manage the smaller, family-friendly parades, especially close-to-us Southdowns. At first, we went with some friends for a few years, but when we went last year, the dad made weird, pointed jokes about us being there at all. Perhaps we should find a different spot on the route!
The hassle of going to parades is compounded with children–getting there with enough time to stake a spot without being super bored and timing it right to be OK food, beverage and bathroom-wise. Given the way it stresses me out, I’m never sure if the experience is “worth it.” But we go anyway, as I love my girls more than I dislike chaotic experiences.
However, the idea of attending multiple parades each year astounds me, although I know there are a lot of families who do just that and wholeheartedly enjoy themselves. Simply put, parades seem like too much work for very little payoff. Clearly my mindset is different as an outsider, introvert and lazy person!
Am I alone in my grinchiness or could there be a quiet minority who, like me, don’t prioritize parades, accumulation of crap and the inevitable melt downs (whether from the kids or mama)? Maybe I should just give it another decade to find my Mardi Gras groove.