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THE GOOD TIMES KEEP ROLLING WHAT MY KIDS TAUGHT ME ABOUT MARDI GRAS
Better late than never, Mardi Gras is finally here. It felt like this city was holding its breath all February long, waiting for the annual festivities to finally kick off. Chief among those eagerly awaiting the parades and beads were my boys, Jude and Luke. What kid doesn’t love Mardi Gras? It’s practically a toy store on wheels. We’ve been going since Jude was just a toddler, and the events never fail to disappoint. As with most annual events these days, Fat Tuesday is quickly becoming a yardstick for just how fast my boys are growing up. Like many families with young kids, my wife and I got our boys ladder chairs to sit in and watch the parades — a great investment that has saved our shoulders from four straight days of piggy-back rides. We went the classic hand-carved route, complete with cup holders, of course. But every year we set them up, the boys have a little more difficulty fitting in the old set. Pretty soon, they’ll outgrow them entirely, choosing instead to run around with their friends collecting as many beads as humanly possible. It’ll be a sad day when we retire those ladder chairs, but that’s just part of growing up. I was describing my apprehension about this to a friend of mine who lives out of state, only to realize he didn’t have the slightest idea of what a ladder chair is. I don’t blame him; only in New Orleans could an entire industry of custom parade-side highchairs thrive. Having gone to Mardi Gras parades since I was a kid, with my family occasionally making the drive down from Baton Rouge, I sometimes forget just how unique this event is outside our little slice of the world. As vibrant and exciting as it is, Mardi Gras is one of those things that’s easy to take for granted if our town is all you’ve known. Much like our warm winters, amazing food, and stunning festivals, the event can become a backdrop if you let it. I certainly felt that way for a time between my college days and when I had kids. One year, I practically forgot the parades altogether and drove to work as usual, only to find my return home blocked by the festivities. Lesson learned.
When Jude became old enough to go to his first Mardi Gras, everything changed. I saw the look of pure excitement and wonder in his eyes, and suddenly, I could enjoy the revelry from his perspective. That’s part of the magic of parenting, I suppose: You get to remember just how magical the world was when you were young. Now the boys are growing up and out of their ladder chairs, but not out of the joy of Mardi Gras. If my own childhood is any indication, the novelty of catching beads and eating king cakes has a long shelf life. I, for one, am not complaining. As long as they want to head out to see the Muses, Endymion, Bacchus, and the rest, I’ll have fun being right there with them.
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