This Angel Needs SOLE
“Mama, do you think I will get a shoe?” Cleo asked as we were making our plans for the Muses parade. I had been told by so many people that the Muses parade was THEE parade that I certainly did not want to miss, so despite my apprehension of navigating around the city at night, without my husband, in an area unfamiliar to me, I knew that this was the one thing I needed to do if I did nothing else for Mardi Gras.
“I don’t know, baby, maybe!”
“Mom, you said baby and maybe and they rhyme. Are you trying to be a rapper?”
“Yes. I am MC Hurry-UP- Let’s-Get-Ready-to-go,” I said, giving Cleo the look I promised I would never give, the same look my mom gave me and the exact same look I had seen my Grandma Bea give my mom.
We put on her dress and her wings and she asked for some make up, a night to play dress up and receive gifts from the gods for her and a night to challenge myself and the fears I had developed for me.
We arrived a couple hours early, setting up a picinic, me reading Augsten Burroughs, her reading Captain Crankypants or Underpants or whatever it is that she devours and laughs and tries to mock the pictures of. She spread out on the blanket, her head on my lap, me caressing her hair, her looking up at me and smiling. A Kodak pictures in our mind that we never will forget.
It was finally time for the parade to start and she took it all in, waiting and waiting. She caught bead after bead, refusing to place some on her neck, partly due to being weighed down and partly due to wanting to share with her mom. It was our night, My Girls’ Night, and I was spending it with one of my favorite girls.
The parade came to an abrupt stop and we sat down, waiting to see what had happened. We had struck up conversations with the people next to us, an older couple visiting from Michigan. We talked about the Mid-West, about New Orleans, and about the transition of moving down here. They chatted with Cleo about books and art. After forty-five minutes and the temp dropping, we decided to head home. The parade was still stopped with no start in sight. We walked the half block to the parades beginning intersection when we saw movement, so we quickly ran back to our spot, and thankfully the Michigan couple welcomed us in, vowing for our previous parade placement when a couple of college kids became upset that they were going to have to compete with a child for beads.
Cleo held her sign up high as each float passed by.
One of the women on the top of one float pointed at Cleo, making eye contact with me, and tossed down to me the coveted Muses prize, a hand decorated shoe. These shoes are hot commodities, with women of all ages holding signs asking for the shoes to be gifted by a generous rider. Cleo’s eyes lit up bright, she gave me a thumbs up, and screamed, “YES!”
“Mama, we can go home now! I got a shoe!!!” she said, jumping up and down.
“Let’s watch the rest of the parade and then we will go home, Ok?”
We repeated the same routine as each float passed by. Cleo received a few stuffed animals, which made her happy since next to just about anything, stuffed animals are her favoritest thing in the world. She has a trunk full of Bratz dolls that go unplayed with, but her stuffed animals have homes made from cardboard boxes with Cleo’s artistic flair added.
And then another lady signaled to me. Another shoe, this one orange in color – Cleo’s new favorite color.
More beads. More stuffed animals. More smiles. More laughs.
“Does she have an octo yet?” asked the little boy near us.
“No, she doesn’t.”
“She can have this, “he said, handing it to her, causing both of them to laugh, smile, and blush.
And at last, the last float of the parade. Cleo did her same routine, jumping up and down, holding up her sign, screaming, “Throw me something Missus!”
The eye contact came. Along with another shoe. The light in Cleo’s eyes was so bright. In that moment, she was so happy. The difficulties that she faced this past year were erased all she felt was pure joy. Mama’s heart was smiling.
“I need to make sure I bring one of my shoes to Miss Elizabeth,” Cleo said.
And that did it. In the middle of the lights and the crowd and the Mardi Gras joyfulness, I broke down in tears, looking at my daughter, with such a big heart and so considerate of others. That’s my girl.
The next day, we took the shoe that Cleo picked out for Miss Elizabeth over to her bookshop. We took the other shoe to Cleo’s Miss Ellen, the woman who has worked miracles in Cleo’s life. The remaining shoe is proudly displayed on her bookshelf, so she “never forgets our best date out”, next to her Octo and her Elvis scarf she was pinned with by one of the motor scootering Elvi.
This is the Mardi Gras I chose to remember. This is the Mardi Gras that should be reported on NBC, ABC, and whichever other national channel that wants to mar not only Mardi Gras, but New Orleans – a city that is trying to do the best that it can with what it has. A city that care may have forgotten, but not a city that has forgotten to care.