Yesterday I went to the French Quarter Fest and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to listen to music. I don't typically listen to Zydeco, arguably the music of Louisiana. One would think it would be something I was drawn to on a visceral level at least. My mother's family names are all Boudreaux's and Gautreaux's and Dideareaux and who knows what else that ends in eaux.
I can remember visits to my maternal grandmother's and great-grandmother's where the adults would gather after the evening rosary to play boure (I have no idea how to spell bourée; I don't think I have ever seen it written). Once released from the torture of kneeling in a circle on the kitchen floor saying the rosary to the radio we kids would pass our rosaries over to the nearest adult and high tail it for the backyard to play some version of chase through the fig orchards. The men would drink beer and the women home made cherry bounce and together as a family they made fun on a hot summer night.
As the evening progressed our dashes in and out of the kitchen always had a very distinct sound that I can hear even now. It is the combination of French being spoken in rapid fire tempo against music warbling forth from a scratchy 78 album blended with that of the occasional swat at a mosquito and infused with laughter, great deals of laughter, which all together created its own music.
What they listened to on the record player or radio or played themselves when one of the Oncle's would bring a fiddle and another an accordion or any other combination of instruments didn't seem to have a name, or at least they didn't name it. Someone would shout, "Oncle Celeste! Jouez-nous de la musique!" Just that, not play some Zydeco or Cajun Music it was just music. It is interesting that they didn't have a name for it when you think about our how humans seem to have a need to name a thing. Or perhaps they did and said it in French which we tuned out because we weren't supposed to understand what they were talking about when they slipped into French.
What I loved was the sound of Family, not so much the music itself. It isn't that I don't like it now, I can enjoy it but it isn't the same. I suppose for me it is a family sound that is best enjoyed on a hot summer night with fans whirring overhead and the sounds and smells of my grand grand-mere's kitchen and when I hear it elsewhere I feel lonely for the sounds I won't ever hear again.
Those simple days are gone. I don't ever see all the Tante's and Oncle's anymore. My grand-mere is gone as is my grand grand-mere and my mother too and the links to that side of the family grow weaker with each passing year. None of us live in houses with big screened in back porches and even bigger kitchens where 20 people could sit around a table and drink cherry bounce and play cards on a hot summer evening and create the magic of childhood for all of us kids. And none of us are kids anymore. I miss it and the music that was my childhood. And that is what I remembered last night when I went to bed with the sounds of Zydeco still whispering in my mind. I remembered I wasn't a kid anymore.
After writing the above by sheer fluke of fate two of my cousins walked into the same bar/resturant I was in. Since then the family has all gotten together again. The adults, of whom now I was one, sat around talking into the evening. Laughter was everywhere and the kids ran in and out, music played in the background... and I wondered if we were making the music of childhood for the little ones.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007