It’s said in New Orleans that Mardi gras is French for throw up in the street but for my family it was our livelihood.
We made costumes for the wealthy elite who came to our house for “fittings” to try on the elaborate costumes that tourist from all over the world would travel to see. I learned never to park in someone’s driveway because the rich thought they owned mine. I had to take three planes, a taxi and rickshaw to get home for supper but “Hey, they pay our bills.” That’s what my mother said. Actually, it was “Larry, for Christ’s sake, they pay our bills. Damn it!”
They not only paid ours they paid others in the neighborhood as well. When I came home from school ladies from the area were in the back of my house cutting large bolts of velvet, piecing together costumes, gluing rhinestones, and decorating what the riders of parades would be wearing.
I remember them being beautiful. Purple, green, and gold satins, lame’, sequin braid in different widths, all busily finding their way into something as wonderful as tradition.
Today, I love to see those costumes, vivid bursts of color, knowing what went into my sister designing them, my mother executing them, and being part of the pageantry of what we call Fat Tuesday.
All hail the wealthy elite under the starry night, or on a beautiful sunlit afternoon, for he is king, or queen, for a day.