Sunday, June 26, 2011
ode to my sister
my sister just completed a week-long visit to seattle. she returned to louisiana, the state of my birth with quite amount of fanfare that i will not get into here. but she loved seattle - the view of mountains and hills in pretty much every direction you might look - and the smells, particularly downtown where the salt water mixes with the carnival aroma of things cooking at pike place market (or maybe even mcdonald's on the corner of 3rd and pine.) she and so many of my siblings have tried to shake themselves of their louisiana heritage, while i guess i might be the only one that wants to embrace it. maybe it's because of all that time we spent in california when my dad was in the air force. (i hardly was in california at all; my dad retired before i even started kindergarten and brought me back louisisana.) and now i've been gone from home for more years than i like to think about, but i spend too much time in my job talking about culture and heritage to not see its importance for me- so i find myself wanting to reclaim mine.
i know i've posted on this (and mincemeat pie) before, but the feeling of disconnect from my roots seems to intensify over time. i think my louisiana heritage is much muted by the fact that i've lost my accent - sold it for a mess of pottage as it were, by coming up to seattle and so readily embracing the scene here; thus i am looked at incredulously when i tell people i'm from baton rouge. also, we didn't eat crawfish growing up. my mother is not cajun nor was she poor, and thus, crawfish wasn't something her family would eat. and i didn't grow up hanging in the treme, (watching people sashay past my steps.) so what do i have left? well, i still have my sisters and my dad that live there, and i can still go home. and my sister, to her eternal dismay, still has a southern accent that gets the jealousy stirred up inside me. and she hates her accent! (so much so that when she says, "i hate my accent," she says hate with two syllables.) but no matter, seattle loved her - everywhere she went there was a conversation, and seattle quickly realized that they could look up at the sky or into each other's eyes and say things... yes, to quote my sister, "seattle finds me quaint and adorable!" there are some other quotations from my sister, but i won't get into those here either.
but the point of this post: while my sister was here in seattle, i felt my tongue loosen. (how else can i describe this?) my brain somehow sent signals to my mouth, my tongue, the air coming up out of my lungs! and my brain told my voice to loosen it up a bit, to revisit the past, to speak how i shoulda been speaking all these years, how i used to speak before. (oh yeah, i know some of yall didn't know this, but believe you me, i did have an accent! i've seen videos of me as a kid, and i look at me and feel all confused, like it aint really me at all, just some other kid wearing a shirt or sweater that looks like something i used to wear back when i was growing up.) well, this past week, i felt my southern accent return. when talking to my sister, i'd speak the words like they're supposed to be spoken, and the sound of my tone and voice, it was how it shoulda been! and like a father killing the fatted calf for the returning prodigal, i felt inclined to throw myself a party. so i ate a lot of doughnuts and pretended they were beignets. it really was a week-long mardis gras.
but its sunday morning, and it's gone now, my accent. my sister left and took with her my ability to speak it... if i try, it sounds like i'm imitating. when did it go? where did it go? i'm not upset that its gone, more happy to have had it hang around if even for a little while. felt like more than just my sister had come to visit, but my past and my former self. so this is for you wana lee! (and for your accent!!) thanks you for reminding me of it, for bringing it out of me, and for giving me the most important reason of all to return home.
by the way, check out the opening credits of treme. this has gotta be one of the best tv show openers of all time - from the music to the images of katrina mold and vintage scenes of new orleans:
here is the full song by john boutte: