When people die, they leave stories behind. I stumble over these stories unexpectedly as I go about my life, as if they are invisible cats that brush against my attention.
There’s a tiny bit of pain when I pause and let the story remember itself, but there’s richness as well. Today is Mardi Gras, and because of that, my husband made a big pot of red beans. His mama taught him to make these beans, and they are full of the flavor of her hometown, Baton Rouge. This morning I stole a bite, and Paula stepped into my mind.
When I was pregnant with Alba, Paula made me enormous meals once a week. She wasn’t feeding me so much as feeding her grandchild, but my appetite was up for finishing every bite. (There’s a reason Alba was 8 pounds 6 ounces when she was born, and it was due to D and P’s cooking.) Paula was battling cancer during the time that I was pregnant, but she still kept on cooking.
The night that I went into labor, I sat at the dinner table at Paula’s house, and she fed me an enormous plate of eggplant lasagne. “You look like you’re about ready to pop,” she said. Perhaps it was the eggplant, or perhaps Alba decided that it was time to step out into the world, but Paula was right. On the drive home, I felt a ripple in my stomach, and at 4 PM the next day, Alba was born.
A month later, we were all sitting at a brew pub in Athens. Paula sat next to her grandchild, of course, and at one point reached over and put some of the beer foam from her cup onto Alba’s little tongue. “Now you can remember that I gave you your first beer,” she joked. There’s not much more Baton Rouge than that.
Laissez le bon temps rouler, Paula! We’ll eat our red beans and rice and remember you, today.