Visiting South Louisiana brings out varied emotions—I feel like a tourist, but at the same time, I lived there for many years. And, I left behind good friends there—a solid group of friends it took me into my forties to find, and a teenaged friend I have found again after not seeing each other for years. But it is always with a sense of relief when I see those mountains rising up in front of me as I round a corner in my BoopMobile. Just as I feel a sad seep into my bones when I see the mountains retreating in my rearview.
Even so, I can now feel excitement when I cross into the Louisiana State Line and know I’ll see my friends and know the food will be good and those granddaddy oaks will rise above me with their Spanish moss hanging, and the egrets flying over water water water water, slooowww moving water, the LSU flags, the cars and people and, well, all those things from the post below.
This trip was with a purpose—the Louisiana Book Festival. I can’t tell you how honored and happy I was to be invited. I’d attended a few of them myself, when I lived in Louisiana, and always in the back of my brain was the thought, “I hope I can do this one day as an author.” Getting that invitation from the Book Festival folks had me yippe yo kai yaying and whoohoooing!
On Friday night, at the author’s party, I stood in my black dress and heels, lipsticked and mascaraed, a glass of wine in my hand, a big ole grin slipping round my lips, and I looked out over the crowd of people. I had a badge on! I was an author this time! I saw Wally Lamb across the room and knowing our friend Angie Ledbetter (Gumbo Writer) loves him, and also knowing Angie was coming to the author’s party, I stepped over to him and said, “I have a friend in love with you and she’ll be here soon . . .” He smiled, introduced me to his wife, we said whatever we said, and then I said my goodbyes. Later, when Angie and I were standing around, eating from a heaping plate of fried fish and other Louisiana delicacies (oh, all the food was good – including the chocolate fountain we later found); I glanced across the room and saw Wally Lamb and his lovely wife listening to another gentleman. I said, “Come on; I told him you loved him . . .” Angie and I headed over there and as soon as Mr. Lamb turned to us (which was quick as a flea’s blink!), I introduced Angie to him and stepped back to watch. Teeheehee. Angie said, “I can cross this off my bucket list now…” Made me laugh and smile.
Later in the evening, Angie and I escaped outside to sit in the cooling Louisiana night. The jazz band’s music and the lights from the State Library filtered out in that way that gives the impression of the party, but leaves it separate. I knew the next day I’d have my panel and book signing, and I admit I was a bit nervous. But right then, it was just my friend and me, sitting on the concrete steps, looking out at that night, being friends, wishing we didn’t live so far apart. For a moment, I could almost forget I lived 11 or so hours away; almost forget I didn’t leave my friend far behind to find my Home. The thread of friendship stretches far but never breaks. Still. I miss her greatly. We chatted a while, in our dressy clothes, our make-up, our missing each other.
The Louisiana night sky hovered above those two friends and covered them. The next day’s activities were far enough off to leave the evening peaceful, but filled with anticipation. But then, right then, it was all about the friends, nothing else was important.
I turned to my good friend; she turned to me. We smiled, wistful. That thread between friends is strong and will never be broken. I sit here now writing this and feel a bit like crying. Her Home is South Louisiana. My Home is the Mountains. Our thread is stretched far and wide.