Without fail, every year I attend the Mardi Gras parades, I get injured in the head by beads whether it be a single strand or a full bag. One year, a direct hit resulted in a black eye and another a bloody lip, but I still keep going to see my favorite krewes march, hoping to go home unscathed. The one thing that has changed is that I now stand behind my tall, handsome boyfriend to avoid injury, but this lessens my chances of catching the colorful strands thrown from the floats. Instead, I choose to pick up the uncaught beads up from the street. One night during this past carnival, my actions evoked a strange—albeit sympathetic—reaction from a tourist who saw me gathering beads that fell to the ground on Tchoupitoulas. He tried to hand me a bag of white beads he had caught as if the ones on the street were somehow damaged, when they were still totally in tact. I appreciated the gesture, but said “no thank you.”
His actions and my own during that parade led me to think about something a bit deeper than my ability, or lack thereof, to catch Mardi Gras throws. These colorful beads reminded me of the many friendships I have cultivated with women over the years. These ladies come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Some may be more attractive than others but beauty, as we know, is in the eye of the beholder. A few are flashy and bold while others are somewhat subdued. Some prefer to travel in a group, while others venture out on their own. Whatever description our friends fit into, if we’re not fortunate enough to catch them before they fall, the very least we can do is pick them up when they are down.
Every woman, by the time she’s reached a certain age, has had enough life experiences to know that we all make mistakes and none of us are perfect; however, a friend who is genuine is not one who uses you to climb the New Orleans social ladder or just knows you when you’re happy and successful, but the one who listens to you in the middle of the night when you’re sad or upset regardless of the reason. Like beads that fly through the air, we’re all on a path to our destination and we as women need to be supportive of that journey, whether it be up or down, good or bad.
I have a friend who is an aspiring actress and she is not only gorgeous, but also kind, smart and driven to succeed at her craft. It saddened me one day when she told me that she doesn’t have many friends and some of the women with whom she does spend time, try to demean her accomplishments and discourage her dreams. As grown women, when are we going to finally be able to put pettiness and our own insecurities aside and, as another friend of mine says, not look down on another woman unless we’re lifting her up? In the end, jealousy gets individuals nowhere, but support makes all of us strong.
Another friend, whom I’ve known for decades, lost her husband to cancer and her job within the same year. She was forced to sell her home and stay with family for a while. Due to unfortunate circumstances, she found herself without a place to live during Sandy but was able to find a home to rent for her and her dog once the storm passed; the job situation has not changed despite 30 years of experience in her field and excellent credentials. Resilient? Yes. Remarkable? Most definitely. However, she’s managed to keep a strong network of friends over the years that have served as a safety net. I am honored to be part of that group and since she’s hundreds of miles away, we often engage in mutually supportive conversations for hours into the early morning. I can always catch up on rest, but finding a friend like her happens once in a lifetime.
Like me, I am sure you’ve collected your Mardi Gras beads in a bag or box and will put them in a closet or cart them off to storage until next year. As I store mine, I can’t tell the difference between the ones I caught, those that hit me in the face or the strands I picked up off the street because, with a little washing and tender loving care, they now are all shiny and beautiful treasures.