By COLLEEN LEDDY
I’m just back from a week in the Red Stick, or Baton Rouge if you prefer the French version of the capitol of Louisiana.
My flight arrived a little early, and Rosie, running on “Caroline time,” was going to be a little late picking me up. It’s a long hour drive from Baton Rouge to the New Orleans airport when there’s a screaming baby in the back seat of your car.
Rosie called to warn me they’d be late because she’d had to stop a few times along the way to calm my lovely little granddaughter, Caroline. But, once released from her car seat, Caroline wouldn’t nurse; she just wanted to play.
Putting her back in the car seat resulted in cries of bloody murder. Several episodes of “cry and release” later, Rosie decided to just carry on with the remaining leg of the journey. She called me on speakerphone when she thought she was about 20 minutes away, and Caroline was still wailing away. It was painful to listen.
I suggested Rosie give Caroline the phone and that maybe my voice would distract her. And, she did start to calm down as long as I was singing. I’d walked to the far end of the baggage claim area and launched into several choruses of “Rock-A-Bye Baby,” followed by “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Pattycake Pattycake,” and “Oh, My Darling Clementine” (substituting Caroline for Clementine).
For what ended up being more than half an hour, I kept up a steady stream of singing actual songs and nursery rhymes with a healthy dose of nonsense thrown in for good measure. I was pretty amazed that it seemed to be working, especially since Caroline seems to have an appreciation for music. Whenever I sang to Rosie when she was a baby, she used to put her hand over my mouth to make me stop. Maybe my voice has improved over the years?
Still singing, I walked to the pickup area outside thinking Rosie would be arriving soon. When I noticed several guys carrying guitars, I laughed into the phone. Here I was in the very musical town of New Orleans, singing in public with my terrible tuneless voice. The irony was not lost on me, but I kept on singing.
Later, Rosie told me that most of that time, the phone had been wedged between Caroline’s leg and the cars eat; she probably didn’t hear much of anything.
Besides playing with Caroline, I have no idea where the week went nor what the heck we did—except for a visit to an amazingly beautiful library and to New Roads, Louisiana, where we ate boiled shrimp (gigantic shrimps looking up at me with eyes and exoskeletons and everything) at one restaurant while we killed time waiting for five o’clock to arrive so we could eat crawfish at another—Hot Tails Louisiana Crawfish House.
Hot Tails is the kind of place where you walk in and you’re immediately in and everyone looks at you and you know they’re all thinking, “They aren’t from around here,” and they’re not looking like that’s a good thing. And there’s no sign telling you to seat yourself or please wait for the hostess.
It’s the kind of place where even the young gal wiping down tables looks you over and says, “Is this y’alls first time here?”
We’ve come for the crawfish, but we’re transfixed by the enormous chalkboard menu. The first thing I read is Red Beans and I start to miss David because he would surely be happy to find some Red Beans and Rice on this menu…at least I thought it was going to say “Rice.” But instead the offering is Red Beans and Rabbit...make that Fried Rabbit.
We’re all curious about the Shut-Up Dawgs which turn out to be the most delicious Hush Puppies known to mankind. We order a pound of crawfish to start and a sandwich each. I take a chance and order a Crab Cake Croissant. I’m notorious for choosing the most disappointing items on a menu, but it’s just about one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It’s so good I could cry.
Sing to me, Caroline.