Rockin’ with Mawmaw on the Bayou

Suggested Listening: Old Folks by Miles DavisbayouBack and forth they rocked.

“How’s yo daddy?” Mawmaw asked, with a pronounced, drawn-out lingering on the “add” and a quick trailing off on the “y.”

Four oblong, baby blue bathroom rugs were placed under the four rocking chairs in the living room. A faded picture of her daughter’s wedding portrait was centered above the couch against the back wall. The other walls were adorned with an array of family photos like most grandparent’s homes. They always hold onto those school photos from when you awkwardly teetered on the precipice between childhood and adulthood.

“Y’all meet rain?” Mawmaw’s sister asked from her still rocking chair.

Struggling to understand what she meant, she repeated herself after my eloquent response of “What?”

“Y’all meet rain on your way down here?”

Dark, rain-bearing clouds had quickly replaced the non-threatening stratus clouds after 3 that afternoon. The rainfall, however, didn’t match the severity of the ominous dark swathes in the sky.

Rocking chairs are one of those few kinetic forms of seating. Each of the ladies rocked in a different way. Mawmaw’s sister remained still in hers. Slowly pushing herself back and forth with her feet, Mawmaw let the wooden chair with cushions do the pendulum-like work. And Jill rocked without abandon, like a child on a swing, her hands holding onto a bowl of homemade potato salad dusted with Tony Chacheres creole seasoning. Farther and farther she’d rock back. Her chair pivoting with each pass until the rockers deviated onto the wooden floor and she had to stop rocking, get up to move the chair back onto the pastel rug before starting to rock again.

As all good conversations do, the discussion turned to food as we rocked. After chatting about what we’d ingested so far on my visit we began talking about the turkey gumbo I made. Eager to learn some southern cooking tips from a bayou dweller, I peppered Mawmaw with roux-related questions.

“You gotta get the oil real hot. Then you add in the flour and mix it until it’s dark. I don’t use measurements. You just know.” Now in her 80s, she continued on her roux, “I don’t make my own anymore. I just use the mix.”

“The secret is to cook a bunch of okra at once. Cook it until it’s mush. Then I put it in the freezer and use what I need.”

As we drove away from Mawmaw’s, the thick moss draped over the tree limbs slowly rocked back and forth in the gentle southern wind.

bye bayou

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