The joy of life
Joie de vie
I’m either simple or happy, though quite possibly simply happy; a good part of my childhood involved small town Louisiana and the joys associated with such. There’s this perspective on life called Joi de Vie, French for the joy of life, that I love to think about. It’s a serendipitous way to look at things like the glass is 60% full, that you have time to talk about what’s exciting, and that you take the time to be excited even if just for the moment.
South Louisiana is the kind of magical place you can’t compare to anywhere else, especially if you live in north La. Maybe it’s the small town structure anywhere sort of in the country, but I like to think it’s that subtropical climate where elephant ear plants and some bushy palms love to thrive.
Monday, 2/1/2016, I drove home from new Iberia, Louisiana after an amazing weekend with my grandmother and aunts.
Leaving my granny’s house, I stopped at the local corner store to grab a bottle of water and had a fantastic conversation with a stranger named Peggy. There, I shared with her a story about my grandfather’s adoption. We were on Duperior street in a small down, literally across the street from Mount Carmel academy, formally Dauterive’s hospital where the following story takes place ------
The Treasure Of A Child
Written by Shirley C. Breaux (not my granny, keep reading to the end.)
'The old Frederick Hotel in New Iberia, Louisiana was where it all began. The date was October 19, 1921. A young black woman had been given a baby boy and for reasons unknown decided not to acknowledge this fact to her parents. Sad and homesick, she wanted to go home. The father of the child arranged for a black lady to care for this child, as a baby sitter.
Weeks passed. The couple did not return. The black lady found herself in a dilemma. In 1921, no matter how much love and care was given, a black woman was not allowed to rear a white baby. Dauterive hospital was founded by a doctor of the same name. This doctor was compassionate and kind, as well as a provider of medical skills and he possessed a special understanding of the people he treated. The baby was brought to the hospital and the doctor intelligently and with common sense found a solution to the problem of figuratively, if not relatively!
Across the street from Dauterive Hospital, there lived a childless couple. Their names were Gervais Edward LeBlanc and Adeline Dugas LeBlanc. Adeline was the doctor's patient and he was privy to the fact that this lady longed with all her heart to be the mother of a child. The doctor advertised in the news media seeking the parents of the abandoned baby boy. Legal steps were taken when the natural parents were not found. When the path was cleared for adoption, the doctor called Adeline and asked her to come see something in the hospital.
Adeline Dugas LeBlanc crossed the street. She went into Dauterive Hospital and met with the doctor. He took her into a room introduced her to a healthy baby boy. "Well. Adeline" the doctor is quoted as saying, "I have something for you, do you want this baby?"
And, so, Huntz LeBlanc became the cherished son of Gervais Edward LeBlanc and Adeline Dugas LeBlanc. He moved in the LeBlanc home across the street from Dauterive Hospital.
The little boy enjoyed enviable time growing up. His parents doted on him, but never allowed him to be "bad", knowing with strict Cajun heritage that a child must be good to be happy. Huntz LeBlanc still lives in the house that he grew up in and sleeps in the same bed he did as a boy. He concluded his memories with the observation... "Mama found me at the Dauterives... and I found my wife, Shirley at the same place." Dauterive's was a lucky place in my life.' (That's my granny, Shirley Breaux LeBlanc)
-------- Peggy loved hearing that story. Her passenger had exited the quickie-mart and returned to sitting in her passenger seat, so Peggy excitedly hopped out of her driver side seat to tell me something fantastic from her family history. Peggy’s mother was disfigured due to an illness. The woman had ‘cancer’ on her face, which ate away at her skin leaving her in wretched pain. In older Creole culture there's a term for a healer, known as a Traiteur. The person would lay hands on you, pray, for the hope of some healing to occur. Peggy tells me about her mother whose nose had been eaten by cancer, which just left the cartilage. Her family sought out a Traiteur, she didn’t tell me where or how they came across one, but after locating one the woman came over and assessed the problem. She then applied a sav (salve, ointment) to the area, wrapped her face in bandages, and prayed for a healing. Peggy described her mother’s pain, how when it would hurt, she would hold her face and pray about the problem. Peggy then told me that one day the pain stopped, and her mother went on to live a full life.
In my opinion, Joi de Vie means so much. It’s a motto of life, the kind you carry with you where ever you go. It’s stopping to talk to a stranger, telling them something magic in my life, and hearing a magical story in return.
My long weekend had been so great (Friday to Monday) and I was excited. A good friend I met in college at Northwestern State University of Natchitoches, lives in Alexandria. It’s the quintessential halfway mark between New Iberia and Shreveport, where I live. and I had shot Will a text the Sunday before and asked if he was going to be busy on Monday, where he explained he wasn’t busy and to stop by. I fought my way down MacArthur drive in Alex. fighting the early afternoon rush. A few days prior I had decided to start writing stories, exactly what this blog is, and gave him and his girlfriend Raven a full unscripted story of all of the idea floating around in my head.
We talked somewhere between one and two hours, and with the setting sun around 4 in the afternoon, I’d made the decision to carry forward home. Having spent time in Will’s house after a failed 20 mile hike one time, I asked his permission and made my way to the bathroom.
Will has this big, dark beautiful German shepherd named Sampson, and he’s a cool dude. Walking in to the house, he stands up from laying five feet from the door and I scratch his head playfully and speak excitedly like you would an old friend. I continue on to the bathroom to take care of business, where everything flows well, and carry on.
Sampson had laid down after I walked away, and got back up as I made for the exit. He got more head scratches, more sweet talk, and on the way out the door I tried giving him a full pet from noggin to tail. About the time my left hand reaches his hips, he gets aggressive and starts to bark at me. 4 or 5 barks later and he needs to bite this stranger in his home. I jumped out the way of that first snap, while walking the four feet to the door. He went for a second bite on the side of my left calf while I was reaching for the door, and luckily less than ten teeth graced my skin. I had the door opened and in a last ditch effort sweet Sampson bite my right back pocket and held onto my wallet as I walked out the door and shut it behind me.
Here's what Sam was able to do: (I'll legitimately have those pictures embedded after figuring out how. Fight me.)
Will and Raven had stood up, hearing Sam barking, and looked concerned as I emerged from the abyss. Now Raven’s a very sweet, shy person who’d rather listen than talk. We went back to sitting on a swing, I laughed and talked about more things while Will took care of Sampson. I mentioned to her how a dog wanting to steal my money, and walking away with it, would be a great addition to this Joi de Vie story.
Will was embarrassed by Sam's behavior and proceeded to punish his dog, he’s got a large backyard and this doggy door giving the house’s dogs free reign to come in or out. He had walked inside to warn Sam he’d made a mistake. Raven and me were sitting on that swing talking, and he had walked outside, toward his truck, and then back inside again with a leash. After coming back outside again, he described how necessary it was to punish Sam, and as a result he planned to leave him on a post long enough to know he’d made a mistake. He came out and apologized for the behavior, but the joy of life personality in me could only laugh at that fortuitous afternoon.
Will is a good friend and I look forward to the day ten years down the road when this will be funny, but his beautiful puppy wanted my money and I could only laugh at the afternoon's events. I’m nervous that all dogs just want my money try to keep things in plastic near friends on four legs.
Joi de vie is a charismatic way of looking at life. Each day is exciting and new, and if you’re lucky enough, you may see something you’ll want to talk about that evening, write down as a story somewhere, and still laugh about when you’re older and see good friends a whole lot less.