The first stop we made in Louisiana was Alexandria, a city in the centre of the state with a population of less than 50,000 people. By this point in our trip Milo’s hair had gotten quite long, and it had become pretty routine for strangers to refer to him as “she” or “her”. He didn’t notice most of the time, but I heard it, and while I tend to like long hair on boys, it felt a little strange to be seen as a family with a son and daughter when the latter didn’t self-identify as such. (I honestly don’t know why I let shit like that bother me, but I’m working on it!). So, I convinced Milo to get a haircut at the mall not too far from our motel. He was a little nervous about it, but the decision was made firm when we went to get lunch before going to the hairdresser, and the lady behind the counter at Chick-Fil-A handed Milo his meal and said, in a very confident tone, “Here ya go, Ma’am!”. He definitely heard it that time! And the haircut went well. Milo had a lot to cut off, and the stylist took her time with it, which gave Eric and me the opportunity to chat it up with the other stylists who weren’t working at that moment. Once Milo came out of the chair, I marvelled at how much older and taller he looked! I was so glad to be able to see Milo’s face again, and he was actually really happy to have short hair again.
We next moved on to Lafayette, where we explored Vermilionville Historic Village (on Fisher Rd., no less), a kind of Cajun pioneer village. It was quiet there that day, and so we could walk leisurely through the houses and buildings, asking questions of the staff as needed. I hadn’t known, for example, that “Cajun” comes from “Acadian”, the name of the French colonists living in Acadia, in the maritimes, who were eventually deported by the British in the mid-1700s and then migrated to the Spanish colony of “Luisiana” (now Louisiana). I remembered visiting an Acadian pioneer village in New Brunswick when I was a kid, so that connection was especially meaningful for me.
The boys had a lot of fun crossing one of the narrower bayous on a ferry raft, which we rode a few times back and forth. I tried gumbo for the first time in the café, and Eric had a huge shrimp po’ boy sandwich. Afterwards we watched a bit of the live creole music playing in the dance hall, which I got a kick out of but was a bit too loud for Fisher and Milo. There were several (mostly older) couples who had come to the village specifically to dance (I assume this was a regular Sunday event), and I enjoyed watching them for a while, too.
One thing I liked about Louisiana was how people called each other “sir” and “ma’am”, which seemed to create respect between people, even strangers. Another thing I liked was the way the trees grew in the bayous, with their roots coming up out of the ground and then curving back down into it again. Louisiana overall has an amazing cultural history, and I’m really glad we were able to experience some of it as we travelled east.
Next stop: Biloxi, Mississippi…