Louisiana Memories

September 07, 2005

My earliest memory is of going crawfishing in a bayeau near Baton Rouge.

We lived in Baton Rouge from when I was about 2 until I was 4, and my earliest memories are of Louisiana. The strongest is a set of fragmentary moments from when I was about 3 years old.

It is morning. Dad is talking about how we are going to go crawfishing.

We are getting out of an old pickup truck - or maybe Dad and I are in his car and Mr. G.-- H.-- and his four boys are getting out of the truck. I do remember the truck. We unload the gear from the truck - nets, and poles with nets, and there must have been a basket but I don't remember that. We walk down an old dirt road. I am very strong on the old dirt road and the pickup truck - I want to say it was a round-nosed, flare-sided pickup truck covered in dust, but that might be a false memory.

We walk down the dirt road to a dock. It stuck out into the water, and I remember it being a long way above the water. Of course, a long way up when you are 3 is not very tall at all.

The other boys used the poles with nets on the end to scoop up crawdads. I could not manage one I am pretty sure that I did try and so they gave me a square net with a cord on each end. I threw it down, and pulled it up again with crawfish in it. I think both the men helped me work the net, but that memory is less clear. The clearest memory of that day, probably my oldest clear memory, is catching crawfish with that square net. I did it again and again.

I have no idea how long we were fishing - a long time for a toddler.

Things shift, and the next memory from that day at least I think it is that day is of a big party at our apartment, lots of people around, and me wandering into the refrigerator, opening the door, and just STARING at a big red salad bowl that was heaped full of cooked red crawfish, the crawfish that were left over after everyone ate their fill. That bowl of crawfish is my other extremely clear early memory. Like the dirt road leading down to the Bayeau, the image is strongly imprinted in my visual memory, a still life with crawdads and background noise.

That was a good day.

My other early memories are also of Baton Rouge, but many of them are blurred memories. Do I remember playing on the little yellow banana scooter, or do I remember seeing a picture of baby Ted sitting on the little yellow banana scooter? I know I remember someone singing Burl Ives songs; it might have been G.-- H.--. I was told the story about liking to go to McDonald's because they had roaches in their flagstoned outdoors patio, and I liked to step on them while we waited for our food. I don't remember that one, but it seems to be in character.

Nostalgia is one response to tragedy. I suspect that all the news, horrible news, about New Orleans and the gulf coast has dredged up the detritus of these old memories.

The Phantom Professor suggests, as a writing exercise, that we try to hone our voices while describing a place. This blog post is a rough draft, more about the act of memory than about the place remembered.

Oh, and as a post-script, my boys are at the age where they are probably building what will be their oldest memories. I suspect that Elder Son will remember getting on the train to go to the Penn Relays. I wonder what will stick with the Littler Man?

Posted by Red Ted at September 7, 2005 12:17 AM | TrackBack