The Home We Carry

The text below are my speaking notes for a talk I gave before the Catholic Daughters League. It looks a bit odd because I occasionally write my speaking notes to look a bit more like poetry, to help me remember how I want things to sound in addition to what I want to say. It is something I learned from Henry Glassie.

It is, I think I can safely say, obvious to all of you here that women make much in our world.

They make meals.
They make babies.
They make homes.

In doing all of those things,

in putting us on this earth,
in putting food in us,
in putting up with us,

they, most importantly of all, make us.

Despite the obviousness of all of this,
attention to the women and the homes they make has been a long time coming.

Those of us who study things like local cultures
have too long focused on men’s folk culture,
mostly because men’s culture tends to take place in public
and thus is readily available to outsiders
and its value seems obvious to insiders.

But men account for only half of who any group of people are.
That seems obvious, right?

And men are often put in charge of the least valuable parts of a culture:
cars, lawns, barbecues.

The most important part of any culture is its children:
they are what keep it alive.

Now, we are lucky to live in a culture where men and women can be involved in raising children,
but women have been,
if we are to be honest,
largely charged with the responsibility.

And it’s in our mother’s arms
that we first sway to the rhythms of life
that we will take with us out of the house
and with which we will make our own lives,
our own homes.

It is in our mothers’ and fathers’ voices that we learn our first words
and how to speak them.

Ché, not chere.
Go make groceries, not go to the grocery store.

We say home is where the heart is,
but the heart is our heart,
and we take it with us wherever we go.

By giving us our hearts (both literally and figuratively),
women give us ourselves.

My point in all this is simple: home isn’t inside a house.
People aren’t cooped up at home.
Home is the center of a family,
the center of our hearts.

From home, everything radiates outwards.

Louisiana has been lucky in having sensitive recorders of its folk culture, men and women who cued us early on to the wealth that is women’s folk culture. While those historical recordings — most of which are available at the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore for all to hear — sent contemporary folklorists to seek out the kinds of ballads and stories that really are the commonwealth of a culture, it also began a discussion about the larger role women play.

Kristi Guillory set off at the start of this decade to document, quite literally, old wives’ tales: she interviewed older women about bearing and rearing children. Her work here is almost revolutionary for the academy but obvious to those of us living our lives: can anyone doubt that our fundamental feeling for the world and how to live in it is established in those formative years when our mothers, and our fathers, pad our bottoms either to dry them or pad them to set us straight?

Her later work was to examine the images and ideas found in Cajun music, and in her thesis she collected and analyzed the lyrics of over 200 songs from our part of the world.

She is joined tonight by Yvette Landry and Chris Segura.

Yvette Landry is a Breaux Bridge native and, perhaps most importantly of all, a former Crawfish Queen. More seriously, Yvette plays bass guitar with the Lafayette Rhythm Devils and Bonsoir Catin. By night she is a fine musician, from a long line of musicians; by day, she is a teacher at the Episcopal School of Acadiana.

Chris Segura has been playing fiddle since the age of four and is a member of
Feufollet and the Lafayette Rhythm Devils. While Chris is currently a UL student, he also owns, along with his friend and colleague, Chris Stafford a successful recording studio where they recently produced the popular Allons Boire Un Coup project with Valcour Records.`