Despite the fact that I have had two significant, satisfying careers (Times of Acadiana 1981-97 and PASA executive director 1989-2010), my only ambition ever was to be a wife and a mom. I went to college to get a degree in something, just in case I ever found myself actually needing to work. I love children at every age: newborns, terrible two’s and teenagers, too.
I have been rocking babies, shepherding toddlers, playing games, singing songs, blowing bubbles in the swimming pool and baking cookies with little ones and big ones since my age was identified by two digits. And, of course, they have all grown up.
First, there were Ainsley and Hunter — not my own — who lived up the street and with whom I spent countless hours as a babysitter, beginning when she was three months old, he was nearly three and I was 15. It’s hard to describe that time except to say that my role was like that of a very young mother of two who marched in the band, took dancing and piano lessons, sometimes drove a fancy car and had access to a charge account at Abdalla’s and La Fonda.
I crossed the Atchafalaya Basin for college at LSU and my young cousins Ashley, Rene and Ryan — he was brand-spanking new — joined the list. For a period of months in late 1979, I moved in with them and became the grownup in charge.
I met Conrad and we married. Hunter and Ainsley stood in our wedding, of course. It was not long before Ainsley and her friend Charlotte were choosing names for our first child. Soon, we had three — Crawford, Caroline and Candace. Ruth — our housekeeper’s daughter — joined the crew at some point. By the time our oldest was 10 years old, I had already dealt with the joys and trials of adolescents and young adults.
Weddings followed and more babies, too. Ainsley’s, Hunter’s and my sister Elizabeth’s. Stephen, our first grandchild — whose parents are Caroline and hubby Eric — is the most recent. Almost all of them live out of town, so they are only actually a part of my day when we video chat or visit in person. I now have some time to raise something other than humans.
I have my four chickens, two dogs, a lovely trellis with Asian long beans and some other vegetables in the “garden.” My chickens lay eggs and demand about 10 minutes of attention every day. Buddy and Skip — the former a Shih Tzu and the latter a faux-Shih Tzu — spend their days at my feet and mostly need dog biscuits and eye drops. The long beans — the seeds of which I harvested from last year’s crop — are a source of pride and nutrition, as long as I water them. There are my husband’s cows. too, which are boarding away. They seem to have no demands.
Of all the things I’ve raised — including the roof — there is no doubt that there is nothing more satisfying for me than raising children. I am so proud of every one of my collection. Great women. Honorable men. Promising young ones. Happy to have had the challenges. Happy to have had the rewards. Mostly happy, though, to have had the chance to grow up and live amongst them all.
Left: My niece Olivia, who harvests something every time she visits
Right: The day the chicks arrived