Sunday, the conference ended. We went to one last workshop and one last general session before departing. We got to hear the Bishop of the ELCA speak. I found it half funny and half irritating that he ironically kept asking what were phrased as rhetorical questions and then acting surprised and/or annoyed when the crowd didn’t shout back a chorus of “Right!” or “Yes!” to his questions. I mean… it is a group of Lutherans. Aren’t they kind of known for their somewhat passive responses to worship? I have not yet heard one Lutheran shout an “Amen” or “Hallelujah” in church without it being scripted into the liturgy for the service. But… in spite of the rhetorical question asking, he had a great message about serving whole-heartedly wherever you are called, even if that is right where you are. This message was not new to me- I do feel called to where I am- but I do remember a time in my life when all I wanted was to be far away from home doing exotically great things for the Kingdom of God, only to be terribly frustrated upon realizing that the good things God had for me to do right at home were also valuable and likely my calling.
After the conference ended, we rented a car and made the trek out to New Roads, Louisiana, where Marc’s family lives. Marc’s family is very, very Cajun, and they live in real Cajun country. New Orleans is beautiful. It is an artistic, eclectic, place of ornate beauty… but it isn’t really Cajun country. To get to New Roads, you drive through several hours of swampland. This requires driving over many bridges and highways surrounded by trees that have grey, mossy looking branches dangling in bunches off of skinny trunks growing tall out of the brownish, greenish, mucky water.
The “highways” are not always high. They are, in fact, mostly just roads. They are seldom labeled with the direction they go. As we headed out into the country, we gave up on the directions Marc had printed from the internet and relied solely on the GPS, since pretty much nothing is labeled. On the way back, Marc’s aunt gave us directions that involved steps like “turn right at the levee and follow that for a few miles” and “turn left at the fire station.” This is the country alright.
I love spending time with Marc’s family. First of all, I could listen to those women talk to each other for hours. Their deep Southern drawls just make everything sound like a song. They just do everything so Southern. Most of his family showed up, and we sat around all afternoon, eating snacks and drinking while the gumbo simmered on the stove for hours. Marc’s uncle Lester, whose Cajun accent is so strong he is hard to understand at times and reminds me unmistakably of the firefly in The Princess and the Frog (actually, I should say the firefly reminds me of Lester, since that was my first thought when I saw the movie), fried up some fish in the evening, and then we eventually had the gumbo. Oh man… best gumbo ever. They all made fun of me because I filled my bowl with rice, spooned on about a ladle full of gumbo, and began scooping up the rice and meat with a fork. They laughed and told me I needed to “float” my rice. As I ladled in more gumbo, I reminded them all that I am a Californian and don’t know these things unless someone tells me, which had them all doubled over in laughter while Katherine took my fork and handed me a spoon. They were, of course, right on about needing to float the rice, and I enjoyed slurping up every last drop.
Marc and I slept in this morning, which is wonderfully nice. I haven’t slept that many hours in a row in a very long time. I think we both would have been fine with just coffee and toast, but Southern hospitality is no joke, and we were of course treated to a full Southern breakfast. Afterwards, Katherine took us in the car to go see the new bridge to St. Francisville- the longest suspension bridge in North America- of which they are all quite proud, and then around town to just, well, see the town I guess. Marc grew up coming out here every other year or so, so it was mostly reminiscing and catching up for him. I had seen it all before on our honeymoon in 2003, but I didn’t really remember too much.
It was sort of sad to see how country living has changed. There were lots of closed shops, including a whole abandoned shopping center where the “Piggly Wiggly” market used to be. She says there are a couple of markets in town, but mostly they do their shopping at big stores like Walmart in Baton Rouge (which is probably about 20 or 30 miles away). Nonetheless, it is a quaint little country town, which looks not too terribly much different than it must of looked 40 years ago. It sort of has that 1960s feel to it.
Right now, we are on our way home. I am trying my best to deal with my terrible anxiety about flying by distracting myself with as much as I can. I finished both the book I brought to read for fun and the book I had to read for homework. I already wrote the paper about the book I had to read for homework. We’ve got about an hour left of this flight, and it feels like an hour too long.
I miss my kids. I want to go home.