The kids were off school last week-we journeyed to Louisiana for the wedding of two Tuscarora staff members. Unfortunately Andy had to stay home, my folks joined us. Mostly, my dad chauffeured, it was a road trip!
We had a week to cross the country and back- our first mission was to drive south until we hit 60 degrees. It was a little chilly countrywide, and we stopped in Arkansas at 50. I sure liked that part of Arkansas. We hiked near Mena on Tuesday, a charming little town in the middle of Ouachita National Forest—(Shelby said—“Mom, I can imagine living here,” and coming from Shelby, that’s a big thing ). We recognized Mena on the news on Thursday night, when unfortunately it was socked by a tornado.
Eventually we ended up in southwest Louisiana near the little town of Elton, for the rehearsal dinner on Friday night.
Cassandra has been on our staff since 2005, she has won her way into each of our hearts. The truth is, sometimes it feels like she holds us all together in the summer…that’s the kind of person she is.
Last summer, she brought Paul to Tuscarora. Actually Paul came a month ahead of her. He was first to arrive in May, and we scrutinized him. Was this serious lanky Louisiana guy (without eye teeth) good enough for our beloved Cass? He was a quiet worker, not quick to smile, and could get downright ornery at the end of the day. We were skeptical.
I had a pretty good chance to chat with him during Gunflint Green Up. He was my partner. I manned the shovel and he tucked in the trees. We talked about politics and religion, pretty much disagreeing. He had a fresh perspective and I liked that. When Cass showed up, he definitely lit up. And together they made comfortable pair. They were engaged on some campsite last summer, and …. this is why we found ourselves heading south, Shelby to be a bridesmaid, Daniel to play the guitar.
The Garbarino farm looked like a Louisiana movie set…dogs on an old porch with rocking chair-the original homestead. Ah, I wish I had remembered my camera for that rehearsal dinner…for the moment during the prayer when the big German Shepherd begged us to pet him (whining if we wouldn’t) with his sidekick puppy with a crawfish in his little mouth. For the moment that Paul’s dad appeared with a hoe and killed the rattle snake in the garden next to the porch. For the scene of Cass’ Minnesota family mixing with Paul’s Louisiana family, as the northerners learned to peel the mounds of crawfish. Definitely worth the work for the spicy meat (maybe it was Cajun? I suppose, but I’m not really sure what Cajun is, and I forgot to ask). At any rate, authentic, tasty, really fun.
Cass’s family we already knew, and Paul’s family welcomed us with hugs and lazy Louisiana drawls-- they fit us in. I loved Paul’s dad’s colorful stories about the original Garbarino immigrant—straight off the boat from Italy, and “recruited” to fight for the Confederate army in some battle, before homesteading the place. Or their horse, that nobody rode, but became one of the family hanging out on the porch looking in the windows when everyone went inside. Finally they had to ban him from the yard because he stuck his head through the glass door.
The plan for this farm, passed down through generations, is that Cass and Paul will eventually move in to take care of it.
The truth was, inside the original farm house, were beautifully finished hardwood floors, air-conditioned, modernness. Inside this solid Louisiana farm family were incredibly smart artists and teachers and professors. Inside Paul’s ornery façade is a gentle guy with a sense of humor that we have come to love. And inside this marriage, between a groovy college town Minnesota woman with a nose ring and a conservative Louisiana artist from a farm in the deep south---- I’m confident will come a depth…a firm quality…I feel it in my gut. This was a great lesson for the kids, for all of us really. If you stick around for a while and pay attention, the combination of external reality and the heart of things often creates a whole different story. And the new story---it’s richer, it’s worth the effort. Weren’t we lucky to be welcomed into the heart of the southland in the springtime?
Saturday was a beautiful day for the wedding on the porch. When the contra-dance caller was almost done that beautiful afternoon, we said goodbye to our new friends, invited them to Minnesota (not a snowballs chance……). The MN contingent we’ll see soon--- and are looking forward to next month when our beloved Cassandra AND our beloved Paul spend another summer with us at Tuscarora.