Part III: Let Nan Tell It

Courtesy of Trevor Sullivan

This picture, here? It’s me. I was about nineteen in this photo. I got my leg hacked up by an ax. Have those boys been talking to you? I know they have. I can’t get a word in edgewise with them when I bring up my leg. I spent some time in a wheelchair. Doctors back then said I wouldn’t gain much strength in this leg, but I worked my way outta their predictions. I should have introduced myself, yuh? I’m Cecile Déjean. Everyone ‘round here calls me “Nan.” Well, my sister Josie calls me “Pip.” Been calling me that since before this limp. I had some fondness of papaya seeds, would suck them dry — bone dry. Josie yelled out “Pip” one day when we were eating papaya in Papa’s backyard and that’s what I’ve been to her ever since, Pip.

No One Else Better Call Me Pip.
If They Know What’s Good For’EM.

I got my boys with me. My baby’s babies. Antoinette’s *gaçon-yé. They come every summer with wide eyes and tired feet. She sends them here on the bus or the train. I don’t mind scrambling for time to pick them up. **Koté mò, there’s a peace that comes through whenever they’re around. I love cooking for’em, filling up those bellies with good food. Don’t get me wrong, my baby can cook. She loads’em up with all that healthy mess books suggest. I don’t mind a little awareness, but boys need meat. Cut out the meat, you cut out the strength. That’s what Papa used to say. May his soul find sweet rest.

You looking at this cane? *taps cane hard with two knocks* This here is real bamboo. Got it from a merchandiser ten years ago. I can’t tell you his name. He shaved a few dollars off for me, saved me ***kè. I wanted to be limited in style. If I couldn’t have my leg at its full strength, I knew I wanted something that would get more attention than this leg, ****komprenn? Wasn’t no need to give people more than what they could handle. I got this leg that limps. I wasn’t gonna keep no wheelchair. I push myself. I make do and that’s all there is to that!

Courtesy of Mafiamedia.org

I take the boys to some of the French Quarter Festivals, give those little ears some music and culture. They love it! I play some jazz, gospel. I keep my home piping with music. It’s the only entertainment I’ll allow. None of that television business! Rots the brain, mindless drivel. Pop a book in their hands, give them a hot meal, put em‘round their people and culture, and I watch them shine. You want to know how a child feels about its surroundings? Give them the natural sound of a horn, a piano, some strings…

Bring God To Them.

Then, you know what you do? You sit back and watch that child experience God the way he or she wants to. Music seeps in. It gets to your soul, grabs your heart. You try denying the power of music and I give you my word, you will wither like a rose in hell. What’s that? How I got this limp? Oh, I know for certain now that you have been talking to the boys. Me and this limp been kissing cousins for a long while now. That’s a story for another time. All you need to know is I was twelve, ordered to remove some weeds, and an ax did it. You keep prying, I’m gonna save my business for someone else, komprenn?

I must be going. Josie’s coming over and the two of us are going to load up the dinner table with my boy’s favorites. They’ve been here two days now and summer is just beginning. Before you know it, August will come creeping in wanting all of our secrets without paying. There’s no delay in life. Nothing is ever in slow motion. I got the right mind to invite you to dinner, fill you up with some goodness. You like crab etouffée? Oh, you don’t have to answer that. The way I make it, you’d like it. You’d ask for more too. I know. Trust me, I know. Let me tell you something else — ain’t no magic to cooking. Nope. Not one bit of abracadabra, just love. That’s all. You got love in you for cooking and the ones you’re cooking for and that’s how it works. That’s how you get the “oohs and ahhs” outta folks. Love.

I’ll tell you something else. I’m gonna give you this one for free…

Play a little music while you cook. God’ll do the rest.

*gaçon-yé (boys)|**Koté mò (at my home/house)|***kè (heart)|****komprenn (understand?)