There’s something about this time of year that always makes me proud to be a Southern Louisiana native. Between Mardi Gras, perfectly crisp weather and crawfish season, it just doesn’t get any better. This year, in particular, it’s reminding me why my husband and I chose to come back to Louisiana to raise a family.
I spent most of my teen years telling everyone that I was hitting the road after high school graduation. I knew there was more to this world than my Catholic school bubble, and I wanted to experience it all. But situations have a way of changing your plans, and going to LSU for college seemed to be the best next step for me. I moved into the dorm and became friends with girls from all over the country. Now, we were talking. I took trips back to their hometowns and absorbed all I could from those experiences. But it wasn’t enough. I needed to live it. So, to the dismay of my mother who thought she had dodged a bullet when I stayed in town for college, I applied and was accepted to grad school in Washington, DC.
It was the most terrifying and exciting thing I had ever done, and I loved it. I met some amazing people and fell in love with the city. All of which, I had expected. What I didn’t expect was how interested everyone was in my hometown and in my experiences. I was called “Louisiana Girl” and asked so many questions about living in this mythical state full of spicy food and festivals. And yes, people actually thought I lived in a swamp. Which was crazy. I lived in between two swamps. Duh. Even my name was a source of amazement. “Bourgeois!?! That is the best last name I have ever heard.” The more I encountered these reactions to my hometown, the more I realized how proud I was to be associated with it and to have lived it for so many years.
After graduation, I wasn’t quite ready to move back to Baton Rouge. Although, I had grown to appreciate my Louisiana roots, I knew that it wasn’t the right time … yet. I moved to Austin, TX and continued to absorb as many cultures and experiences as I could. Austin is not far from Louisiana, so people were a lot more familiar with our lifestyle, many of them having experienced it first hand. And even though Texans are proud (I mean, REALLY proud) of their own state, there was still a great appreciation and curiosity of Louisiana customs and traditions. Once again, I found myself feeling thankful for my Louisiana childhood and even missing it. The final sign that I secretly intended to find my way back was that I married someone from my hometown. Now, all ties led back to Baton Rouge.
I was in Austin until I could no longer ignore my biological clock. And within a few months of acknowledging its ticking, my husband and I were living in Baton Rouge. It’s now seven years later, and all three of my girls are true Louisiana kids. My 6 year-old’s favorite foods are gumbo and jambalaya, and all three of them know the LSU mascot and colors (and that Bama sucks). There are bags of Mardi Gras beads strewn about my living room floor, and we already have four crawfish boils on the calendar. It’s the most wonderful time of the year … to be a Cajun. And I couldn’t be more proud to have handed down this childhood to my kids.