How's Your Mama and Dem?
Mother's Day in the Crescent City
“Stop licking my leg.”
As I sit here writing this column, I just said that out loud, not to a dog, but to my son. He’s 6 and shows affection in some inventive, if slightly disgusting, ways.
Mother’s Day arrives this month and I’m overwhelmed with the reality that I am a mother. I wonder how I came to be in that number with this amazing child who brings such a challenging cyclone of emotions into my daily experience. Motherhood is different for everyone, but it seems most of us have those pendulum swings of absolute peace watching our child sleep and then absolute acrimony later that morning when said child won’t put on his shoes.
The defiance involved in putting on one’s shoes is magnified tenfold when you travel with children. There is a whole new audience to impress with tantrum-throwing abilities. There is also a new cast of characters to charm into lauding the skills to read out loud, count to 100 by fives, and show off dance moves.
I appreciate families who travel and are willing to risk interrupting nap schedules, having breast milk screened by TSA, enduring long car trips, fitting two adults and two children into one king-size hotel bed, and every other challenge that might present itself. They do this to share new experiences with their families and create memories that last longer than the lifespan of a gadget or trendy pair of shoes. And I have a special gratitude for families who travel to New Orleans.
Whether you’re a local mother, or one visiting New Orleans on Mother’s Day, there are some unique events that will give your family the NOLA memories you want them to build, while giving you the treats you deserve. Here are two of my favorites.
The first is the opportunity to spend Mother’s Day with the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas. Her indelible mark on New Orleans culture and various genres of music make her show a must-see event. She’ll be performing at the Audubon Zoo. Moms get free entry to the zoo and everyone can enjoy a host of special activities. The exact time of Thomas’ performance isn’t available as I’m writing this, but the event generally runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., so you can figure she’ll start around 3:30 p.m., prefaced by some other wonderful performers. Take blankets and chairs and maybe take advantage of the craft tents if you’ve forgotten to buy that last-minute Mother’s Day gift (or want to treat yourself, mom).
The Cool Zoo — the splash park and lazy river within Audubon Zoo — will also be open so consider bringing swimsuits and a change of clothes. Check out the new Nocturnal House and play area in the Jaguar Jungle section of the zoo as well.
As for food, you can’t go wrong with the catfish they sell at the Cypress Knee Café in the Louisiana Swamp section of the zoo. You can then walk through the section with live catfish and see where they sourced your lunch. The day tends to sell out so advance purchase is recommended; buy tickets online at audubonnatureinstitute.org/zoo. Complimentary tickets for mothers will be available at the gate upon arrival.
If crowds aren’t your thing and you prefer some quiet family time, a picnic along the river is a wonderful option. Crescent Park is located in the Marigny, downriver from the French Quarter. It stretches along the river and often musicians will play there for tips. If you are closer to the Uptown neighborhoods, the area of Audubon Park locals call “The Fly” juts out into the Mississippi and also has a playground and public restrooms.
Another perfect spot for a picnic is along the Big Lake in City Park. You can stroll through the NOMA sculpture garden for free and there’s plenty of room to fly kites in the spring breeze.
For your picnic fare, local grocery stores like Rouses Markets and Breaux Mart sell prepared sandwiches and dips in their deli section, including their versions of famous New Orleans food like muffulettas and hidden secrets like “better cheddar.” They also might have boiled crawfish available and you don’t get much more local than eating crawfish along the river or outside in the sunshine.
Finally, for all you mothers out there (and stepmoms, grandmas, aunties, etc.), let me just take a moment to say thank you for raising your children to appreciate the culture of New Orleans. Happy Mother’s Day!