One family tradition I remember is the celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Every Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, we would get up at 4:00am to make our way to uptown New Orleans. We would meet up at my maternal great Aunt Eva's house to celebrate and to share family stories. My mom is one of 15 children of Delilah and Willie Landry. Every child, grandchild, spouse, neighbor, and "unofficial cousins" would gather to walk down to watch the Mardi Gras parades. This tradition has lasted over 40 years.
Do you know who created those traditions and how they were started?
To my understanding, uptown New Orleans is the place where my maternal grandparents met and were reared. My Aunt Eva's house was directly down the street from the parade route. It was understood Mardi Gras by Aunt Eva and Halloween by my Grandma Delilah. My maternal side was very matriarchal, so I would think the women decided we would meet by the elders for their pre-selected holiday. My maternal grandma's birthday was on Halloween.
What was your favorite family tradition? Do you still observe this tradition today?
My favorite family tradition was started on my paternal side. Every Sunday is Family Sunday. My dad would take us for rides to our ancestral home, on riverboat cruises, or building a swing in the yard. It really didn't matter what we were doing, we always did it together. I still honor this tradition by observing Family Sunday with my children.
You mentioned that you grew up with 25+ aunts and uncles! What was that like? How did they impact the traditions observed in your family?
It was pure hell!! Hahaha! As a kid, I couldn't get away with anything at school or in the neighborhood. Everybody knew my paternal and maternal family. They would run and tell my grandma or parents before I got home and they would be there waiting to attack me (you know what I mean).
Did growing up in a large family change the way you view family? If so, how?
Yes, I see family as the very first educators. These are the people who mold and shape your future. All of the branches of my family tree can be thanked for their contribution for my growth and success.
What are some core strengths you have in place to help keep your family balanced between work, school, and home life?
I always observe family time and I always put family first. My children are the CEOs and COOs of my company. I have four little bosses at home. I teach them to be involved with the family business and we help each other with school, work, and other projects.
What traditions and celebrations has your family created?
Celebrating Mardi Gras by Auntie Eva and Halloween by Grandma Delilah.
What family tradition is most important to you?
What are some favorite sayings or expressions used in your family? How were they created?
My maternal Grandma Delilah used to say she was going to "chill the shit in our ass". Growing up, I didn't quite understand what that meant but judging by her facial expression, you knew to stop doing what you were doing.
Do you have any family heirlooms or keepsakes? Can you share a little about the history and memories connected to those items?
Regretfully, I do not have any family heirlooms or keepsakes.
If there is one family tradition you would like your children to continue, what would it be?
We will continue Family Sunday and hopefully the next generation will carry the torch.
Describe what family means to you
Family means everything to me. All of the evidence gathered from conducting genealogical research and oral history illustrated family was a top priority and key tool for survival on the plantation. I am grateful for the sacrifices made by my ancestors.
Gaynell Brady is a mom of four kids ages ranging 1 year to 20 years old. She is a doctoral candidate at Capella University. Her dissertation focuses on teaching and interpreting slavery to children. She started Mammy's to preserve the memory of those who sacrificed their lives to nurture the community. Her website is www.ourmammys.com. Gaynell's family has lived in Louisiana for over 200 years.