Everyone is acting like they are all a bunch of crazy Cajuns with the Mardi Gras stuff. The beads are flying, bars are having “parties” and my grocery store bakery is overflowing with those grody looking King cakes. For my family, about as Mardi Gras as we get is eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. The idea behind that isn’t just another one of my “breakfast for dinner” whims. No. Lent season has begun and in practice, a household uses up all of their decadent ingredients before beginning their penitential preparation during the forty days preceding Easter. The pancake supper is sort of like a distant cousin to making what I call Snowstorm French Toast. That is when all stores sell out of milk, eggs and bread at the announcement of “snow forecast” in Georgia.
Lent is a time when people try to repent, give alms, pray and to do without by giving up something that is indulgent. The eschewing of chocolate, gossip and alcohol seems to be popular with my people. I myself have given up these things, and other vices or luxuries as well. Sometimes I make it all forty days, and other years I have broken down and admitted that I am an imperfect child of God. One year I gave up putting French Fries in my mouth. It sounded daring at the outset, but was super easy. It turns out that I really don’t eat them that often, so it kinda worked out for me. The most difficult Lent season was the year I decided to deny myself from allowing something else that starts with an “F” from coming OUT of my mouth. I vowed self-denial by eliminating using the word “fuck”. It was the most difficult forty days. Ever.
Hot Damn comes from a long and colorful line of serial potty-mouths on her mother’s side. I have one cousin, we’ll call her Melissa, who is the most prolific and cunning cuss-wordsmith that I have ever met. She works at her craft in the way a tennis champ might work at her serve. It is dazzling how she can work a “bleep” word in to the most somber of occasions. I sat next to her during my Grandfather’s funeral and about wet myself from her commentary. Then there was the six-week college Thanksgiving-thru-Christmas break when I worked part-time in her office. One morning when I came in, I must not have been accompanied by my usual rays of sunshine, prancing fawns and chirping bluebirds, because said cousin looked up from her desk at me and said, and I quote, “Well, God-damn-shit Charlotte Ann; who the fuck pissed all over your cornflakes this morning?” That one question pretty much had everything! So, you now know from whence I come and the struggle that I faced by denying myself the best profanity of all time. Busting out the f-word is just part of my fabric.
Spending that forty days biting my tongue and rethinking my word choice not only prepared me for Easter that year (I know that Jesus was way appreciative of MY sacrifice), but it gave me the foundation to listen and sing-a-long with music in the car with my kids. For instance, before Cee-Lo released his sanitized “Forget You”, I was blasting the original song, but loudly substituting the line as “Well, fudge for you-oooo-ooo0!” I turned it into a song about baking for someone who’s done you wrong. Isn’t there something in the Bible about loving your enemy? Again, I was making Jesus proud by passing along His teaching.
Yesterday I conducted an informal Facebook poll to find out what my people were going to hit the pause button on for Lent this year or what they had disposed of in years past. Some were true eliminations like Jackson quitting chocolate, John saying “no” to carbonated drinks, Tracy and Gabe not checking Facebook (won’t happen) or when Donald stopped making martinis (but not vodka tonics). Others were more wishful, like Kim halting toilet scrubbing or Claire giving the finger to caring in any capacity. Then my cousin Mary Sue replied that she would be giving up “cousins”. Ouch.