By Roger Barbee
Lagniappe is a Creole word derived from a blending of French and Spanish words that means an unexpected, pleasant surprise. A person in Southwest Louisiana will use it to express joy at having a bit of luck such as finding a parking space on a crowded street or running into a not-seen-for-a-long time friend. "Oh, what lagniappe," expresses that joy. Some recent happenings in the valley have reminded me of this wonderful word and life's moments of lagniappe.
The recent low humidity has, in my opinion, been a streak of unexpected pleasure. In an area that is usually stagnant with heat, haze, and humidity, the chance to sit in the shade and enjoy an August afternoon is unusual. It seems that we have, in most areas, even been blessed with rain that is, in our land of crops, always welcome. For the past few weeks I have not been chased inside by the stifling smother of humidity during midday. I am able to garden in the shade, following the sun as it crosses the valley. Lagniappe, indeed.
One recent morning someone gave Mary Ann a box of fresh peaches that were fully ripe and ready to be enjoyed. Wanting to share, we called two neighbors and a friend who lives in Woodstock to share in, yes, our lagniappe of perfect peaches. The neighbors took a bag each, and our friend drove over to visit on Sunday afternoon and get a few peaches for herself. As she bagged the ones she wanted, she held one aloft and said, "I'll have this one with my sandwich. It looks great," Her voice fully expressing her delight.
Our garden, like any in the valley, is producing many squash and zucchini. We eat as many as we can, in as many ways as we can think of, but the four plants keep them coming. One day last week I asked our neighbor Shelton if he and his family liked them and he said how much he and his family liked squash pie. With that we were off to our little garden to pick a bucket filled with both. I remarked to him that I had eaten squash my entire life, but had never had squash pie. Last evening he and Melissa came by with two large slices of her squash pie. More lagniappe, and it was good, too.
As I thought of these small, recent happenings in my life, I correctly saw them as unexpected pleasures or lagniappe. However, upon deeper reflection, I realized that I had missed what was the more important.
Our friend who drove over from Woodstock has to make regular trips to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatments. She has done this for all the years I have known her, and sometimes she has to make an unscheduled visit to see one of her doctors. I don't fully know for what reason, but I know enough to understand that her condition is serious and probably terminal. But, she lives each day to its fullest and she embraces life with gusto. Even when ill from the poisons her doctors inject into her body, she takes each day as a blessing to be lived and enjoyed. She is a tough and courageous woman, and on thinking of her comment about having a particular peach with her sandwich, she unknowingly gave me a moment of lagniappe. And I had almost missed it.
When Mary Ann called her and told her we had some fresh peaches, she came right over. Sure, she wanted to visit, but she was also excited about having fresh peaches. During her visit, she shared how she was not feeling too well and would not linger, but as she picked peaches from the box her joy was obvious. And then her comment about one particular peach, "I'll have this one with my sandwich," expressed her philosophy of life: It is a gift and deserves to be enjoyed. In that moment on our porch, she taught me the lesson to enjoy the peaches and the sandwiches and each other. It is all lagniappe.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org