Our Little Cajun Saint

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb.'” Rev. 7:9-10

Today is the Feast Day of All Saints’ Day. We know from scripture that heaven is filled with multitudes of people from every nation. We know the names of some of these Saints and celebrate them on individual Feast Days; however, most of the heavenly Saints are unknown and are celebrated as a group on November 1st of every year. The reason for the November 1st date is Pope Gregory III, in the sixth century, dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to all of the Saints and set the anniversary date as November 1st.

Having been brought up in Cajun country and seeing firsthand the devotion to the Catholic faith here in south Louisiana, I imagine heaven has many many saints with a thick Cajun accent! The most famous of these is known as the “Little Cajun Saint”, Charlene Richard. Charlene left this world at the young age of twelve in 1959. She succumbed to a terminal illness while offering up her sufferings and uniting her cross with Jesus. More than fifty years later, tens of thousands visit her grave site every year to ask for her intercession.

In January 2020, Bishop Deshotel officially opened the cause for canonization of Charlene Richard. This is the first step in a lengthy process to be named a Saint. Charlene’s life will be investigated as well as the many testimonies of miraculous healings attributed to her intercession.

My husband and I have visited Charlene’s grave site over the years and have requested her intercession and prayer. We made a recent trip in early September of this year. I have been suffering from arthritis in my right knee for many years. The pain was close to being intolerable this year. I scheduled an appointment with my orthopedic and expected to be told another shot in the knee would be needed. Instead, I was told a total knee replacement would be needed in the near future. I was given a shot and told I would have to return in three months. This time the shot did nothing. I struggled to walk as every step led to severe pain in that right knee.

I have been blessed to serve as a Eucharistic Minister at my parish church. As I continued to have problems walking, I was forced to ask for a substitute on my weekend to serve. The pain of not being able to serve my Jesus was just as severe as the pain in my knee. The following weekend, I asked my husband to drive me to Charlene Richard’s grave.

The day was lovely and I found the grave site to be just as peaceful as ever. I sat on a nearby bench and prayed. I asked Charlene to pray for me. All I asked for was for the pain to be at a point where I could still stand and serve communion. My husband also joined in praying for Charlene’s intercession. Afterwards, I hobbled towards my husband’s truck; still in severe pain.

There was no difference in my pain or my walk for a couple of weeks. Then once again, it was my turn to serve as Eucharistic Minister at mass. The week leading up to the mass I noticed that I was walking much more easily. The pain in my right knee was still there, but had diminished to a point that I was very capable of serving at mass. And serve I did! I do not consider what happened to me a miraculous healing. I do know that I prayed at Charlene’s grave for a specific intention and that intention was fulfilled! It has been two months and I am still able to walk and serve at mass.

Today on All Saints’ Day, I would like to thank Charlene Richard for her prayers and intercession. I will pray that her cause for sainthood progress so that one day she will be named in the book of Saints.

C’est Bon!

Love Sherry

Missing 1976

A celebration of the Bicentennial of the United States of America was everywhere in 1976. Logos and labels on commercial products were red, white, and blue. Sports’ jerseys proudly displayed the Bicentennial logo. There were parades, exhibits and special performances to celebrate the birth of the nation. Locally, there were flags on homes and red, white, and blue painted mailboxes.

President Gerald Ford, on the morning of July 4, 1976, sailed down the Hudson River aboard the USS Wainwright and Johnny Cash headed up the U.S. Bicentennial parade. Meanwhile, in New Iberia, Louisiana, the Poirrier family held it’s annual Fourth of July picnic. My mother hosted the family picnic and due to the special celebration; the 1976 picnic was a day to remember! Many cousins, aunts, uncles and family friends showed up to celebrate. The day was filled with family fun and food. There were many competitions for us children. I competed in all of them from the three-legged race and long jump to the bubble gum blowing contest. Mom had painstakingly hand-made patriotic plaques for all the lucky winners. I was small and agile those days and showing off my speed. It was a beautiful day!

The men were grilling and enjoying a cold brew. The women were setting the food out on picnic tables and fussing at any kids who were misbehaving. The air was filled with the smell of bar-b-que and the sound of laughter. That afternoon, there was a family baseball game that was as competitive as the Yankees and Red Sox! We returned home in the dark and sat in lawn chairs in the front yard, watching fireworks light up the sky. We were tired, sated with happiness and proud to be an American! Life was good! The family was so appreciative of my mother’s efforts that year, that they pulled together and bought her a professionally made plaque thanking her for the joy of that day.

This memory of mine seems such a stark contrast to the America I see today. We seem to have forgotten the sacrifice of our founding fathers and those who shed blood so that their children and grandchildren could live in a country of freedoms. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the pursuit of happiness came at a great cost. No other nation on earth has created opportunity for generations as this great nation. Has the journey been perfect? Absolutely not – but, then again, there is no perfect in this world. The founding fathers of this nation were given Divine inspired words which formed the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness- that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed..”

We must teach our children and grandchildren these truths. This new generation should understand how proud they should be of what this great nation has accomplished. 2026 will bring about the 250th birthday of this land that I love. It is my hope that I will once again see the enthusiasm and patriotism of 1976!

C’est Bon!

Sherry

God Bless the United States of America!

Sherry, 1976, Dodson Elementary

Saying Goodbye to Oscar

Oscar, 6/10/2004 – 11/04/2020

I have learned that life is a series of letting go. In my fifty-five years, I have let go of many people, places and things. I have let go of childhood and all those childish possessions such as Barbie dolls and crayons. I have said goodbye to my parents’ home when I left the morning of my wedding day and eventually, stood at the door of my own home; watching my three children one by one leave home to start their own journey of life.

With each letting go came new beginnings; new people, new places and new things. My husband and I have moved on from our hometown to settle near our grown children and their families. We have joyously welcomed two daughter-in-laws and several grandchildren. Letting go has brought an abundance of love and instead of lessening, has added to our lives.

Our dog, Oscar, came into our lives when our first child and only daughter left home. He was an empty-nester puppy. He shared over sixteen years of our lives.

Letting go of children is a step by step process. First a mother lets go of the babe she holds in her arms as the child learns to walk, talk, and do things for him or herself. The small child turns into a preteen and teenager, needing their mother less and less, until one day, a fully grown adult is waving goodbye from the driver’s seat of a car. A mother has years of little “letting go’s” so that when the day comes when the child is a child no longer; there is some sadness, but there is much more pride and a sense of accomplishment. This is not so with a dog.

I compared Oscar to my guardian angel. He followed me everywhere. For sixteen and half years he was my shadow. Even when he ached with arthritis and was not well that last year, he rose with me every morning and followed me throughout my morning routine until I left for work. He never waivered in his devotion.

When Oscar turned ten, our vet told me he was considered a geriatric patient. He told me to look for signs and be prepared for a time when he had no “quality of life.” Oscar was a very healthy ten-year-old and I was not worried. I did ask the vet what “signs” would I look for. “He will no longer get up with you in the morning,” was the answer. After Oscar turned fifteen, I did notice a change. He moved slower and more cautiously. His hearing was gone and eyesight was not the greatest. But, every morning, he rose from his bed as soon as I rose from mine.

On November 4, 2020, I rose from my bed and Oscar was walking along side of me. He had been ill most of the year; frail and failing. I had looked for the sign, but Oscar refused to stop rising from his bed when I was up. I knew it was getting too much for him. An appointment had already been made for the end of the week for his goodbye. We never made it. That night, I awoke thinking I had heard Oscar walking on the side of my bed. When I looked over, he was not in his bed, nor at my side. I found him laying on the kitchen floor, dying. I yelled for my husband to join me, and quickly took Oscar into my arms. He died a few minutes later while I held him and thanked him for being the best doggie guardian angel. It was a most painful experience.

On November 5, 2020, I rose from my bed to face my morning routine alone. My little friend was no more.

Those first couple of months were hard. I shed many tears as I grieved and let go. I did know that I wanted another dog. I enjoyed my years with Oscar and began searching for a new little angel to add to our family. The search ended Sunday when little Archie was picked up by my husband and I from a havanese breeder in Texas.

Archie was born on Easter Sunday and he has resurrected my joy! I have already called him Oscar several times; old habits are hard to break! He is very different from Oscar. He is outgoing and always looking for trouble. He has my husband and I in stiches every day!

Life is a series of letting go – but it is also a series of new beginnings. Hearts mend and heal and find room for more to love.

I have the most wonderful memories of my Oscar. I am making new memories with Archie. (He is sleeping on my foot as I am typing this).

C’est Bon

Sherry

Archie, 4/4/2021

The Mary Tree of Pine Island

During Holy Week 1993, my husband and I and our three children, drove to the small Louisiana town of Pine Island to look at a tree. Word had spread that in a farmer’s rice field, in the middle of nowhere; a tree’s branches had grown into the image of the Virgin Mary and many were making pilgrimages to see this little miracle. We were curious and it was a lovely day for a drive.

We arrived in the early afternoon just as the sun was at its peak in the brightly lit blue sky. Our children were ages one to eight and were getting restless as we came to park our vehicle on the edge of a field. As I exited the vehicle, I was amazed by the sense of calm and stillness in the air. It seemed that we had stepped out of our world and into a spiritual realm that was steeped in peace and joy. The five of us stood near each other basking in the sun’s rays and soaking in the rays of peace and grace in silence. Even the one year old held his tongue and just watched.

Up ahead was the tree. The outline of the branches drew a clear picture in my mind of Our Lady of Grace. This was Cajun country, and there are thousands of homes with a Mary statue in the front yard. As I looked at the tree, I immediately thought of the many statues in my home town, placed lovingly in front of homes, in honor of our lady. I smiled as I gazed upon this creation that seemed divinely inspired.

Just ahead I spotted a group of women; most were holding rosary beads and praying. There was a thrown-together altar at the base of the tree with petitions and rosaries turned gold that were left behind. As we marveled at this site, a woman came over and invited us to look at the rosary she was holding. Rays of sunlight beat down on the tiny beads and the chain that was binding them glistened a golden color. We were told her rosary had turned the golden color while being prayed at the tree. She gladly answered some of our questions as she was a local and had frequented the site from the beginning.

A young woman had first spotted Mary in the tree a few months prior. The woman lived nearby and had looked out her kitchen window, gazing upon what seemed to be the Virgin Mary in a tree. The woman had been grieving the death of her father and the vision gave her comfort. Eventually, the family shared their discovery with others, and word spread…

While standing at the foot of the tree and gazing at the likeness of Mary, we heard a shriek of joy as another woman began to yell out “Jesus.” We followed the group of pilgrims over to her to see what was happening. She had just taken a Polaroid photo of the sun and was holding the picture that developed. It was a perfect photo of the Face of Jesus, in black and white, much like a negative. Tears were streaming down her face and someone told her to take another photo of the sun. Once again she held her camera up and took a picture of the sun. Once again, the Face of Jesus appeared on the developed photo!

What had I just witnessed? Immediately, I regretted not having brought a camera! I looked again at the photo, and there was no denying I saw a face. There was not only one photo, but before we left, there were multiple photos with an image that clearly seemed to be the Face of Jesus.

It was a moment in time that I have never forgotten. It was a moment where it seemed heaven had reached out and touched the earth.

Upon returning home from our short but eventful pilgrimage, my children turned on the television. A special regarding the Shroud of Turin was playing. Amazingly on the screen I saw that face again. The face of the shroud, in a black and white negative, was the face I saw appear on a Polaroid photo in Pine Island, Louisiana! It was a holy week like none other.

Eventually, the farmer cut the tree down. There would be no more pilgrimages, no messages, miracles or any other of the unusual experiences at Marion apparition sites. What was the purpose of the tree?

The first woman to notice the tree, felt it was a sign meant for her family regarding the death of her father. It may well have been an answer to this woman’s prayer for hope and healing. Once word got out and the tree site became a place of honoring our mother and prayer, it became a place of hope and healing for all. True to her ministry, Mary was able to greet us pilgrims and lead us to her Son.

We traveled on a sunny beautiful day to see Our Lady in a tree. We returned home with a beautiful memory of seeing the Face of Jesus.

C’est Bon!

My Spiritual Drink

For My Flesh is true food, and My Blood is true drink. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me and I in him. John 6:55

This week I received a phone call from my Parish Church secretary telling me that starting May 1st I would once again be able to serve as an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister. I last served about a year ago; prior to the pandemic. There were several months last year without public Mass. Once the church doors opened to the public, there were a very limited number of Eucharistic Ministers and only His Body was distributed. Still, it was a joyous occasion to once again be apart of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and partake of Christ’s Body.

I know that the Host I consume is all of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; however, I find myself longing to also drink from His Spiritual Cup. A meal consist of food and drink. Christ asked His disciples to break bread and drink wine in memory of Him. It greatly saddens me that the Blood of Christ seems to be an afterthought, practically discarded as unnecessary and of less importance.

The times I have served as a Minister of the Eucharist, I have favored giving the Body of Christ. Most of the mass attendees receive the Host lovingly and respectfully, bowing before their Lord before stepping up to receive Him. This is not the case with our Lord’s Blood.

A few years ago, I was waiting to get in the communion line when my eyes settled on my Christ in the Chalice being held by an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister. My mind and heart were greatly troubled as I saw several people after receiving the Holy Host, bypass the Chalice without so much as a glance His way or a bow. After mass, I was relaying this to my husband, who was driving. I was adamant that Jesus was being dishonored and disrespected by the people not recognizing Him in His Chalice. My husband disagreed. He calmly told me that I was overreacting, (which I sometimes do). He reminded me that the Body of Christ contains all of Jesus as he added, “I see nothing wrong with people…” Suddenly he stopped speaking as the truck he was driving jerked as if my husband jammed his breaks! Just as fast as we were jolted to a stop, the truck again returned to a normal speed. All of this occurred without my husband’s foot ever leaving the gas pedal! Without missing a beat, my husband continued speaking, “…And I think you are absolutely right!”

I have heard people say that they do not drink from the Chalice because of the possibility of catching other people’s germs or sicknesses. I find it hard to believe that the vessel that holds my Lord could be contaminated. Just as Mary was made pure to hold Jesus in her womb, I believe any object that contains the Body and Blood of Christ must also be made pure and immaculate by the Holy Spirit.

I am very much looking forward to May and once again being able to give Christ to people. I also look forward to the day that I can also partake of Him in my Spiritual Drink. When that day comes, it is a choice whether or not to receive His Blood along with His Body. I ask that if one chooses to not receive the Chalice; they remember to be reverent while walking by. It is not wine that you are passing up, it is Jesus Christ Himself.

Then He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My Body, which will be given up for your; do this in memory of Me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new convenant in My Blood, which will be shed for you.” Luke 22:19-20

Building Family and Faith

Many years ago, my children and I were spending the day at my parents’ home, (Maw-maw and Paw-paw), while my husband was busy at work. Paw-paw was busy building a folding camping table that day. My four-year-old, Brennan, stood nearby closely watching his grandfather measuring, sawing and nailing. My dad proudly showed off his carpentry skills for his grandson, who was thoroughly engrossed with the transformation of wood and nails into a fine piece of furniture. When the table was completed, my son ran over to me and Maw-maw and brought us over to see what his grandfather had accomplished. He boldly told his Paw-paw, “When my daddy grows up, he will be able to build too!” My husband drove up right at that moment as we were all chuckling over my son’s comment. He also got a big kick out of it!

This memory reminds me of St. Joseph. I can imagine Jesus as a little four-year-old boy watching his father work with wood; measuring, carving, and creating. As a young child, Jesus would have had that same wonderment as Brennan in seeing the transformation of wood into objects and furniture. He would have looked up to His father, St. Joseph, and would grow up learning the craft, assisting His father.

Not all men are skilled in carpentry, but all fathers are builders. It takes a loving and strong man to build his family, to protect them and guide them as spiritual leaders. St. Joseph is our model of a self-sacrificing husband and father. He did whatever was needed to keep his wife and Son safe, whether it meant finding shelter in a cave or fleeing for a strange land in the middle of the night. He was a man with tremendous faith and he built a Holy Family.

I grew up with a father who was a “jack-of-all-trades”. He could build and fix anything. I was the oldest of four girls and did not appreciate the many skills of my father when I was a girl. I thought at the time it was something all fathers could do. Seeing my father through my children’s eyes, I had a newfound appreciation of his creativity and craftsmanship. Today I look back at the times my father took on huge construction projects such as adding a third bedroom and utility room to our home and I realize he was not just building a home, he was showing his love for his wife and children. Taking time every Sunday to take our family to Mass and visit our grandparents, was my dad’s way of building faith in his family.

My wonderful husband is not a carpenter, but he is a builder. From the moment we left the church as man and wife, he has devoted his whole self and life to our marriage and family. My children, grandkids and I have always felt his love, devotion and protection. Years ago, he was involved with his boys as a football coach; today he leads his children and grandchildren in the rosary on first Fridays.

Looking back on that memory of Brennan, I do see now that his father did grow. We both grew as parents and now as grandparents. His father is a builder of family and of faith. I hope our grandkids look at us just as I saw Brennan look at my dad those years ago, with wonderment and with love.

Brennan with Paw-paw and Maw-maw

Preparation for the Storm

Southern Louisiana, Cajun country, gets its fair share of storms. As a child and into my adult years, I witnessed numerous tropical storms and thunderstorms, several hurricanes and a couple of tornadoes. Hurricane season was always a time to be mindful of the weather. As soon as a tropical storm or hurricane entered the Gulf of Mexico showing an inclination to head towards Louisiana, families along the Louisiana coast began to prepare. Homes and businesses would be boarded up and families not evacuating made sure supplies were on hand in the event of damage or power loss.

Today Louisiana is under a Winter Storm Watch. Beginning tomorrow, Cajun country will be pelted with freezing rain, ice and sleet. Temperatures are expected to dip into the teens as roads will likely become hazardous ice thoroughfares. It is all very unfamiliar territory for this part of the world, where winters are mild and freezing temperatures are rare. Watching the weather forecast today reminded me of my first winter storm many years ago.

I was a young Navy wife and mother of two, who had been uprooted from south Louisiana to Norfolk, Virginia, where my husband was stationed. My husband was out to sea when I heard reports on the radio to prepare for a winter storm coming that weekend. I had never heard those words before, and I thought it would be quite an experience to see a true winter wonderland. I told my little ones they would be in for a treat and went off to the grocery store to prepare.

Having never experienced blizzard or ice conditions, I never had to prepare for such an experience. I had heard to expect being snowed in for a couple of days. I thought a big pot of chili would do nicely to keep the three of us warm and fed. My shopping consisted of chili ingredients and picking up any other items the pantry was lacking. It was Friday and the storm was hitting that night.

After tucking my daughter, Hallie and son, Chase into bed that night, I laid on the couch and watched television. The house was cozy. The dark living room was softly lit with the flame from the wall furnace. Looking outside the window, I could see the freezing rain falling through the light of the streetlamp. Before retiring to bed, I watched the late-night local news broadcast. The first news item was the winter storm approaching. News reporters were stationed at local stores and covered people buying batteries, flashlights, blankets, etc., in preparation for the storm. I immediately sat up on the sofa and listened intently to the warning of ice buildup and strong winds which could lead to power outages. What – power outages? I felt so foolish! I had never considered the possibility of losing power! I was from Louisiana, where winter did not have storms!

I looked out of my window again. The rain had turned to sleet and snow would be arriving soon. There was nothing I could do but say a prayer that God would take care of us. I quietly made my way to bed and put everything in God’s hands. I heard the winds howling as I fell asleep.

The next morning, upon awakening, I looked out of my bedroom window and was shocked to see a thick white blanket of snow everywhere! The house was still warm and cozy, so power was still on. I quickly woke the kids up and had them feast their eyes on a winter wonderland, the likes I had never in my lifetime seen!

The morning was spent playing in the snow and building a snowman. We had no snowman accessories so we made a snow witch topped with my daughter’s Halloween witch hat. My children were not all together thrilled with snow and upon getting back inside to the warmth of our kitchen, they refused to return outside. The rest of the day was spent cooking chili, reading stories and every now and then taking a peek out the window to view God’s handiwork.

My husband got the biggest kick out of hearing how his wife prepared for a winter storm by buying chili ingredients! As we sat in our living room today watching the weather forecast, he reminded me of my first winter storm those many years ago. We are more prepared today for an ice event. We have also learned over the years that ultimately, God is in charge.

St. Padre Pio once wrote in a letter, “Let us be on the look-out for even the slightest symptom of anxiety, and as soon as we notice that we have fallen into discouragement let us turn to God with a child’s trust and total abandonment.”

Temperatures outside are dropping and the morning will bring sleet and freezing rain followed by another sharp drop in the temperature. I received a text message from my utilities provider warning of possible power outages. I smile at the message and say a prayer to my Father in heaven to take care of us Cajuns, who are inexperienced with winter storms and are preparing with gumbos and stews! I must go now, my beef stew is about done!

C’est Bon!

Love, Sherry

Hallie, Blizzard 1989, Virginia

The Fountainbleau Fisher of Men

A decade ago, I was employed with a property management company out of New Orleans, Louisiana, Fountainbleau Management. The owner, Roland and I had mutual respect for each other, but we also had a very different perspective of management and people in general. I was his Director of Property Operations and Managers, and in that role, I was constantly having to hire, supervise, evaluate and sometimes terminate employees.

Roland was an extremely intelligent, kind and compassionate person. During the fourteen years I worked for him, I observed him go the extra mile for many people that were in his Fountainbleau “family”. He was genuinely concerned with the welfare of his employees. Most of the benefactors of Roland’s kindness were loyal, hard-working employees; however, some did occasionally seek to take advantage of him.

I personally witnessed several people whom Roland had taken under his wing, fall into old habits that were detrimental to the business. It bewildered me how Roland could give them chance after chance to get back on their feet and get back to work. Not many of those second or third chancers ever did make it. I would shake my head and wonder if my boss would ever learn.

Today at mass I heard the same Gospel, Mark 1:14-20, that I heard roughly about ten years ago. Those many years ago, upon hearing the words of Jesus, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men”, I thought about Roland. I considered myself to be a good and faithful Catholic, yet I was so ready to write people off as soon as they stumbled. I was looking at people as good or bad based on their backgrounds and achievements in life. I was looking for the unblemished and unfallen in a blemished and fallen world. Roland on the other hand was seeking those whose talents were there, but through hard times or a less than perfect background, had never been given a chance. He was being a fisher of men.

Humility sank into my heart as I begin to understand the man and his mission. That night, I emailed Roland a note describing my epiphany that day and thanking him for teaching me to look beyond a person’s worth on paper. He taught me to look at a person’s heart.

I received a reply the next day. Roland told me he read the email and was at a loss for words. It seemed I had taken him completely by surprise. He was touched and thanked me.

A few years later I was leaving Fountainbleau for a new adventure and Roland invited me to lunch. I gathered we would talk about the fourteen years of buying and renovating properties and all the people we had gotten to know. Once we sat down, it became apparent to me that he wanted to talk about Jesus. He told me that he understood Jesus lived and was a real person; however, he had his doubts that Jesus was God. This time, I was the one surprised! I did tell him that I wholeheartedly knew and believed that Jesus was not just a mere man. Roland had a lawyer’s background; he needed proof. I knew I was never going to convince him in the hour we sat down for lunch, and I did not want to get into a heated debate on my last day.

The following week, I sent Roland a thank you card for all the kindness shown to me over the years. Included with the card was a favorite book of mine, Life of Christ, by Fulton J. Sheen. I do not know if he read it. I hope he did.

A little over a year ago, Roland was killed in a hunting accident. I know he has now met Jesus Christ. As I heard the gospel today and the words of Jesus, “and I will make you fisher of men”, I thought about my friend and said a prayer for him. I thanked him for his wisdom and guidance and I hope I am living my life looking for what is in people’s hearts just as he did.

Rest in peace my friend.

For my country

The year was 1983. I was the 4-H state winner in Child Development and would represent my state along with 44 other Louisiana delegates at the 62nd National 4-H Convention in Chicago, Illinois. It would be my first trip to the “northern” states and my first flight on a plane. I looked forward to both.

I took time off from my Freshman year at college and left the day after Thanksgiving for Chicago. A friend from high school and fellow delegate, Angela, would be my travel buddy and roommate. It was Angela’s first time as well to fly; she was nervous and scared. Angela’s mom had made her pack Dramamine in the event of motion sickness. While at the airport, waiting to board our plane, Angela somehow talked me into taking a Dramamine with her. I did not see any harm in taking it if it helped calm her nerves. Unfortunately, I had no idea that in no time at all I would become so drowsy Angela would be walking me to my seat on the plane! I fell fast asleep once seated and missed my entire first flight! Angela had no side effects from the drug at all and she rather enjoyed the plane ride. We laughed about it when I regained consciousness!

My Chicago trip was a great experience. There were banquets, tours, speeches, and entertainment such as Shari Lewis and Lambchop. It was the Christmas season; there were twinkling lights and window displays. This small town girl had stepped into a different world.

As much as I enjoyed the experience, what I remember most about my trip were the people. There were young adults from nearly all 50 states. Never before had I seen such a rich mixture of cultures and regional diversity. The Texans wore cowboy boots and talked with a “twang”. East coasters had a preppy style and that Bostonian accent. The slow southern drawl of Georgians made me chuckle as did their Bulldog cheers. I also marveled at the diversity of accents and customs of all the delegates from my own home state. My southern Louisiana Cajun accent sounded nothing like the dialect of those from North, West and East Louisiana. Our nightly state meetings were always very entertaining, as the individuals with the thickest accents and drawls were the also the most talkative.

We were all so different, but…

At the beginning of each day, each one of us delegates stood and put our hand on our heart and stated the Pledge of Allegiance to our Flag. We were united in that we were all Americans. Some of us came from mountains, some deserts, some, like me from swampy flat lands; all of us came from the U.S.A.

What happened to us?

Identity politics has forced American citizens to categorize and label ourselves. We have to be defined by race, sexuality, political party, income level…the list goes on. These definitions came into being with the promise of bringing understanding and respect; instead, they have brought division and condescending attitudes.

I am proud to be a Cajun. I am proud to be a Catholic. I am proud to be a wife, mother and grandmother. There are many “labels” that apply to me. First and foremost, I am a child of God. I was created by God my Father and given the gift of life. I was blessed to born in a nation that was founded on Judeo- Christian principals and beliefs. This nation that has been a beacon to the world, a safe-haven and defender of justice and liberty. This nation has always been great.

Louisiana delegates at 62nd 4-H Congress, Chicago, Illinois. (Sherry Kenner bottom left)

The last day of my Chicago trip was extra special because it snowed. We do not get many snow days in Louisiana and it had probably been about six or seven years since I had seen snow. Following our final state meeting, most of us Louisiana delegates jetted outside to play in the snow. We were joined by many other fellow southern delegates. I remember rolling snow balls with girls from Florida and Hawaii. Delegates from the north got a kick out of seeing us so excited. “This is not a lot of snow,!”, they kept telling us. We disagreed, and they smiled and enjoyed watching our enthusiasm.

I consider my flight home from Chicago as my “first” plane ride since I was awake for that one! My parents met me at the airport and as they had never been to the state of Illinois, they wanted to hear all about Chicago. I told them very little about the place, but I told them a great deal about the many different people I had met from the many different places. Still to this day, I remember very little of the tours, banquets, and surroundings from that time. I do remember the faces, laughter, jokes, and accents of my fellow Americans. We did not have to label ourselves, we knew we were from different backgrounds and areas. Differences were accepted and appreciated. We wanted to learn from each other and share our stories with each other. We were all Americans.

What happened to us?

4-H Pledge

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, My Country, and my world.

Smells like Snow

As I age, I savor long days and hope to see the years stretch out in a slow drip as in the days of my youth. Alas, the more birthdays I celebrate, the faster the days and years go by- until 2020! 2020 has been a LONG YEAR of challenges and disruptions. Life has not felt normal for quite some time. This year, I have desired the days to hurry by. I am ready to face a new year; hopefully one that will bring a sense of normalcy back to my life. I anxiously await the end of 2020 and the coming of Christmas!

It is not yet Thanksgiving and my Christmas tree and decorations are all in place. There are twinkling lights of various colors and wrapped presents under the tree. All of this early preparation is an effort to bring a little more peace and joy to days filled with uncertainty and trepidation.

Spending more time confined at home has led to much reflection on my years on earth and lately, my Christmas celebrations of long ago. I remember all the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas from my childhood as if they happened yesterday.

Our little house in New Iberia, Louisiana had a floor furnace for much of my younger years. I can still hear that furnace kick on during those chilly December days. Warm air shot up out of the hallway floor as the heater crackled and hummed. On really cold days, I would carefully stand right beside the furnace in the small hallway, holding out my hands over the warm air rising up and feeling its hot breath on my face and hands. Those days that were too cold to play outside, my mom would put her Christmas albums and records on an old record-playing console that had belonged to her parents. Soon, the sounds of Elvis’ Blue Christmas and Gene Autry’s Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer had me tapping my feet and smiling in anticipation of Christmas morning. If I was really lucky, mom pulled out one of her heavy saucepans and in a matter of minutes, I began to smell hot chocolate drifting through the air from the kitchen.

Hot chocolate was one of the smells I loved at Christmas time, but my absolute favorite was the smell of snow. Of course we had no real snow – we lived in south Louisiana! Mother had to improvise with what was available – snow from a spray can!

Each year, my dad brought home a cheery green tree he purchased for his bride and daughters to decorate. Upon entering with the tree, the house immediately took on the strong scent of pine. Dad was in charge of tree lights. It took time to untangle and get the lights wrapped around the tree. Once done, mom went to work! Ornaments were placed on the tree followed by what seemed to be tons of tinsel. A soft pillow of white skirting was draped around the tree bottom. On this mound of snow-like puffy white drape, Mom lovingly placed her holy family, shepherds, animals, angel into the nativity creche. The scene was not complete until she whipped out that can of snow. Quickly, the nativity scene was blanketed with a thick layer of snow. The windows where the tree sat were also given a frosted look with this magical snow concoction. When all was complete, I marveled at the frosty and bright world my parents had just created. The scent of the snow from a can now filled the living room and overpowered the heavy scent of pint. It was glorious.

Year after year, Christmas smells and sounds were familiar, faithful and left me secure with the knowledge that all was right with the world. No wonder I have already this year pulled out the tree, decorations and photographs! It is the familiar family traditions that calm one’s soul and give the assurance that at the end a dark day or even year, God’s gift to us remains constant and unchangeable. There is always an Advent season; the light of the world overcomes the darkness.

As I sit reminiscing and admiring my Christmas handiwork, I no longer am longing for a quick end to this year. I am content to see 2020 slowly tiptoe through this chapter of my life. I close my eyes and I can hear Elvis singing and I can smell snow. Let’s make some hot chocolate. Merry Early Christmas!

Cest Bon,

Love Sherry