Tales from a Cajun Childhood
By Sarah Couvillion
Casey and I are eleven months apart. Since I don’t have a sister, she was my first best friend. We grew up incredibly close, as we did with all our cousins. We’re a close-knit cajun family, after all. Our dads are two of seven children total. The result is we have a ton of first cousins. We’re all close in age, and close in life.
It all started with Elton and Esta, our paternal grandparents. As was normal back then, they had a LOT of kids. Every two years, Esta was giving birth. The eldest, Gerrie, has become the rock of our family since her parents have passed. Then, there is Keith, Dean (my dad), Ricky, Ronnie (Casey’s dad), Dale, and the baby, David. Gerrie, bless her heart, had it rough with six little brothers. She’ll tell you right off the bat that they were bad. One of my favorite stories from their childhood is when one brother hit her in the butt with a dart. Nobody admits to it, and they all blame the others. She's earned her place in Heaven.
My earliest childhood memories are running around with all my cousins on a Saturday night while the adults played cards well into the night. With their beers in hand, we were rarely noticed unless someone got hurt. It was a glorious way to grow up. We played outside, we climbed trees, pretended the deer statue in the front yard was real, fished in the pond, attempted to play inside only to have Grandma shoe us out (who could blame her). We listened for the ice cream truck, begged our dads for a dollar, and then raced down the driveway to try and catch him before he drove off.
One of the great things that happens when you are close in age to your siblings is that you may end up having kids around the same time. This ends up being the best gift to your children, at least it was with us. You grow up with cousin buddies that become your best friends. If you’re lucky, you stay friends for your whole lives witnessing each other’s major life events like: marriages, divorces, births, and deaths. Through it all, your cousins, your best friends are there for you to laugh and cry with. And Lord knows you’ll need them for everything life throws your way. And when life inevitably gets to be too much at times, someone is there to organize a cousin brunch and partake in mimosas and bloody Marys. There’s something of an inner peace that takes hold when you raise kids with your siblings. I recognize it now with my own child and nieces and nephews. I imagine it’s how my parents felt. You just don’t have to worry as much. You know these kids well and you know they’re being raised in a similar fashion. You know they’ll look out for each other just like you did when you and your cousins were little.
Whenever I think of my grandfather, I have this mental image in my mind of him with a Miller Lite in his hand. It’s why, when Casey and I were redesigning our logo, we decided to add the beer. As silly as it sounds, it made me smile and think of Paw Paw. I can still hear the sound of his voice and the way he called me babette. I can still smell the Swisher Sweets he used to smoke. We owe it all to Elton and Esta. We’re here because of them. They moved away from their families in Churchpoint all those years ago to Baton Rouge because they saw the opportunities there for their kids and their descendants. Now their great grandchildren are enjoying their cousins and extended family in a multi-generational family that still gathers often. I’m forever grateful to them for raising the family they did so I can have the life I do with so many people I love.