before i had any idea i would be 15 weeks pregnant by the time New Orleans Jazz Fest rolled around i made plans to go to the first weekend. because pregnancy can be as unpredictable as anything it was around the last minute that i knew i'd still be going. after leaving SFO at midnight, sleeping on the airport floor in Dallas FTW and arriving at Louis Armstrong Intl. at 9am my mother, a 20-year jazz fest vet, and i arrived at our room to then turn back around and head to the fairgrounds.
being stone cold sober in New Orleans would be a new one for me, but being pregnant would be the newest. the sun tucked itself away behind a thick layer of clouds that entire first day--beating down only during a long stint in a bathroom line. it felt like how everything feels in New Orleans. like a baptism. like a loving embrace from a relative you've never met. it felt like arriving onto the shore of another planet, one much more familiar than that of your own.
the weeks leading up to our descent into NOLA i had been feeling like someone had given me a sleeping pill every morning as soon as i woke up. i quickly learned that eating all the time was the only way to not be nauseous all the time and that i would also have to temporarily put my relationship on hold with asparagus and kale until they both didn't make me sick at the very thought of them.
we spent most of the weekend going from blues tent to gospel tent to jazz tent to the jazz economy tent. having read something only a few days before that my little inside baby, the size of an orange, could now hear music. the days to follow would be the only way to celebrate that milestone.
i've always been emotional. being pregnant has taken that bet and gone all in. when my friend, more like a sister, was pregnant last year (you know who you are) we wanted to get her a talk show. she would pretty much say 'no' to whatever her guests asked and proceed to cut right to the chase and then end the show early. i could have watched it all day. now at 20 weeks i have realized that i too have begun hosting my own show. it began airing at the time of the aftermath of the Boston Marathon, then went to the devastation in West, Texas and quickly turned its focus to the terrifying heartbreak in Cleveland, did a programming shift to focus on the struggles and triumphs of the GS Warriors and is now featuring mermaids ( if anyone watches the discovery channel you'll understand why). my interviews mostly end with me in tears, searching for some hope in the wreckage--trying to understand what leads any of us to anywhere we end up.
in the midst of my own hormones there was a clear path to the gospel tent, with bright eyed plans to recalibrate all that feeling. we started each day there. i hoped my belly wasn't too full of beignets to hear those voices; they come from somewhere else, with the force.
on our last day we left a spirited performance in the blues tent where i heard one of my favorite songs that i don't even know the name of covered, and walked toward the gospel tent for the final time that weekend. before us on stage were four sisters, taller and larger than any i had ever seen. dressed in deep purple frocks with sequined capes, my eyes widened and i began to believe. some sort of magic was coming from deep inside them. after a few songs they introduced their backup band, all relatives, their little cousin, nephew, uncle, and brother-in-law and then the largest of the sisters stepped forward while the rest disappeared behind her.
she said nothing and took the center microphone and began to sing god bless america. her voice was like a slow rolling steam train crossing the country. it was deep, big, sad, full and strong. she got to the final verse and began to cry. i think we all did. she sang and cried and tried to breathe all at once. any of us would have helped if we could but nobody would have dared to interrupt her. she went down on her knees, her voice baratoning through her broken heart, the cracking sound still rounding out every note like sap bleeding from a maple tree. her faith could have held you in its arms. as she belted out the final words still in song and full cry, she took a moment, stayed on her knees, and began to pray. i think we all did.
if i had come to New Orleans for nothing else, i came to hear god bless america. because as much as i am feeling everything, now i am feeling for two.
a year ago this week i was turing 35 and getting ready to get married exactly one month later from that day. this year i turn 36, 5 months pregnant. i can write this on my computer, but i can't describe what it means to me.
i am a writer because i can't really tell you why sometimes, i can only try and write something about how.