OTHER MOM AND DAD
The family of Louis and Elizabeth Isabelle (Griffin) Noel were very special to me when I was growing up and my friendship with them has lasted through all these years. Mr. Noel was known as "Mr. Lulu," and his wife was "Miz Belle," and each of their 15 children had a nickname, too. My brother "Gee" married the daughter they called "Duce," and after I became the godmother of their second child, a boy we called "Bubba," I started calling his grandparents "MawMaw" and "PawPaw," too. I often referred to them as "my other mom and dad." My own children regarded them as a third set of grandparents.
Mr. Lulu was a farmer who grew rice and cotton, and he raised corn and other grains to feed his livestock. He also worked for the Vermilion Parish School Board, driving the school transfer (bus) which collected children who lived in rural areas to bring them to and from school in Perry and the high school in Abbeville.
In addition to rearing their own children, Mr. and Mrs. Noel took in some children and young people who needed a helping hand, and these regarded them as parents, too. Their great, big two-story house was always full of people. Often, on Friday evening, I rode "the last load" bus to go to spend the weekend at the Noel's home.
I learned what it felt like to pick cotton with the Noel children in the cotton patch near the house; I sat on a horse in front of a sack of crawfish we were carrying home from the rice field; I learned how a cream separator operated; I first tasted "gombo d'herbes" in their kitchen, seated on a bench at their long wooden table. I helped "Miz Tillie" (Miz Belle's spinster sister who lived with them) to clear the table after a meal and dried dishes for her.
All of the girls in the family slept in downstairs bedrooms, and the boys slept in what might be termed a "dormitory" upstairs. Early in the morning, the mother began calling out to the boys, "Garçons, time to get up." No matter how many times she called out, nobody ever moved, but when Mr. Lulu finally said, "Boys!" you could hear their feet hit the floor. Sounded kind of like popcorn a-popping.
Miz Belle got teased about the time she was sewing a nightgown for one of the little girls. She tried the garment on the child and found that she had made one sleeve shorter than the other. She exclaimed, "How come I never noticed that child's right arm is shorter than her left arm?" Everyone laughed along with her. There was a lot of laughter in that house.
All visitors congregated in the family room, off the kitchen area, but they did have a parlor. I never saw anyone entertained in that room, but there was a player piano in there that we enjoyed playing. I loved working the pedals. One of the songs they had was, "There's an Old Spinning Wheel in the Parlor." I still remember the words of that song.
In May of 1936, when I graduated from Perry Jr. High, we had a "prom" dance. Mr. Lulu used his school bus to transport the graduates who lived in the country to and from the school and helped us all to celebrate our achievement. He even danced with each of the girl graduates. And, you know what? He was the best dance partner I ever had!
The Noel children planned a wonderful celebration for their parents' 50th wedding anniversary. The big old house was all decked out, momentos were set on a long table in the hall which ran down the center of the house, and outside on the patio, there was a champagne fountain. Relatives and friends came from all around, from about four states to join in the celebration.
Miz Belle said the only gift she wanted from her husband of fifty years was a baby blue Cadillac. She got it.
Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA
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