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How's Bayou? From ash to cash

Oh that pablum! How did 65 years go by so quickly?

Where did those 65 years go?

Way back in the New Orleans of 1947, it was customary to announce a child’s first wanderings into the real world via the social columns of The Times-Picayune, States, or Item newspapers.

“Mr. and Mrs. Harold Karin Marshall and their infant son, Keith Cooper, recently visited his paternal grandparents,” the writer informed the general public, “in Sherman, Texas.”

Sounds pretty spiffy – if not exactly up to the travels of the e-Trade baby -- doesn’t it? And just a little precious.

The photo of Mother spooning pablum into my mouth as my father concentrated on the needs of the owner of an engraving plant, a customer of his, where they’d stopped on the long, dusty road to Sherman – paints a different picture. Even at that early age, I was an add-on to a business call, not your typical Gerber Baby.

That little notice in the paper had consequences that lay dormant for decades. At least two other moms with the surname Marshall must have read about my wanderings and decided to have their own little Keith Cooper.

The first was always in trouble. With the IRS. With mortgage companies. Any legal proceedings meant proving that I wasn’t this intransigent doppelganger.

Even worse, another was killed while dropping off his mother at her apartment – during the years when Mother lived in an apartment in the Warehouse District. The shooting was all over the WWL early morning news; and worse, as Millie and I were out of town, our phone (pre-cell days) just rang and rang.

Distraught friends called Dixie Art and gingerly asked to speak with me. A friend burst into tears while making a deposit at the Whitney Bank near our house.

Nice to know I’ll be missed, now that I’m on the other side of the hill.

After a long-delayed trip to the dentist this morning – and admonitions to stick to soft food this evening -- I realized the French are right. The more things change, the more they stay the same. It won’t be long before I decide that pudding is the perfect dessert.

Last week, the activities director of a local retirement center called to say she couldn’t recall the price I’d quoted her for a luncheon and tour for her charges at Madewood. Unfortunately, I couldn’t recall either.

Later that day, on the way to pick up Millie at the airport, I stopped for a quick bite at Wendy’s. The chili, baked potato and complimentary senior drink were off balance on the tray, so I spread them out before leaving the counter.

“Do you need help with getting that to your seat?” the smiling young associate solicitously enquired.

Good lord! I’m there.

The pain and indignity were somewhat alleviated when, on Ash Wednesday, I noticed that my bank account had swollen by the amount of my first Social Security check.

I thought back to when Mother received her first check. A friend had asked her if she felt awkward getting Social Security while living in her big plantation house.

“I remember when Social Security started in 1937," she mused. “They took 24 cents out of my poor little $10 paycheck that week. You bet I’m taking my Social Security.”

No doubt some of my first check will go toward improvements at Madewood; but my dentist was the first beneficiary, once removed.

A good thing -- staying in the good graces of your dentist -- if you want to avoid the sweet drama of one of Millie’s favorite mementoes of her parents, a note written on a time-worn scrap of paper.

“Harold,” Millie’s mother wrote. “Your teeth are in the kitchen. I love you.”

How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville. For more information on NolaVie, go to nolavie.com.

How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.