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Love NOLA: You can love my family, but don't take my cookie

To hear Brett Will Taylor's take on Mary Rose on WWNO radio, click here.

Brett Will Taylor

Brett Will Taylor

You know you’re in for a good flight when your seatmate is an 80-year-old, white-haired Louisiana native named Mary Rose.

Mary Rose and I met on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to New Orleans. We were both up in First Class -- I because of points, she because of a newly broken foot that cut short a family visit.

Her daughter, who had flown up to bring her mother home, didn’t think Mary Rose could squeeze her gynormous cast into a coach seat. So she bought her a First Class ticket. The daughter, of course, was back in coach.

As the plane took off, I asked Mary Rose how she was doing.

She spent the entire flight answering. All 3 hours and 16 minutes.

I didn’t care.

Mary Rose reminded me of my grandmother. Especially when the flight attendant brought us a pair of giant chocolate chip cookies after dinner.

“Maybe we should send one back to your daughter,” I suggested.

Mary Rose swiped her cookie off the tray and stashed it deep inside her bag. “Feel free to send yours; I’m keeping mine,” she said, motioning for the flight attendant to come over. “Will you do me a favor?  This nice man wants you to take his cookie and give it to my daughter. She’s back there somewhere.”

Mary Rose also reminded me of what it is to be not just from Louisiana, but of Louisiana. There’s something in the soil here. Something that nourishes a sweet, steely resilience.

That something was on full display as w Mary Rose told me the stories of her very large, very Catholic, very Louisiana family.

There were the five sisters she whispered to and giggled with.

The seven brothers who went to war. Each and every one. Her mother lit a candle every night, praying to God that each would come home.

They all did.

Mary Rose told me about her own children.

Each and every one.

The daughters she cherished. Including the one sitting in coach. With my cookie.

The sons she loved.  Including the two boys who didn’t come home. First one. Then, two years later, the other.

“It happens,” was all Mary Rose said.

And then there were her grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  There seemed to be about 125 of them, give or take 50.  I lost track somewhere over Oklahoma.

Mary Rose adores them all.  Seeing, in them, all the promise of possibility.

She told me she wants to rebuild the house she lost to Hurricane Isaac. Not just for her, but for those nieces and nephews and grandchildren. A place where they can set foot on and take root in Louisiana soil.

Each and every one.

Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie.  He now shares his stories at Brett Will Taylor: A Storyteller and his Stories. Follow him @bwtshaman.