I have huge shoes to fill

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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On November 26, 1935, in a raised Acadian house along Mt. Airy’s portion of the Mississippi River, a baby girl was born to the Boé family. Her 47-year-old mother named her Marion, a name that lasted only a few days. The eldest daughter in the family, Martha, took the baby to be baptized and on the way to the church, changed her name to Jeanne. I call her Mama, and her 15 grandchildren and 21 (and two on the way) great-grandchildren call her Mimi.

Mama, the youngest of eight children, grew up without electricity or indoor plumbing. Oil lamps lit the cozy kitchen for the children to complete their homework, and later for their Papa and his friends to play cards. A tin tub was regularly brought into the same room for baths and an outhouse sat behind the garage. Aunt Martha, the name-changer, had the constant fear that a date would see her exiting the outhouse. Mémère, Mama’s mother, had a fear of her own – broken bones, which is why her children could only skate with one skate.

Stories of the past abound, and Mama can repeat them in French, the only language spoken by her mother, or English. By the time Mama was in first grade, she was fluent in both.

She graduated high school on a Friday and reported to Godchaux Sugar Refinery the following Monday. A co-worker, Louis Keller, often spoke of his son, Harold, who was in the Navy. Louis died of a heart attack shortly after, never knowing that Mama would eventually marry his son or seeing the grandchildren he anticipated.

We celebrated her birthday with the family on Thanksgiving, and I was blessed to have lunch with her the day after. Mama gives many reasons to daily be thankful. She has held our family together, shown unconditional love to her family and friends, and makes the best peanut butter fudge in the world.

I have huge shoes to fill.


Ronny Michel may be reached at rmichel@rtconline.com.