We recently came back from our second memorial this year in the town of Helvetia, in the West Virginia Appalachians. It was a party, really, to celebrate the big fat life of our friend Eleanor Mailloux, who passed away recently at the age of 94. Out in the meadow next to her house, two make-shift cookers were going, grilling spatchcocked chickens and corn, and a 20-foot table held huge bowls of Eleanor’s favorite foods. Beer from her grandson Willie’s brewery flowed alongside homemade wine her friends had brought. Music blared at just the right pitch.
Often in Helvetia after a family has buried a loved one, the community puts on a covered-dish supper, and a square dance may follow, as it did for our friend Rogers McAvoy. Dancing and stomping and swinging and drinking out on the porch of the community hall helped Rogers’ friends to find their way back to living, as he would have – and did: dancing in the face of sadness and the unpredictability of life. It reminded us of the jazz funerals that are a tradition in New Orleans that we saw beautifully rendered in HBO’s drama Treme. At about 1:20, LaDonna, who has just buried her brother moves from grief to dance as the music catches her up.
It also reminded us of the amazing Eleanor, who at age 92 had lived through just about EVERYTHING, dancing at the Fasnacht festival in the community hall a couple of years ago (Note, this 30 second clip seems to be showing up in some browsers and not in others. If your’s doesn’t show it, watch it here, on Vimeo):
So, we dance…
Treme video link here. The complete 8 minute Treme scene, which goes from sheer grief to joy, here. Eleanor Dancing video link here.
Related posts: the appalachian trail (2200 miles in 5 mins) + we’re gone!