I was not going to do it this year. With the Omicron variant running rampant, we are not having guests over. However, I made Gumbo again this New Year’s Eve. I could not give into my disappointment. We will also have black-eyed peas with the leftover ham bone from Thanksgiving. The bone was in the freezer. I had what I thought was a great recipe in a cookbook titled “One of a Kind: Recipes from the Junior League of Mobile.” I remember taking the cookbook to my husband’s aunt Tommie for her advice on the ingredients. A former New Orleans native and authentic Cajun (her father was from Paris and her mother, African American) known for her Gumbo recipe, guarded like a state secret. She took the book and crossed out (with great emotion) some of listed the ingredients and added no new ones. I did not know that excellent Gumbo is simple. She did not use crab meat, chicken, or the gumbo file but just Andouille sausage and lots of shrimp. The secret is the roux and the cooking time. The best okra is frozen, and do not cook it long. Add the shrimp, and do not overcook. It only takes a few minutes if the Gumbo is hot. That gave me her special recipe, which I continue to make. I realize though the actual ingredient is “Love.”
The story of my Gumbo is one of loss but also of love. We lost Aunt Tommie from complications of Alzheimer’s and have lost so many other family members since I acquired her Gumbo recipe. Now, COVID-19 has taken so much from us this past year. I lost my Uncle Pap, and he was like a father to me. I felt so helpless as he died in Indianapolis. The solace came from a nurse who said, “We love Mr. Waldrop and will take good care of him.” No holiday gatherings and the need to keep our families safe. No walks with friends or casual meetings. I realized that for me, this was transforming how I deal with colleagues and patients. Not being judgmental, but I am tolerant and understanding of dismissive attitudes about the disease and how it so easily spread and the fact that it is leaving a trail of death and lasting effects worldwide.
Taking the time to make Gumbo seems appropriate for this moment in history. I need to stir up some love. 2020 ripped my heart into pieces. What I lost and gained I am still trying to define for myself. In 2021 hopefully, those mended pieces of my heart healed, leaving no visible scars. The
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into (a) friend.”‘ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Being mindful of and not dismissive of past historical injustices, I made a weighty decision after reading all the information I could get. I took the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and completed my third dose. My whole family got vaccinated. It was my responsibility to step up and speak out for science. My goal is to make sure that factual and reliable information is shared and that I can be a voice to listen, inform and support my family, patients, colleagues, and friends as they make their own personal decisions.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.” T.S. Eliot
New Year’s is a time of reflection and reconnection to oneself. I always make black-eyed peas for good luck. My New Year’s commitment is to be a loud voice and advocate. I plan to get into some “good trouble,” and I know that you will all join me. We have so much work to do in 2022. As Black and Indigenous People of Color, we must rebuild trust in our health care system, dismantle racism and rebuild trust in our government. We were asked to do that in 2021, and we will be asked to do it in 2022. The year 2021 saw us vote in record numbers, take to the streets to fight for justice, and make history in countless ways. The new year 2022 will require the same from us. Unfortunately for us in Healthcare, we will have to deal with COVID-19 surges and care for our non-COVID patients.
We must remember to wear our masks and practice social distancing by avoiding indoor gatherings.
To 2022 and keeping hope alive!!!
Happy New Year!
“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” —Oprah Winfrey