Written by: Ciarra Joyner & Zanada Joyner
I remember the day I received the email inviting me join Nyx in June 2017. As I scanned my personal gmail account box on my phone casually over my Lean Cuisine lunch, I literally screamed out loud.
I wanted to join the krewe for some time. When I moved back to NOLA in 2014 I became fascinated by the all women krewe on Wednesday night. A woman who worked at my organization was a member and I cozied up to her every chance I got at those staff potlucks. I wanted to know more about the krewe, what it was like, and more importantly how I could join.
As a non-native without familiar ties to New Orleans society I doubted that I could ever join a krewe. A woman at my job gave me hope. She explained that while her family were locals they did not have any ties that could get her a spot on a krewe nor the wealth to participate in a traditional female role as a maid, princess, or queen. I joined the Ladies-in-Waiting list right away and updated my application every year encouraging friends and family to do the same.
Receiving the invitation was like Saints winning the Superbowl, Fat Tuesday without rain, Christmas morning Nintendo, and catching your first Zulu coconut all wrapped into one. I danced around the office and told anyone who would listen. Since I’m a librarian, this exuberance was a bit out of place but I didn’t care. I was going to ride in Mardi Gras.
In August I got a text from my little sister, “I got in!” She had received an invitation to join Nyx too. By now I’d moved to Georgia and my newly married sister was living in Maryland. I missed her and could not imagine experiencing this with anyone else. We spent both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays gluing, glittering, and beading purses. Her husband and our father groaned every time we grabbed our purses and Mom and made a run to the craft store for more pink feathers (coupons in hand).
Everything came together quickly after the new year rolled in. We flew into town for the Ball and had a magical time. Our friends in the city picked up some recycled beads for us at ARC [my sister had volunteered there when escorting an Alternative Spring Break group of college students]. Our float lieutenant responded cheerfully to all our annoying, rambling, and confused emails. She picked up our costumes and generally made us feel at home. [Bless you Laura Russell Hill]. Our float Facebook group gave us an opportunity to make connections with the other ladies from afar [The lovely ladies of float #9].
Thank goodness for my Army veteran brother-in-law who with ingenuity and strength managed to get all our beads (recycled and new), trinkets, buckets, baskets, and doo-dads on the float in our positions secured and covered with a tarp. He even picked up our ice and Subway sandwiches in the morning before lock-in despite his tiredness and blood-shot eyes.
Parade day and I was nervous. Forecast was for rainy and chilly weather and definitely disastrous for my multiple sclerosis (MS). Most of the time my symptoms are invisible but, stress (15 family members in NOLA to see us ride), exhaustion (hello Pat O’s at 3am!), and prolonged exposure to cold temperatures could send me barreling toward a full exacerbation. As we ambled toward the floats in the mud, I spotted a rider using a walker. All the ladies helped her along without creating a spectacle or causing a fuss and the tractor driver hoisted her onto the float calmly. I’ve had MS for almost a decade and given the unpredictability of the disease I wondered how my Nyx sisters would respond if I became ill on the ride. Now I knew. The sisterhood was strong and I could be assured that I’d be taken care of if I needed help. Still in my head I counted the pairs of extra socks and hand warmers I had in my parade purse.
After sitting on our Home Depot buckets, rain soaked and freezing, the float made that faithful turn onto Jefferson Avenue. As I jumped up excitedly I felt a spasm cripple my left leg. Unable to balance all my weight on my right leg, I grabbed onto my sister for support. Since my sister and I live apart she has been spared from many of the sudden and debilitating incidents that have come with my diagnosis. Unsure how to respond, she wondered aloud, “should we call Mom?” Mom was on the parade route with friends and family likely with daiquiri in one hand and a mini-muffaletta in the other. No, we would just stand together, me leaning on her for support, until the spasm passed. It passed. We threw out beads, trinkets, and purses to the parade-goers who braved the weather to see us roll. It was a glorious time and we were hooked. Hail Nyx!
I often say my sister is my rock. She is the one who tells me that I can go on even when all signs point to me giving up. She always believes in me and never leaves me. Our sisterhood has been enhanced by our Nyx bond. Now if we could get Mom off the Ladies-in-Waiting List then our sisterhood would be complete.
The experience to be in the company of so many amazing women has been transformational. Words cannot express my gratitude for the Nyx sisterhood and I know no other excitement like the feeling of parade day. I wake up at night with purse design ideas and I drift back to sleep awash in thoughts of pink glitter and Home Depot buckets.
Ciarra Joyner & Zanada Joyner are sisters, and second and third year members of the Krewe of Nyx. And since the time of this publication, their mother has officially been invited to join the Krewe.