Let’s Make the Veillée

On a numbered street just off the highway in Cut Off, sits a home of orange-yellow brick. I park my car next to the mailbox and approach the back door. As I raise my hand to knock, any question I might have had as to “Am I in the right place?” was erased. Laughter rang out loud and clear from behind the door. I’m still not 100 percent sure my knock was even heard, for the veillée had already begun.

For nearly a year, Consuelo Simoneaux has welcomed one and all to her home to “make the veillée.” A Cajun French word that Consuelo translates to meaning “to visit”, a veillée traditionally refers to an evening visit among adults, usually with food. Consuelo adapted the term to fit her need, putting the first pot of coffee on for a 7 a.m. start. The food is usually the classic crackers and butter, although she has been know to whip up drop biscuits now and then. Every Thursday, her kitchen quickly fills with area women from all walks of life. Stay-at-home moms, working moms, sometimes just stopping in before work, or even with kids in tow. The ladies gather around the table and visit. Nothing fancy, with a very “come as you are” vibe, the ladies show up for their coffee and make themselves at home.

“I was kind of stuck in a rut as a parent, being home by myself,” shares Consuelo of why she began this weekly tradition. “I got to the point where I was like, ‘Man, what if we just kind of got everybody together, whoever was home during the day, just to make the veillée’.  And so the first day I had one lady show up, and then the next week I had four ladies show up. Now, it fluctuates somewhere between three and ten.”

In the Simoneaux home, Consuelo has always preached the Cajun way of life to her four children. In her kitchen on Thursday mornings, the distinct sound of Cajun music drifts in and out of the conversations. As the ladies visit, more than a few words speckled in and out of the conversation are of the Cajun French persuasion.

Consuelo’s goal with the veillée is simply to bring back true human interaction. With social media, she feels like people just don’t slow down enough anymore to really check in on their neighbors, or call to see how a friend is really doing.

“When I was growing up, my mom would put us on the bus and the neighborhood moms would just sit and talk,” Consuelo recalls. “Now, you go to the bus stop and everybody’s in their car dropping their kids for the bus. Nobody takes the time to sit and talk anymore. We need to move off social media – bring that interaction back.”

While one might assume the ladies are merely gossiping, the women feel the conversations are therapeutic in nature.

“We don’t have time to gossip!” laughs Consuelo. “We all have too much in our own lives to be dealing with anybody else’s drama or problems. Getting what’s bothering you or stressing you off your chest, it feels good! Sometimes moms just need that break to talk.”

It’s not always the moms that gather around the kitchen table. Husbands and children are always welcome at the table. In a recent time of crisis and mourning for the South Lafourche region with a young life that was taken too soon, Consuelo found herself surrounded by her children and their friends. The kitchen table was a source of comfort for those teens in their time of need.

“I’m not going to be their counselor,” says Consuelo. “I don’t care if they told me everything. But I wanted them to get everything off their chest in a safe space.”

As the one year anniversary of the veillée nears, Consuelo smiles as she recalls the past year’s experiences.

“It always comes back to having that interaction with your family and friends,” shares Consuelo. “You want that bond. Social media makes it seem like everybody is good without it. But then when you make that connection, it’s like, ‘Wow–I needed that again’.” POV

Photos by Channing Candies