n [AmerF, fr. AmerSp la ñapa the lagniappe, fr. la + ñapa, yapa, fr. Quechua yapa something added] (1844) : a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure
~ Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition. Kindle Edition.
It’s a word readily traceable to the New Orleans area. Quechua, though?? They’re in Peru. How the heck . . . ? If that word could talk . . .
It’s always sounded to me like cream, with a cat lapping it.
It occurred to me just now as a word for this time of my life. Others are optional, light, superfluous, unnecessary. For almost four decades I lived with and was necessary to someone rooted in necessity. After an upper-middle-class American upbringing, I appreciated the way that staked me down and sorted me out. I was never very good at, or very interested in, luxury or frivolity or even fun. Not that I was Puritanically averse to them, they just seemed like a very small and dispensable part of life. (By “fun” I do not mean “humor,” by the way. Humor and necessity share a bloodstream.)
But this part of my life is sheer luxury. It really doesn’t matter what I do with it. There’s great freedom in that, but also absurdity. It’s up to me, at my discretion, to fill this free gift of time. I could rush out and find more necessity to submit myself to (become a nanny to a small child, or a hospice volunteer), but right now I have a strong sense of been there, done that. If it puts itself in my way, that’s something else (I do intend to use my Feldenkrais Method training to design a workshop for caregivers), but seeking it out seems almost like a panicky cop-out from braving another mode and beat of living. I’ve had trouble getting a handle on it.
Somehow, the word lagniappe helps.