Monday, May 22, 2006

Part 13: A true Thanksgiving

Recap: Last time, I was moved to 7/8 and found myself with a sourpuss teaching partner. My insurance check came, and I bought a RAV4. We treated the kids to an awesome Halloween, because there weren't many places to trick-or-treat. Neighborhoods were desolate or unsafe, so we had a big fair.

We entered November, and it got to the point where sleeping on an air mattress on the floor of my brother's old bedroom at my parents' house was no longer an option. We went to a few mattress shops, and finally found a lovely deal on a Serta mattress and bedframe. I even got a Serta sheep for buying it! They delivered it that first week, and it was like heaven. The mattress we had before the storm was not chosen by us. It was a wedding present, and I think it was a pillow top, which is way too soft and does nothing for your back. It was hard to sleep on. Tiny Katrina blessing number 82, I think. The new one is firm and high and lovely beyond description. That first night of sleeping on it was the first half-way decent night of sleep I'd had since August. I think it was the first time I slept the whole night. Especially since somewhere between ordering the mattress and having it delivered, a catfight happened on the air mattress, and it now had a slow leak that left me half on the floor each morning.

One weekend in November, my in-laws came to help drag our stuff out to the front. They had not been to New Orleans at all since the storm. It was the first time they'd seen "it." They were pretty speechless.

That day, we saw, finally, the elderly woman next door. If you remember correctly, we were unsure of whether she had evacuated or not, but the national guard's markings on her house indicaetd that she'd made it out. She'd left for the storm, but left her cat Ginny, who we called Splotchy, outside. She never did find out what happened to her. This is horribly sad to me. Hopefully, she was one of the rescued cats who was adopted by someone in another part of the country. I'd like to think that's what happened.

Thanksgiving was approaching, and it was a strange feeling. How odd to feel thankful at a time like this. There was a lot to be thankful for, this was true. Here's a partial list:

1. None of my family members died.
2. My grandma was placed in a home in Hammond, La., and was now an hour away, as opposed to the 6-hour drive to Houston.
3. We had a mattress now!
4. I got more money on my car insurance than I thought, and I bought a sweet new car.
5. We were not scattered across the country any more.
6. Most of the family didn't lose their homes. Or their businesses. In fact, everyone lost one or the other. At least everyone was left with something.
7. We'd made it through the first couple of months.
8. Yeah...that's about it.
9. Ah more thing....Mark was finally home! He was sprung from the RV and was allowed to come back to New Orleans! However, he now works from 5 p.m. until midnight. I will not see him, really, except for weekends.

We had dinner at my Uncle Dan and Aunt Connie's house, one of the few houses in Lake Vista that didn't flood. Lake Vista is the subdivision between flooded Lakeview and flooded Gentilly. They live at the end of their cul de sac, and had zero damage, other than tree damage. Every tree suffered some sort of damage, be it broken branches, total uprooting, or a loss of leaves. It looked like spring when it was still summer. And it stayed that way until ... well, they still haven't really all come back. The trees all lost too much.

To get there, we had to drive through my neighborhood, standing (or not, in some cases) so forlornly and so desolately. There is nothing sadder than a house with no windows or partial windows, a busted down door, and a coffee-colored water mark somewhere near the roof. The grass is gone, the shrubs are dead. The piles of debris are at least as tall as the houses. Children's toys litter the piles of rubbish, and you can see clothing, photos in frames (or what used to be photos in frames), and snippets of your neighbors' lives. All on the ground, mold-ridden, soggy, and brownish. Untouchable. Heartbreakingly thrown into a pile.

Makes it even harder to put Thanksgiving into perspective.

We had to pass my father and Uncle Dan's service station. Piles of debris as high as the station. Gas sign still showing a pre-Katrina price of $2.49. Broken windows on the garage. No electricity, just like the houses. No life at the pumps. The missing ice machine, which was reportedly spotted on someone's roof a few blocks away. A shell of a building.

Thanksgiving gets harder and harder to swallow.

Then, a couple miles down the road, we reach my aunt and uncle's street. The first part of the street, including the house they used to live in, has water marks. It gets increasingly lower as you reach the end of the street. And then, an oasis. My relatives have a lush-ish green lawn. Flowers back in the garden. Flooring. A pang of jealousy rushes through. It's a good thing they're such good people. Otherwise, I'd have hated them. Would you blame me? Does that make me a horrible person?

The meal was a little toned down. The mood was solemn. But it was the first time we'd all been together since the storm. And that was a good thing.

That weekend, we shopped around, and finally bought a bedroom set. A dresser, a headboard/footboard combo, and two night stands. Delivery date? Eight weeks to get to the store, up to two weeks to get to us.

Next time: Part 14: Christmas: either very easy, or very hard.


Anne (from CA) said...

I'm glad things weer going better for you at this point. And even happier you've finally updated. I swear, you must publish this. And if you end up doing it, I want acknowledgment for pushing you to do it. ;)

Misti said...

Howdy! I haven't read in awhile so I am playing catch up!