Being in New Orleans, Louisiana for the first time in a few years reminded me of this post I wrote after my last visit. The following was originally posted in August of 2011 & feels as true today as it did then.
We left this place when I was 6. As the youngest family member, others who were there have to be reminded of this when reminiscing. Things that are very vivid in their memories aren’t present at all in mine.
As is often the case, I’m certain the opposite is also true. The memories of six-year olds often include as much fantasy as reality as everything is viewed through the rearview mirror. Objects are closer than they appear.
I remember riding with my mother to take my older sister to school in Lafayette, Louisiana. Mom might remember the street names or the traffic. I remember a restaurant we drove by each day because it had huge frosted glass globes dangling from the ceiling in a 1970’s effort at being modern. I thought they looked like beach balls & entertained myself with ideas about them coming loose from their tethers & the restaurant patrons getting to play with beach balls glowing with light.
I remember the shiny hardwood floors of the white wood frame building that held my bustling kindergarten school- the same building that many years before had been my father’s high school. Did he also wonder at the shine on those floors? How you could so easily become mesmerized by your reflection?
I remember the accents. Even last week, as I walked along the streets in New Orleans where I was attending a conference, when I heard the thick saucy song of a Cajun accent, I remembered the faceless voices of my early childhood.
I remember finding a good hiding place between the tall roots of cypress trees during hide & seek with my cousins, on hot summer days with the air thick & heavy with the weight of Louisiana humidity.
I remember picnic tables covered in newspaper & piled high with shrimp, metal frame lawn chairs & the laughter of people I loved & who loved me back.
These are the things I remember. Most of the rest, I forget…which makes it that much more confusing for me- the peace that descends on me when I cross the state line, deepening the further south I go. Somewhere near I-10 I have only the most distant & vague understanding of the concept of anxiety.
My mother tells me (a little too knowingly, if you ask me) that it is because my father was healthy when we lived here. Maybe she is right, as mothers so often are- whether we want them to be or not.
I was only 6 when we left this place, when I started forgetting.
Last week I realized something… I may have left Louisiana 30 years ago, but it never left me.