Archives for August 2010

Making Our Mark

I think I’ve given y’all plenty of examples of Charlie’s love of inappropriate music. I wrote this post here and there’s this Youtube video here if you missed it.

So in the mornings at school, I park the car, pop the trunk, and start putting Charlie’s chair together. While he waits, I keep the car running so he’s cool, give him a toy, and make sure a good song is playing–usually a CD of his favorites. I’m getting faster, but in the beginning he would cry thinking I’d forgotten him in the car or something.

And then it hit me. You know that guy in high school who’s in the parking lot with his trunk up, showing off his awesome sound system? It could be at a parade, or a football game, or a bonfire, but the guy was always there. I’m him, blaring Jason DeRulo while nice teacher ladies scuttle off to their classes. I’m sure I’m making a great impression on them all.

boy enjoys a beignet

Post beignet happiness

On Tuesday I’ll remember to turn the music down.

The Boy in the Yellow Chair

I dropped Charlie off at school the other day and as I  headed back to the car I saw his class walking to breakfast. Meals are very important in a special needs class, so most of the students go (yes, this means I PAY to have my child filled with sugary starches–I try not to think about it). There they were–a class of little people, holding hands, Charlie being pushed.  And I was merely an observer.

Toddler eating with a fork

Apparently fork practice makes him sleepy

The next day I was at school to discuss the car-rider line with the principal (note: dis-assembling your wheelchair in the middle of the line will not make you any friends). As we sat waiting in the office, people would come and go and several adults stopped to greet and talk to Charlie (not that he talks back). These people knew Charlie–but I didn’t know them.

It’s amazing, really, but at three years of age, Charlie is beginning to make his mark on the community. He is becoming a part of this place.My baby is gone and has been replaced with this boy. He’s growing up. I see it.

And he will change people. I know it. If he never walks and never talks, he will be known by his classmates and teachers. He won’t be an idea about disability–he will be the living embodiment, a rolling, smiling, blue-eyed example of the humanity and beauty that can go hand in hand with that chair.

It’s breathtaking if you think about it.

Hope

I was born and raised in the suburbs of New Orleans. Despite the “suburb” title, I have always considered myself a true New Orleans girl. I danced to “They All Axed For You” in the streets at Mardi Gras, taught my college buddies how to tip and open a tab, and I could always take an hour or two to talk about food.

I didn’t live in New Orleans five years ago, though. My husband was serving in the Air Force and we were stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base. I first heard about Katrina when my mom called to tell me they were turning their evacuation into a mini-vacay to Houston–do a little shopping, eat some Mexican food and come home. They’d had some bad experiences evacuating in the past and wanted to get out early. I was non-plussed at the news–hurricanes were always a threat, but never materialized into much.

It’s shocking now, in retrospect, how blase I was about the whole thing, how unimportant it all seemed. How could you know in advance that it would be the greatest disaster in US History? How could any of us have known?

I went to sleep on August the 28th feeling confident that my family would be able to return home soon.

I awoke on August the 29th to news that levees had broken. There is a still a lot of anger about the days that followed–people ignored, aide delayed, lives lost. Like a simmering boil, I could go on here and end up angry all over again.

I won’t do that.

I am NOT a Katrina survivor. I slept in my bed and went to my job while the rest of my family suffered. That is just the way it is. In some ways I have guilt about that, but it’s water under the bridge at this point. We can only move forward.

I might not be a Katrina survivor, but I am something else.

I am one of the ones who returned.

We came back–my husband and I, in the midst of much personal turmoil.

Because we know this place is special.

Because this is the only place that has ever been home.

Because the food is never the same anywhere else.

Because I want my children to dance in the streets at Mardi Gras to “They All Axed for You.”

Because I can eat in the same restaurants my grandfather did seventy years ago.

And walk by the Pontabla buildings where my great-grandparents once had an apartment.

New Orleans in the 40s

I am not alone. There are others returning each month. There are even more who arrive here for the first time, fall in love, and find it impossible to leave. People who love this city. People who are doing amazing things–starting companies, making movies and poetry and art. People who are breathing life into this city like nothing I have ever seen before. It is a good time to be in New Orleans and I’ll tell anyone who sits still long enough to listen. The city is exciting place these days.

Is there hope? Hell yeah. Actually, it’s more than that. These days I know this city is incredible and it will only become more in the years ahead. I am proud to be here and cannot wait to see what awaits. There is so much to be hopeful about.

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This post is part of Tide’s Hope Remains Blog Carnival.

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