It was a beautiful Mid-February day. The sun was shinning brightly from above, save for those times when those large gulf coast clouds would pass lazily in front of it. This day was different than most days that we spent in The Quarter because it would be our last. You see, early the next day we would be driving what remained of our new life up to Missouri. Having been married for only four months and after having gone through Katrina and a painful job loss I needed to move on. It was just too painful and I was incapable of dealing with that pain. So I figured the best thing for us to do was to leave and start over…or run and hide…take your pick.
We walked from the French Market up Gov. Nicholls and I watched as a man was finally taking the boards off of his windows. He was somber. Not sad, or frustrated, or even relieved…he was just somber. It was as if there was no other emotion left that could be conjured up…he was just to tired. I guess everyone was tired…drained…numb. We made a left on Bourbon and even though it lacked the familiar stench the street normally emitted it still had its share of tourists milling about from bar to bar and club to club. Seeking a good time oblivious to the thousands of people still seeking their lost friends and family.
We headed back down to Jackson Square for some lunch and after watching my mother in law flirt with our waiter at lunch (those hand grenades will getcha every time) our family friend Tara and I set out to take some pictures. It was on this last little quest to capture life, or what was now life, that I ran into hope and conviction. I was roaming Chartres heading back from the Ursuline Convent and then made my way back up to Royal and while I was still on St. Philip St I heard it. Loud, jubilant, jazz.
It was the Krewe of Cork. The Krewe of Cork celebrates all things wine, food and fun and they were taking part in their annual Royal Street Stroll. As a crowd began to form I couldn’t help but begin to tap my feet to the infectious beats pulsating from the trumpet and snare drum. A middle age woman standing next to me had tears in her eyes as she leaned into me and said, “It’s so good to hear that sound again”. She asked me my story. How she knew I wasn’t a tourist I’ll never know but as I began to tell her my story and as she shared with me hers I realized that even though we didn’t know each other from Adam we were inexplicably bonded together through shared experience.
As I was getting ready to say good-bye she asked me what was next and I told her we were moving. She grabbed both of my arms and looked me straight in the eye and told me that I couldn’t leave. The city needed me, she said, needed us…all of us. It was in that moment in that random encounter that I felt the conviction of my own selfishness, but it was too late…we were moving away. She gave me a hug and she took her Krewe of Cork throw off her neck and put it around mine and she said just promise me you will come back. “Promise me you’ll come back”, she kept saying. “Promise me, you have to come back”. Now close to four years later we are going back. Going back to the Crescent City, the place we fell in the love with, we are going back.
You know, I still have that throw that woman gave to me. It’s in my camera case. I have kept it as a reminder of a promise I made to a friend I never knew I had. I kept it as a reminder of the broken beauty that is New Orleans. I kept it as a reminder that the plans God has come to fruition. I kept it because that cheap plastic strand of beads stands for something greater than itself. Something few could understand…resurrection.
Resurrection of a city, of a people, and of a shared dream.
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? I do, but not for long…