Jan 22, 201012:00 AM
Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

A Happy Homecoming

This was taken at Endymion just days after I moved back home. I was -- and remain -- so very happy to be in New Orleans.

Jan. 21, 2008, 6 a.m., my in-laws’ driveway, suburban St. Louis: I packed the last few boxes in the trunk of my Honda Civic, loaded the dog in the backseat and got behind the wheel. It was 7 degrees and still dark outside. I was bundled into a sweater, a down jacket, a scarf, gloves, a hat. I put The Band’s cover of “Down South in New Orleans” on repeat, waved goodbye and burst into tears. What the hell was I doing? A few days earlier, I had played around on the Internet with those “we’re moving, and here’s our new address” cards. The last version I’d created said, “We’re Moving …” on the outside and “… to a DISASTER AREA! HOORAY!” on the inside. After that, I gave up on the cards. Who writes letters anymore anyway?

I was excited about moving home, but to say I had some ambivalence about it would be like calling Katrina a bad thunderstorm. I no idea what I was doing. I was a nervous wreck.

My mother-in-law had sent me off with a travel mug of coffee and some snacks. I took a sip of coffee and immediately gagged it out all over my sweatpants.  Coffee was a no-go. I didn’t even try food. I just drove. I drove and cried and wondered if I was doing the right thing.

By the time the car had warmed up enough that I could turn the heat on, dawn was starting to streak the sky, and I was feeling a little bit better. With each mile toward New Orleans and away from St. Louis, I cried a little less.

And by the time I drove over the Missouri state line into Arkansas, the sun was up and shining, my cheeks were dry and I was singing along with the music, which I’d changed now to Paul Simon’s “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” or maybe Randy Newman’s “Dixie Flyer.” Along the way, I shed layers of my winter clothing as the weather steadily warmed.

I was positively giddy by the time I saw the “Bienvenue en Louisiane” sign, and when I got to my house, I found not only my husband and daughter, who’d flown down, but my godmother, the inimitable Maureen Brennan McConnell, who is undoubtedly one of the best cooks in a city full of amazing cooks. And she wasn’t empty-handed, of course: She had a huge pot of white beans and rice, some cornbread, a King Cake, a bag of Community coffee, a bottle of wine and some fleur-de-lis cookie cutters. “Welcome home, baby,” she said. And I started crying again, this time out of joy.

Jan. 21, 2010, 12:30 p.m., the French Quarter: It’s 77 degrees outside. The sun is warm on my shoulders, and the sky is as blue as I’ve ever seen it. I’m standing on Royal Street with a Herbsaint Frappe and toasting the official countdown to Tales of the Cocktail 2010. I’m wearing a T-shirt, capri pants, flip-flops. Even now, even two years later, there are still moments in this city that make me feel like I’m about to explode with happiness.

It hasn’t necessarily been the easiest two years of my life. I have a stressful toddler (whom I nonetheless adore) and a stressful job (that nonetheless I adore), and there was a stressful hurricane evacuation my first summer back (I didn’t adore a single second of that).

But I can say, with absolute certainty, that it’s been the happiest two years of my life.

I’m warm. I’m well-fed. I’ve made great friends. I have a brilliant and beautiful little girl, a job that lets me drink Herbsaint Frappes in the sunshine on a Thursday afternoon, and the Saints are going to the Super Bowl.

I am “Down South in New Orleans,” and I am never leaving again.
 

Reader Comments:
Jan 22, 2010 12:54 pm
 Posted by  martha

I live mainly in S.CA but we have a condo in the city. The only way I can get on a plane to Ca. is if I already have a ticket back to NO. You are making me homesick! I will be back for Mardi Gras with kids and dogs in tow!

Jan 25, 2010 02:06 pm
 Posted by  pmrichard

My husband and I moved back to Louisiana (after living in the DFW area for 14 years) about 2 months prior to Katrina. We had our share of trials after the storm, however we NEVER questioned our decision to move back.

Now, when we wake up to 60 degrees, sunny blue skies and having CDM coffee on our huge porch or enjoying a cocktail on a beautiful afternoon on the balcony of Muriel's, my husband utters the same phrase - "Another beautiful day in paradise!" Truer words have never been spoken!

Glad you're enjoying being home as much as we are!!!

Feb 6, 2010 06:05 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Welcome home baby indeed!. Love your writing.

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Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

about

Eve is further proof, if any is needed, that New Orleans girls can never escape the city. After living here since the age of 3 and graduating from Ben Franklin High School, Eve moved to Columbia, Mo., where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism and became truly, unhealthily obsessed with grammar.

She had originally intended to strike out to New York City and work in the cutthroat magazine industry there, but after Katrina, Eve felt a strong pull to return home, to her roots, her family, her waterlogged and struggling city – and a much more forgiving work atmosphere that would allow her to skip a routine of everyday makeup and size 0 designer label business suits and enjoy the occasional cocktail or three with an absurdly fattening lunch. She moved back home in January 2008 and lives in Mid-City with her two daughters, Ruby and Georgia; her stepson, Elliot; and her husband, Robert Peyton.

Eve blogs about the joys and struggles of living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the unique problems and delights of raising a child in such a diverse and challenging city – including her experiences with the public education system – and her always entertaining and extremely colorful family.

Eve has won numerous writing awards, including the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal, the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for column-writing and Press Club of New Orleans awards for her Editor’s Note in New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and for this blog, most recently winning the award for "Best Feature Affiliated Blog."

She welcomes comments, advice, empty flattery, recipes, drink invitations and – most especially – grammatical or linguistic debates.

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