Rebirth and Rebuilding

Coming back from tragedy is a slow and painful process.

It should be the time of year when I feel most hopeful. The days are getting longer. The weather is getting warmer. It’s almost festival season, and the scents of crawfish boils and sweet olive are already in the air. Snowball stands are reopening. Abita Strawberry is available everywhere you go. There are adorable fluffy ducklings in Audubon Park, and it’s almost time to break out the seersucker.

And yet and yet and yet.

I can’t seem to summon my usual enthusiasm for my favorite season.

Heading into our third COVID-era springtime, I don’t feel the hope I felt this time last year, freshly vaccinated and ready to re-enter the world … or even the hope I felt in March 2020, fraught with anxiety but eager to stay home and do my part to flatten the curve.

I don’t know if it’s the monotony of the pandemic or continuing grief over the sudden loss of my mother or … you know … basically everything, but I am struggling to want to do much of anything right now.

I am still doing things – going to work and shuttling my kids around the city to orthodontist appointments and picking up prescriptions and folding laundry and walking the dog and taking the trash out. I’m doing the stuff that needs to be done. I’m even still doing fun things on occasion, like parades and porch drinks with friends and outdoor concerts.

I’m just doing it all in a kind of fog and not taking as much joy in it as I probably should. 

But spring is a season of rebirth, and this is a city that definitely understands rebirth.

I knew that long before Katrina, having attended my fair share of jazz funerals as a kid, but Katrina made it unmistakable that there is no city that celebrates and embodies resilience quite like New Orleans. I moved back here in January 2008, when things were definitely not back to normal but we had moved past the shellshock of late 2005 and 2006, and that’s kind of where I am emotionally right now, I think.

Like, there is no longer a three-story-tall pile of debris on my emotional neutral ground, if you will, but there are still FEMA trailers everywhere and sadness is very close to the surface.

But I remember things got better here. Not all at once and sometimes so gradually you didn’t even notice, but eventually, all of the loss and devastation of Katrina became part of our story and not our entire story. We integrated the grief, and we moved past it while still honoring its role in our history. While it wasn’t relegated to trivia or minimized, it stopped being the first thing people talked about.

I hope to get to that point in my personal life, too, where I can make small talk with the grocery cashier without tearing up when she casually mentions that she is looking forward to the weekend because she is having dinner with her mom. 

I’m no stranger to grief, having lost both siblings, a second trimester pregnancy, and one of my best friends over the years, so I know it will continue to lessen as the days go by.

The things that got us through the aftermath of Katrina, that sustained us through the rebuilding while things slowly improved around us, are undoubtedly the things that will get me through right now, get me to the point where all of the trauma of the past couple of years isn’t always at the forefront of my mind: good friends, good food, good music, abundant sunshine … and yes, if we’re being honest, a not-insignificant amount of alcohol.

Luckily, there is no better place for all of those things than New Orleans in the springtime.

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