Second Generation New Orleans

My kids and I grew up here; my parents did not.

It’s always clear to me that I’m in sort of a weird demographic as a New Orleanian. 

I’m not a transplant – I attended pre-K through high school here, grew up eating red beans every Monday, and have been going to Jazz Fest since I was in a stroller. 

But I’m also not someone who has lived here my whole life – I was born in North Carolina and lived in Missouri for a decade. 

And I’m not someone whose roots go back generations here. My dad grew up in North Carolina and came here to attend Tulane. My mom grew up in Wisconsin and came here for an ill-fated love affair. 

So when my friends talk about their secret family gumbo recipes or whatever, I’m kind of at a loss. My dad’s secret family recipe was grits and red-eye gravy, and my mom’s was slumgullion/chili mac. (I like both of those things, for the record.)

When my parents told me stories about their childhoods, it was always hard for me to picture it. All the snow and ice of my mom’s Midwestern experience. All the rolling hills and red dirt of Appalachia. The leaves changing. Seasons. No Mardi Gras. 

I realized the other day, though, that my kids do have the same childhood landscape as I do. They climb the same trees in City Park that I scurried up as a kid. They get snowballs at Pandora’s and Sal’s and Plum Street and Hansen’s, just like I did. I can point out old landmarks to them – that used to be Shoney’s; that used to be K&B; that used to be a terrible Chinese restaurant that my grandfather always wanted to go to when he’d visit. My daughter attends the same high school I did, and I felt a bit of panic in my chest when I dropped her off with friends for the first weekend of Carnival parades – precisely because I remembered my own Carnival experiences as a teenager. 

“I love this city,” my daughter will sigh sometimes as we drive past the lake or eat beignets or debris fries or crawfish. 

“I hate this city,” she will grumble when we hit a pothole or after researching how much car insurance will cost after she gets her license. 

And even if I don’t have a grease-stained gumbo recipe to pass down through the generations to her, I think I can safely say that I know just how she feels. 

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