As I write this, it’s raining. And, in fact, it has been raining every single day this month, it seems. I have had to wade to work on more than one occasion. I don’t even try to make outdoor plans this time of year, and my umbrella always seems to be exactly where I don’t need it (in my car if I’m in my office; in my office if I’m in my car). But given that we’re at the peak of the really bad part of hurricane season, I’ll gladly take a daily rainstorm over the worse alternatives.
Growing up, I have a fuzzy memory of picking up tree branches on DeSoto Street after a tropical storm in, probably, 1984 or ’85; I remember being devastated in ’89 when the threat of Hurricane Hugo meant my mid-September birthday party had to be rescheduled; and in ’92, I was furious that my friends who started school early got time off for Hurricane Andrew, whereas I didn’t get to miss school because my school didn’t start until after Labor Day (there was no logic to this, obviously, but I was 11 and looking for proof that my life was unfair). In other words, hurricanes affected my life only in the very pettiest of ways when I was a kid.
Then, the autumn I went away to college, there was Hurricane Georges. If anything, I was irrationally jealous again; I had this bizarre sense that something exciting was happening back home and I wasn’t a part of it. I wanted to be evacuating or stockpiling canned goods and batteries; instead I was taking a French quiz on the plus-que-parfait. When I came back home for Thanksgiving, everyone was still telling their hurricane stories – “We couldn’t find a hotel till Memphis;” “We stayed at the Hyatt;” “We evacuated with six dogs and a cat” – and I sat and listened with growing annoyance.
And then, of course, there was Katrina. I dodged that bullet, too, but this time I at least had enough sense to be grateful and to sit and listen to hurricane story after hurricane story with my stomach in knots and tears in my eyes.
Gustav hit the summer we moved back, and I suddenly had my own evacuation plans to make: Ruby had just been discharged from the hospital for what we initially feared was a brain tumor (I’ve now blocked the name of what it actually was, although I know it started with the word “benign” – way to not bury the lede, people who name diseases! – and also included the word “cerebellar,” which would have been a whole lot scarier if it hadn’t been preceded by the word “benign”), and we had about one day after bringing her home from Children’s to decide what to do. In the end, we went to St. Louis and stayed with Ruby’s grandparents. They are lovely people and were very gracious about opening their house to us, my mother and three dogs over 100 pounds – but you could also tell that this, to them, was further proof that no one should ever live in New Orleans.
I almost thought they were right for a second. After all, it was my very first summer back and just three years after Katrina, and here we were evacuating. But then Gustav passed us by, and we returned home and immediately went to Bacchanal with some dear friends, the kinds of friends I suspect you can only make in New Orleans, and we stayed up too late and drank wine and listened to music and told our evacuation stories while the wind whipped down from the levee and the banana trees swayed all around us. “Worth it,” I thought. “Totally worth it.”
And now it’s been another seven years, and all we’ve had is a couple of tropical storms and a Category 1 hurricane. (Side story: Several summers ago, my husband assured me he was taking care of provisions when Tropical Storm Lee was headed our way. I went home, expecting bottled water and canned beans, to find that he had stocked the fridge with four bottles of champagne and a tub of Langenstein’s Better Cheddar dip. Ultimately, it was not a bad way to ride out a mild storm, but I think if any other hurricanes threaten, I will be the one procuring the necessities.)
A friend of mine commented yesterday, “I don’t want a bad hurricane or anything this year, but a few days off would be pretty nice,” and I nodded my head in agreement – which just goes to show how quickly you can forget, how quickly hurricanes can again just become a petty thing, a minor annoyance or an excuse for an unplanned vacation.
Excerpted from Eve Crawford Peyton’s blog, Joie d’Eve, which appears each Friday on MyNewOrleans.com.
Ten years out and we might joke, but we haven’t really forgotten. We are still holding our breath from June to November, but especially in August and September. We still choose to live here, always and every day. And it’s still worth it. Totally worth it.