Thursday, November 10, 2011

Diary of a Vacation: New Orleans - You can't always go home

As I have mentioned in the past the husbeast is from New Orleans. His being from the city was one of the main reasons we chose this as our destination for this vacation. Of course it has been in the plans for many years, but still it was for him. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to come too. I mean come on it is New Orleans. who in their right mind wouldn't want to come here for a visit.

Anyways, since this is the husbeasts home town, it was inevitable that we would go ona nostalgic tour of his childhood. I have heard these stories since we met, and honestly I was looking forward to putting actual places to the tales that have been filling mhy mind for so many years.

We started out by driving down to his old neighborhood. Now he already knew that his grandmothers house had been destroyed in Katrina, but I am not certain he was really prepared to see that it was gone. He said his grandmother would not have approved of the large sllightly gaudy house that now stood on the large double lot. Mostly though he was sad that the giant magnolia tree was gone. I tried to tell him it was probably damaged in the storm as well, but I doubt that held little comfort.

It is hard to see your childhood memories gone. Blame a storm or blame strangers, but either way it doesn't bring them back. Looking at the empty lots and unfamiliar houses only seemed to make certain that his memories were all that were left.

We drove by an old snowball stand which had been his favorite. Every snow cone he eats he compares to this one stand. It is almost legendary in his mind. While it was still a snowball shop, it was not the same one. It was also closed. He pouted a little.

The next stop on memory lane was City Park which was huge. I had not expected for it to be quite on the grand scale that it was. We snuck into a fountain that was closed which was fun, and then made it over to the sculpture gardens and art museum. I am not certain that any of this was as he remembered but he seemed to enjoy it greatly.

The one thing he really wanted to show me was a hill. He alwasy said New Orleans was naturally flat, and so in the park they had a small manmade hill that was labeled 'Hill'. It makes playing King of the Hill so much more meaningful when you think about it.

It was actually called Monkey Hill. We searched for it for a long time before we found a grounds worker to ask about it. She knew what we were talking about, but informed us it was in an entirely different park. The husbeast had no idea where it was and so he had to resign himself to not showing me the Hill this visit.

Our final goal for the day, and one of the biggest goals for the trip, was to find his grandmothers grave and visit it. Now New Orleans cemeteries are huge. Giant even. They are mazes of mausoleums and statues. It isn't like a normal cemetery where you can see where you are going. Oh no, the buildings are entriely too tall for that. We were going to have to ask at the cemetery office for the plot location.

It took us a good twenty minutes just to find the entrance to the cemetery we thought she was in and then another ten minutes of driving around to find the office. The woman at the desk was very nice as she attempted to look up the family plot. She told us it might be listed only under the name of the plot owner which would have been his great grandfather, or so we hoped.

After a short wait we were told they couldn't locate the grave. A little disheartened we headed out into the cemetery so that I could take pictures. It was beautiful and breathtaking really. There were some impressive tombs. Still we aimed to find his grandmother, so it was back into the car and to the next cemetery over.

This time we were in luck. It only took a minute before we were being handed a map, a printout of everyone buried in the lot, and a picture of what the lot looked like. This cemetery was less grandious than the one we had just come from. The rows of tombs were more sedate and more identical to one another. It was a much simpler cemetery.

We drove down little named streets looking for the correct row. Locust was the one we were looking for. Sure enough it was right where the map said it was, and soon we were walking down the row looking for the right plot.

Hartman was emblazed on a small marble marker on the front of the plot, turning slightly green from time and neglect. The white pebbles that covered the top were thin in places and the entire thing needed a neww coat of whitewash. A marker at the back listed his grandfather, great grandmother, and great grandfather, but not his mother his half brother, or the two other men buried in the grave. There were urns for flowers with names on them, one his great grandmother, the other read George, but it was hard to tell if that was his grandfather or the other George that was buried there.

Slowly he knelt down in front of the grave, and with tears in his voice he introduced his grandmother to me. I can't help but to cry now thinking about it. It was so sweet and so sad as he spoke to the woman who meant everything to him in the world. He always says she would have loved me, and I so wish I could have met her at least once in life. At least now we have been introduced.

We had gotten there late in the afternoon and the cemetery was about to close, so our visit was brief. He promised to make sure a stone was placed with her name on it, and then bid her goodbye again. It was almost heartbreaking to watch.

I am not certain if he got what he wanted out of this trip. So much of what he remembered is no longer here, and he now only has his memories to live with. Still his memories are strong, and the powerful emotions they evoke are still running strong within him. His moment at the graveside proves that no hurricane nor the progress of time can rob him of those.

Sometimes you can't go home, but home can never be taken from you when it resides in your heart.

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