Sunday, August 3, 2008

Revisiting: day one

Arrived in New Orleans today. And yes, it is like coming home in ways that I didn't know it would be. Even just in the quality of voices on the plane, in hearing them speak of neighborhoods that I never liked. Before I lived here, I never knew that a place could be so familiar. And before I left, I never knew that it would stay that way.

At adamant prompting, I briefly explained the purpose of my trip to my parents. maybe they understand, and maybe not; at least they somewhat pretended to. They were sure something was terribly amiss in a more tangible way. For instance, my father was half convinced that I was pregnant. Why he thought that the first thing I'd do would be to get on an airplane during my first trimester, I'll never know. Thus is the mind of a concerned father.

It was a slow day, a broken day; exhausted from the trip this morning, easy as it was really, but a journey nonetheless and on only a few hours of sleep. Upon arrival there was the obligatory settling in and making of groceries; there was the accidental nap. There was an unsuccessful trip to find a friend, a quick visit with another, a drive along the lake and through the park. Reconnaissance. There are many photographs to be taken. Things are better, greener. Despite what has not changed. No pictures yet, or at least none to speak of. Tomorrow should be more fruitful.

Then dinner back at the house that was once my grandfather's, and a visit to the house that was once my grandmothers to see an aunt (my godmother) and two uncles. Both houses now barely recognizable as those that I visited in childhood, and yet undoubtedly these are the walls within which I slept two decades ago, more. On those stairs my sister and I sat and played chinese checkers; they were covered with carpet then, and led to a bedroom (had been my uncle's) instead of one with a home theater system. All so different, and yet, and yet.

The clock on the mantle that stayed up nights with me still sits there, though now stuck forever at 12:13, no longer consoling small children in the dark with its dependable chiming. The couch on which I tried to sleep long gone, the game boards no longer piled beneath it begging roaches to lay eggs within during months unused. Where once was a giant television, barely functioning, now stands a wooden dining table. Despite this all the house speaks: it says welcome home child. It says, don't leave your wet towels on the bathroom floor. It says, there are flowers and anole lizards in the backyard waiting. It says, there is cereal in the kitchen, and you can eat it from the big thick ceramic bowl, the one with the edges so straight.

Upstairs now my mother, alone, father in bed for work in early morning, talks out loud and loudly as she watches the weather report. It's a real tropical storm, she says. Perhaps it is her way of beckoning me, or perhaps her declarations would be made with equal force if heard only by the cats. Impossible to say. But see? We knew I got it from somewhere.

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