Saturday, September 03, 2005

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?

Isabella--since at this point we are not sure what will remain, and what will become of the beautiful and currently tragically lost city of New Orleans, I want to share with you some memories of my own, of a place that is very special to me for many reasons.
It was the first real venture out "into the world" for me, when I was just a kid, with a group of other kids, from church. It was the most magical place I'd ever seen, and I only saw the beauty.
Like the statue of Lee with the Cathedral behind it.

That early trip was dominated by the French Quarter, and Jackson Square, and for me, PEOPLE. Unique, amazing people.

Like the Metal Man

And Ruthie the "Duck Lady"

And on every corner, kids who "tap dance", if only in the loosest sense of the term. But they have metal taps on their shoes, and they're working HARD, and you have to give them your money. You can't help it.

I never missed taking a mule-driven tour anytime I was in New Orleans. I loved those mules. It may seem trivial in light of all the human misery going on right now, and it's in no way equal to that, but I hope somehow those mules, at least some of them, are O.K.

I will never forget seeing my first actual, real-life "Lucky Dogs" hot-dog cart, which, like Ruthie the Duck Lady, brought "A Confederacy of Dunces" to life for me in a way that none of the other scenery did. I wonder what John Kennedy Toole would think today...if the sadness that took him as a young man had not overwhelmed him then, it surely would now, I'd think. I hope that you will read, and appreciate the genius of, this book and many other Southern masterpieces.


On later trips, as a young, single adult, I was still enchanted by the beauty, the uniqueness, and the charm of this city. My friend Donna and I went once, and stayed in the "Dragon Room" of the Bon Maison Guest House. It was a charming, history-filled place in the heart of the quarter, and I returned there in later years...it seems odd to think it might not be there ever again. I remember tipping a really cute, really Cajun bartender at Pat O'Brien's $10 to call Donna "Cher" like Dennis Quaid called Ellen Barkin in the movie "The Big Easy". She ate it up, and I don't think ever suspsected the payoff.



I've ridden the streetcars through the Garden District, and attended Christmastime services at the beautiful First Baptist Church of New Orleans.

I've ridden horses through Audobon Park, and the beauty and perfection of those moments are crystal-clear, and live forever for me.


And then, years later--the real magic happened. And Bella, this is where it all becomes relevant for you. Your Daddy and I had met, and fallen in love. By golly, we'd already gotten our first "joint" poodle (that would be your little buddy Reggie)! I had, as I'm sure you'll hear plenty about over your lifetime, one of the most serious cases of endometriosis anyone had ever seen. No doctors in Arkansas could help me, even though I had operations for it here. Then I discovered Dr. Andrew Cook, who at the time was at an innovative, amazing hospital in New Orleans--Omega Women's Health and Hospital. Dr. Joseph Bellina, Omega's founder, Dr. Cook, and others were specializing in a new surgery--a different surgery for endometriosis. With the encouragement of my family and Alex, we set up a consult at Omega. Up to this point, I had been given up on by the medical community, and my only doctor was a pain-management specialist who kept me on "walking Demerol" every single day of my life, just so I could function. I dearly hope and pray that after this current disaster, Omega is able to continue to offer the hope and relief to women that they have for all these years.

So--your Daddy and I planned a trip. The surgery frightened me to death, and I think it was your Daddy's plan to do as much as possible to take my mind off that part of why we were there. We went a week early (my parents to meet us the day before the surgery, and stay throughout--you come from, my dear, a most wonderful family), and Alex very good-naturedly allowed me to "show" him so many of my favorite things, since this would be his first visit to "The Big Easy." We stayed, of course, at the Bon Maison, in a lovely, 2-bedroom suite with a kitchen, that opened onto a beautiful courtyard.

We went as far as I could walk every day. We visited Jackson Square, had beignets at the Cafe du Monde, and bought ice cream at Ben & Jerry's. The lush verdant glow of everything was just amazing.

Your Daddy humored me by stopping with me to listen to every street jazz band, and giving them our money.

We meandered slowly through the town, browsing, watching, shopping...we bought art, jewelry, and a ridiculously expensive but gorgeous stylish chain-woven straw hat that I've worn exactly once. You will probably inherit it.

Alex humored me again with a leisurely day at the French Market...little did I know at the time that your Daddy managed to slip away from me and procure a surprise for later...

And throughout our pre-surgical odyssey, we ate. And ate, and ate, and ate. New Orleans is the only destination I've ever known that is worth the trip just for the food. Paul Prudhomme's and Emeril Legasse's restaurants were our favorites...

...and I think we both agree to this day that the finest meal we've ever had the pleasure of consuming was at Emeril's "NOLA". We spoke of the crawfish pie for YEARS to come, and the thought of it can still make your father salivate.

And then, the night before my Mom & Dad were to arrive and I was to check into the hospital, Alex took me for an evening of enjoying my all-time favorite part of the New Orleans experience--PRESERVATION HALL. I'd been a couple times before, and I could have happily spent every night there. It's cramped, hot, muggy, dark, and you have to sit on the floor...but to hearDixieland Jazz of that caliber, I'd happily sit there every single night of my life. We bought every recording of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band that was on sale there, so I could listen to them in the hospital. Bella, I really hope you will appreciate and embrace the wonder that is Dixieland blues and jazz.

Later that night, your Daddy pulled a ring from his pocket--a smooth band made of polished stone--and asked me to marry him. I was so much in love with him at that moment, because there was a very real chance that I would come out of this surgery unable to have children (I was already missing one ovary at this point), or otherwise handicapped in some way. What he was telling me by doing this beforehand was, "I am with you, come what may." He said he was still shopping for the perfect diamond back home, but wanted to be sure I had a tangible symbol of his feelings for, and commitment to me when I went into that operating room the next day.

Here's the funny part of this story that I'm sure you think is getting way too mushy by now: I was so emotional that I was shaking when I took the ring from Alex, and I dropped it on the stone floor--and it broke. I cried, "Oh, no, I broke my engagement ring!" Your Daddy smiled, reached back into his pocket, and pulled out another ring, and said, "That's O.K., Sweetie--they were three for a dollar at the French Market, so I have a spare." I laughed until I cried, and then laughed and cried some more. I loved your Daddy so very much. As I am sure you will hear many more times in the course of your life, God gave me the perfect man with whom to make a perfect little girl.

The morning of the check-in at Omega, we met Mom and Dad and all went to the hospital. I was so scared, and your Daddy and Grandparents were so wonderful to me. There was so much testing to be done, and then the surgery itself was HUGE. It lasted over 6 hours the first time (that's right, they couldn't fix me all at once, I had so much wrong!), and Mom, Dad, and Alex all watched the operation on closed-circuit T.V. They even had a sound system so that they could ask the surgeons (there were three working on me) questions. Alex wrote everything down, because he knew I'd want to know exactly what had happened. We still have a video of that surgery, if you're ever REALLY bored, or just want to gross out your friends.

While the surgery went well, my recovery did not go smoothly. A baseball-sized endometrial tumor was removed from me that had incorporated itself into much of my "guts", including my bowel. Several inches of that had to be removed, and the rest pulled down and "tacked" together. This is why nowadays, when you peek your head into the bathroom when Mommy or Daddy are in there, you ask Daddy, "Are you pooping?" while what you ask Mommy is, "Are you trying to poop?" Anyway, they got all the endo out, and excised everything down to clean tissue with a microscopic laser. And the bowel resection was a success. But somehow in the process, I got dangerously dehydrated, and while not in a coma, I was mostly unconscious for days, and apparently frightened my whole family, and Alex, quite a bit.

During this time, my parents and my husband were wonderful to me. All I remember of them is love. Alex scoured the town of New Orleans for things he knew I loved, and that he hoped would help me wake up. He found my favorite essential oil and perfumed the hospital room with it. He found Ray Charles CDs with the old recordings, and everyone swears that while I didn't wake up, I did smile in my sleep when the opening strains of "Hit The Road, Jack" filled the room. I remember having to have an awful, painful test of some sort to make sure my colon hadn't developed any holes since the surgery...my Dad sat in the recovery area with me and asked if there was anything he could do. I said, "Yeah, my butthole hurts. Will you kiss it?" My dad laughed like he'd thought of it himself (and believe me, he would have). As you will hear many times in your life, I loved my father more than I can bear to try to explain.

I wound up staying at Omega for nearly two weeks--much longer than had been anticipated. During that time, what I remember most is being surrounded by love from my family and Alex--and even friends from far away. The room was so full of flowers that we were giving them to other patients. Every time I woke up, someone was there, usually holding my hand or stroking my hair. I remember my Dad's big, rough, warm, gentle hands holding mine and stroking my face--treasure the love of your father, Bella, because he feels no less love for you than my father did for me. I remember Alex sleeping in the gosh-awful Murphy bed in my hospital room all the time except on the rare nights that my mother could convince him to let her stay instead.

I think your Daddy and Granddaddy sampled gumbo and bread pudding from every restaurant in New Orleans. Mom stayed with me most days, and her hands were as cool and soft as they ever were when I was sick at your age. Dad had a minor fender-bender in Metairie, and there is a now-infamous family incident in which your Daddy and Granddaddy went through a Burger King drive through, ordered Whoppers, and were told, "Sorry, we're out of Whoppers." Response: "Um, what does it say on your sign? HOME OF THE WHOPPER? And you're OUT of WHOPPERS?" We heard this story retold for YEARS, and your Dad will still talk about it, so don't worry, you'll know of the Great No-Whopper-Incident.

I went back a few weeks later, just me and your Grandmommy, and had a double-hernia repaired (this after being told by local doctors, even one hernia "specialist" that "women really just don't get hernias"--Bella, ALWAYS be a guardian and advocate for your own health) and my gall-bladder removed. This was uneventful, and I think we were on our way home 2 days later.

The best thing that ever happened to me in New Orleans was when I asked Dr. Cook if I had any chance at having a baby now. He smiled, touched my hand, and said, "As good a chance as anyone else, I promise." And he was right, and you are here. And I learned from my mother during that experience that a mother's love never fades, and that you will be my baby for as long as I am alive, no matter how old you are. And as I am sure you will hear many times in your life, your mother could not have had a more perfect mother of her own, and I hope I do half as well for you, Darling Girl.

And I really, truly, hope and pray that, one day when you're old enough to appreciate such a thing, that there is some form of the New Orleans I knew, for you to get to know.

12 comments:

  1. I would go to NYC for just the food. Actually, I would probably just go to Little Italy and eat my way up and down the street, which I might do, because it is IMPOSSIBLE to get tickets to Spamelot.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What an amazingly beautiful story. This is the bones of a book. And so poignant right now, with the memories of love so fresh in the wound. Just lovely.

    And I adored the ring story. What a man!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Simply wonderful. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  4. K-I need the shows to get to NYC, but the food is definitely #2.

    Margalit, you are sweet. I think blogging is the most I have the patience for!

    Thanks, Leslie. I didn't realize until I started, how personal a place N.O. has been for me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you so much for this beautiful post. We have so many great memories of visits there, but we never take pictures. Yours were a pleasure to see. I wonder how many people have fallen in love with eachother and that city over the years? It's an easy place to fall in love.

    Donna
    dkmca2003@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Donna, I can't claim the pictures--they're lifted from Google images, with credit given where it was apparent. My own pictures...well, I started to use them, but it was just too painful, and I preferred the relative sterility of "postcard" type images. But you are right about the city. From first reports now, I'm encouraged about the possible restoration efforts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This post was very painful for me to read. Thank God, you were unconscious for much of the hard time. There was so much pain for you and it was "touch and go" for a few days. But, we had the faith and the love to keep it together. Like God brought us through that and blessed us with Bella as a reward, He will bring us through all our trials, both present and future. My tears, as I read your post were those of sorrow and relief and thankfulness. You capture my heart, my sweet Belinda.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Belinda,
    I hope that when I have children one day that I can experience the love that you have. We have such a wonderful family and I thank God that he blessed me with all of you. I just hate that I am so far away! I love your sense of humor and Zane's and miss them very much. Thanks for the wonderful stories!

    Love,
    Jess

    ReplyDelete
  9. Belinda,
    Hi there you are truelly one gifted and talented woman,you have a heart of solid gold,I sat here with tears while reading your Bella is a true little Miracle.
    Take it easy.
    Love Jessica C

    ReplyDelete
  10. THANKS FOR ALL THE WONDERFUL REMARKS ABOUT OUR FAIR CITY....WE LOVE IT TOO AND IT WILL COME BACK...
    JUST ONE CORRECTION THE STATUE WITH THE CATHEDRAL BEHIND IT IS JACKSON NOT LEE....HENCE THE NAME JACKSON SQUARE....
    THANKS AGAIN FOR ALL THE LOVELY COMMENTS

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for the correction! This entry is too old for me to go in and edit, but your comment will serve that purpose, I hope.

    I can't wait to take MY little girl to the "NEW" New Orleans. Long live NOLA.

    ReplyDelete
  12. A片,aio,av女優,av,av片,aio交友愛情館,ut聊天室,聊天室,豆豆聊天室,色情聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,080聊天室,視訊聊天室,080苗栗人聊天室,上班族聊天室,成人聊天室,中部人聊天室,一夜情聊天室,情色聊天室,情色視訊,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,視訊交友網,免費視訊聊天,視訊,免費視訊,美女交友,成人交友,聊天室交友,微風論壇,微風成人,sex,成人,情色,情色貼圖,色情,微風,聊天室尋夢園,交友,視訊交友,視訊聊天,視訊辣妹,一夜情,A片,A片

    情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,按摩棒,跳蛋,充氣娃娃,情境坊歡愉用品,情趣用品,情人節禮物,情惑用品性易購,A片,視訊聊天室

    免費A片,AV女優,美女視訊,情色交友,免費AV,色情網站,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人影片,成人網站,A片,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,情色網,日本A片,免費A片下載,性愛

    A片,色情,成人,做愛,情色文學,A片下載,色情遊戲,色情影片,色情聊天室,情色電影,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色,情色視訊,免費成人影片,視訊交友,視訊聊天,視訊聊天室,言情小說,愛情小說,AIO,AV片,A漫,av dvd,聊天室,自拍,情色論壇,視訊美女,AV成人網,色情A片,SEX,成人論壇

    情趣用品,A片,免費A片,AV女優,美女視訊,情趣用品,A片,免費A片,日本A片,A片下載,線上A片,成人電影,嘟嘟成人網,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,微風成人區,成人文章,成人影城,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊色情網站,一葉情貼圖片區,做愛,性愛,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,視訊聊天室,視訊交友網,免費視訊聊天,美女交友,做愛影片

    av,情趣用品,a片,成人電影,微風成人,嘟嘟成人網,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,色情,情色電影,aio,av女優,AV,免費A片,日本a片,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,聊天室

    情趣用品.A片,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,情色電影,色情遊戲,色情網站,聊天室,ut聊天室,豆豆聊天室,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,視訊聊天室,視訊交友網,免費視訊聊天,免費A片,av女優,av,成人電影,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人網站,自拍,尋夢園聊天室

    ReplyDelete