My January blues were escorted in by frigid temperatures everywhere – even here in the Palmetto State. In northwestern Virginia where I traveled last week, the cold was exacerbated by freezing rain and winds that registered way below zero in the “feels like” category. Personally, I feared my lungs would transform into two compact ice chests should I be brave enough to attempt an actual in-breath while out of doors.
All this made for a somber re-entry into real life after an extended holiday in Tupelo, Mississippi and New Orleans. These days the holidays are different. First, Daddy’s gone. Daddy’s gone, did I mention, and family dynamics are just different. It’s hard to believe that for the first 20 something years of my life Christmas never changed. Off we went to Grandmother Honeycutt’s house with the extended family and all the cousins and then my sister and I woke up with our parents in our warm, little house where we spent the day opening tons and tons of presents and hanging out. That was a long, long time ago.
It’s one of the things that dear old Norman Rockwell immortalized so well that it makes us sad and morose longing for Christmas’s past. That old fellow has instigated a lot of depressions and suicides if you ask me.
So this year my sweet husband and I decided it is high time after ten years of no tradition whatsoever that we create a little tradition of our own. Which means that we will spend the holidays somewhere – first with whatever friends and family we can coordinate our schedules with and secondly, with a little romantic time on our own.
This year we saw a few friends and family before we left Greenville and then on December 22, we struck out on the road to Tupelo where we spent several days having a great family time with Trey’s mother, son and his lovely girlfriend, Ashley. We laughed, opened presents, shared good meals, had lots of long talks, tried to find Elvis all over town by following his historic tracks through his old hometown, drank some good wine and watched the hours fly by very quickly.
Then the two of us went on to the wonderful city of New Orleans where we moved in close to the French Quarter and resided for a few days at the historic Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria. (Well, just saying, one should get a few perks for spending three out of four weeks away from home on business. And fortunately for us, our perk got perked and we landed a luxury, corner suite! Definitely in very high cotton for a few days.)
The hotel was dazzling with thousands of white lights on trees that lined the entire first floor. Beautiful music, high spirits and incredible service. Sort of felt that we were a part of the Downton Abbey sort of folk. We spent hours walking the streets of the French Quarter which was in contrast decorated with lots of red and green and with many an ostentatious old Santa sitting on a porch or inside a shop window. We sought and found many a hole in the wall eatery that served Po Boys, jumbalaya, muffalettas and shrimp and oysters cooked in all sorts of ways. The small bar scene was fun, too. We stopped at several and struck up conversations with the locals and solved many of the world’s great problems.
Definitely a highlight was Christmas Eve on the levee by the Mississippi River where we watched the decades old tradition of lighting bonfires filled with firecrackers to light the way for Papa Noel to travel down the Mississippi River by boat driven by alligators – the traditional way that he makes his trek to see the children of this swampy low country. Literally miles of bonfires line the levee and it is one terrific sight to see. Unfortunately, the legend goes a little deeper as in the old South when the plantation owners were celebrating Christmas, a greater opportunity occurred for the slaves to escape. This helped to ensure they did not get away during festivities – a sad part of our history not to be forgotten and not to be repeated.
New Orleans is still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina and it is clear that event is a mile marker and always will be. We often heard – before Katrina and after Katrina – and we were also awed at the major medical hospital that is being constructed in place of the hospitals that were lost during the storm.
So the blazing bonfires, the effect of the hurricane and the icy roads led us back home again in time for the start of 2014. The blues will fade away, I hope, before too long. And time will march on into another year and beyond. The nostalgia of Christmas’s past has yet another one for the annals. The archives and chronicles of this latest one will join the others and time will move forward – even without the cousins and Daddy and my sister and my mother in eastern North Carolina for all those precious years gone before.
Aude lang sayne.