2019 was a landmark year for me. I’d call it an emotional roller coaster but I felt far more drops than climbs. It was more like being forced to sky dive. It started off beautifully, like a scenic flight over a splendid landscape. Then suddenly, toward the end of February, I was shoved out of the plane, free-falling. At least that’s how I felt. I was glad when 2019 ended and I made big plans for 2020. I wanted a new look, a new business, and a new approach to life and I carefully made plans for all of it.
After attending weeks of parades, gala events, and debutante balls, celebrating my birthday, then getting up early to celebrate Mardi Gras day at our favorite spot on the Uptown parade route, I was officially done. Some people watch all four consecutive parades, which start early in the morning and run through the late afternoon. Then they go hang out on Bourbon Street until the police and their horses shut it down at midnight. While most people were watching the final parade I was at home cutting my waist-length hair to make it chin-length.
The next day, seemingly out of nowhere, I received a message from a brother of one of my closest friends. I was surprised, to say the least. He never contacts me. After confirming that the message sender was really someone I’ve known since I was a child, as opposed to a deranged stranger who was setting me up to meet sex trafficking kidnappers, I agreed to his request. I met his friends who were visiting New Orleans for a very special occasion – their wedding!
The couple decided to elope and get married at a cute little wedding chapel in the French Quarter. They needed two witnesses for it to be legal. They were comfortable asking some random people to do it, but they hoped that someone with some kind of connection to them, however tenuous, could be there. So their good friend’s big sister’s best friend, who lives in New Orleans and grew up in the small town where they currently live, showed up for the special occasion. I took pictures with the bride’s cell phone, clapped when they kissed, and signed the official documents. Then we had drinks at one of my favorite French Quarter restaurants and the manager gave us complementary champagne! Soon they headed to another restaurant for their wedding dinner reservation and I made the fifteen minute drive home. As the only guest, I ended up with the bride’s bouquet. I hung it to dry in my mudroom, where I promptly forgot about it.
That evening I thought about how the final days of this February felt much better than those of the previous February. Time really does heal wounds and 12 months after the most devastating day of my life, I felt good. In fact I felt much better than I had felt in months! I had settled into a groove as a homeschooling mom. I had adjusted to my husband’s new work schedule. Spending 40 to 70 hours per week in a nursing home for nearly a decade had been draining. I probably would have continued doing it because it’s what I wanted to do, but once I left I was somewhat glad to be gone. I was writing more, reading more, and feeling better about making plans. I even had time to write an article for a local publication, Antigravity Magazine. I truly appreciated the time I had to devote to my family and myself.
I wanted to work on more than our businesses. Instead of seeking the kind of work I used to do, I decided to get certified as a tour guide – a flexible job where my love of architecture, history, New Orleans, and public speaking would all be put to use. I had also recently been hired by the U.S. Census Bureau. Mardi Gras was over, festival season was just around the corner, and I was prepared to dive back into the workforce while growing our businesses. Life was feeling really good again.
My husband saw something on the horizon in December. His job required out of town travel at least twice a month. The distance was driveable but he hated spending time on the road that could be spent at home, so he flew. Travel costs were reimbursed and he always found flights that cost nearly the same or less than what he would have paid for gas, so it worked out well for him – until December. Constantly on the road, he had plenty of time to read newspapers and listen to news broadcasts and podcasts. A new form of the common coronavirus was causing serious illness in China. International travelers were advised to beware. He was only traveling between two states but in January he decided to stop flying. Something called COVID-19 was making people extremely sick and he didn’t want to be stuck on an airplane, getting sick by breathing recycled air. He reasoned that international travelers take domestic flights too. The convenience just wasn’t worth the risk.
A few weeks after Mardi Gras ended, New Orleans’ Mayor LaToya Cantrell cancelled two popular public events. Soon schools and businesses began to close. Suddenly we were confined to our home and I liked it. I was thankful for not having to go anywhere. We bought all kinds of groceries, including 25 pound bags of flour, sugar, and rice. The kids had a home bound (translated, boring) spring break. Then I resumed homeschooling with my son, while my daughters began distance learning. We made our own masks and disinfecting wipes and we never ran out of toilet paper. I spent more time enjoying my yard and patio, tending our gardens, reading, and doing projects around the house. We even celebrated our oldest child’s high school graduation. Somewhere in the midst of all of that, I cut my hair even shorter. Change felt pretty good. I know that many people suffered, but social isolation was rejuvenating for me – until May 25th.
I didn’t watch the video. I never do. I don’t watch horror movies and for Black people in this country, any day could turn into a scene from a nightmare. They said he called out to his mama. After working in nursing homes for so many years, I’ve witnessed death often. Calling out to loved ones who have already died is common, so I wasn’t surprised when I learned that his mother had died two years ago. I couldn’t look at the pictures for long. I don’t want to watch actors pretend to die violently and I definitely don’t want to see images of a real person dying violently. I was still processing Ahmaud and Breonna. I’m still processing Emmitt, Trayvon and Tamir – children! I wasn’t ready for George. Nearly three months of peace, rest, and a sense of balance gave way to a new wave of anger, fear, frustration, and disgust. I’m tired of this!
In a previous post, The Inheritance of Others, I shared my feelings about the history that created the environment for the casual, government approved murder of people who are not white. Thanks to Talking Loud With Keish ,I participated in a YouTube live discussion about someone’s ill-informed opinion about the Black community’s response to Mr. Floyd’s murder. I’ve shared my opinion’s on social media and with family and friends. Again, I’ve called and emailed government officials and signed petitions. Again, I’ve reminded my children that they must always be mindful of their safety when dealing with police officers. Again, I’ve corrected the white Christians who try to convince Black people that the constant threat of injustice and violence aren’t that bad. I’m tired though. Preparing my children for interactions with law enforcement is tiresome. Reminding Christians of the responsibility to “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression,” is exhausting. EXHAUSTING!
In the midst of all of this I discovered that two professors at the university where my child will enroll in the fall are public, blatant racists. I make that distinction because plenty of people understand the social repercussions of being known as a racist. Those people behave civilly in public, careful not to out themselves. Then there are those who feel that their racist statements and actions are completely justified. They claim that, in fact, they are not racist. I don’t know where the racist bone would be located, but they claim not to have one in their bodies. They tout freedom of speech and the right to have an opinion. Then they insist that they have been misunderstood and unfairly targeted when they meet the repercussions of sharing hateful speech and opinions. I was relieved to learn that the university quickly, and appropriately corrected the situation. I’m cautiously optimistic and I’ve warned my daughter to be careful with all of her professors.
We’re nearly at the halfway point of 2020 and I’m experiencing the roller coaster feelings all over again. I suppose that’s just life – ups and downs, twists and turns. The reminder of racism didn’t eradicate our need to avoid the spread of COVID-19 so we’re still spending most of our time at home. Since we’re here we cleaned out our downstairs storage closet this weekend. Coats and jackets hang in the front. Behind them are shelves where we keep gift bags, wrapping paper, a craft box, surge protectors and other household items. On the floor in the back we discovered a bag of Mardi Gras beads and toys. We normally keep our favorites and use them the following year, or give them to friends who are riding in parades. Realizing that the COVID-19 spread and multiplied among the crowds, we threw them out just to be safe. It was an odd reminder of just how strange this year has already been. We also reorganized the mudroom. There, hanging in the corner by the door, I noticed the dried bouquet from my friend’s brother’s friends wedding. It was a sweet, delicate reminder that regardless of life’s highs and lows, love continues. For that, among other things, I am thankful.