Updated: Jun 14
I was reading an article the other day by a Tulane professor who moved to the city from New York. He details his slow love affair with New Orleans. He moved gradually to the city, and finally bought a house for his family. The city is much like that to me.
I'd been writing a blog before this one, for 15 years, about my journey through life and my trajectories away from the city. The theme was that I kept coming back, to my hometown. I've been in Florida for five years now, and each time I return to the city now, she jumps on me like she isn't going to let go. After a few days, she understands that I'm not going to stay, and she kicks me back to the curb.
I've had this back and forth with the city for a long time. I've moved away three times, to Texas, California, and Iowa, and moved back twice. There are people who left after Katrina, and people who didn't, and we left, three years later. Our homeowners insurance had almost tripled, and priced us right out of our mortgage. It looked more enticing to move than to stay.
Our adventures away from the city have been many. We traveled all over California before we had kids, we moved to Hilton Head, SC and enjoyed our time at the beach with our first little one, we played and sledded in the snow in Iowa with our third little one. We spent most of our college years in Texas, traveling all over and spending time with friends and family.
In short, we've had a good time away from the city. But now that the kids are happily ensconced in their Montessori charter school, and my business is growing, we are here, in Florida. When I first moved here "home" was only 10 hours away. I drove home seven times one year. My husband eyed me when I got back after the last trip and asked, "are you staying this time?".
New Orleans is a hard city to live in, but it's also a hard city to leave. She woos you with her fabulous food and culture, and then you're stuck. The pace of the city is heartbreakingly slow. It's about 10 years behind everywhere else in the country, but that's part of its charm. There are no cookie cutter homes in the city. You literally have to drive 20 minutes out of town to find them.
When my sister was here for Christmas, we were discussing her living in my father's house. He bought a house a block and a half from the Tulane baseball stadium. It's loud at night, with students walking the street in front of his (now her) house at all hours. The house is a cute little cottage much like the bungalows in downtown Winter Garden.
Each time I leave New Orleans, it's almost as if I have to explain to her why I am leaving, and when I am going to be back. I drive back to my cozy little sliver of Florida that looks more like Carmel, California than the rest of Orlando. It has brick streets downtown, a Farmer's Market, a market on Plant Street that looks suspiciously like the French Market, and sweet little homes that look like they're straight out of Uptown.
And then I realize, my new hometown looks like the center of my old one. I happened to semi-retire in the only city we could find that was close enough to New Orleans. The last time I was back home, I took my first ghost tour. I "met" Marie Laveau at her gravesite, and she was kind enough to provide me with a way to break the frequent love spells one of my fans had been sending me.
She said to me, "the city will always be here for you. It's in your blood. But she's like a lover, be kind to her and she will be kind to you. Be cruel to her, and she will never let you forget." So I love her when I am there, and now when I talk about my hometown, I speak about her in kinder terms than I did when I lived there. I've forgiven her for Katrina, almost. And I hope to be back there one day, on my third move back, in a second home.
Because like a lover, I'll never really trust her to not flood me out or destroy my house and break my heart again. But I do love her, and I will love her as long as there are people I love there. I will keep going back as long as she keeps drawing me home. And my life will be a little dirtier, and slower, because that's where I grew up.
She'll probably bury me there. Only time will tell. But for now, I'll live in the sun with my new love.