A couple of weeks ago, a certain somebody named Katrina took a stroll through historic New Orleans and took a lot of stuff with her. Lives. Memories. History. Stuff.
Amid the destruction and loss was stuff belonging to my cousin and her family. They lived along the banks of Lake Pontchartrain in a little suburb called Lakeview. Sara, my cousin, and her family packed a few items into their minivan and evacuated to Baton Rouge for what they expected to be 4 maybe 5 days tops. Once the predicted devastation became reality, they loaded up the quilts, a handful of pictures, their two beautiful daughters, the ashes of their infant son and their love and drove to Jacksonville Florida to start anew.
Many people have reminded them to be thankful that they got out with their lives, as so many people did not, and that what they lost was just "stuff". Sara can acknowledge that but will tell you that although it was "just stuff", it was her stuff and she kind of liked it.
They have rented a place near her parents along the Florida coast but the reality of it all is that they have basically nothing left. A recent attempt to do the simplest of school projects proved near impossible without the supplies they had on hand at "home". Scissors, paper, glue that used to sit idly in a junk drawer have now become a commodity. A week's worth of clothes, unthinkable. All that "stuff" was the elements of living the day-to-day that they no longer take for granted.
In an attempt to get them back on their feet, our family here in New England is throwing them a "shower" on Saturday. We never need an excuse to get together and throw a raucousing party but gathering together has so much more meaning to us this time.
Although there have been specific suggestions made for items they need, most of us are gathering gift cards from national chains that they can use down in their area to start to replace what has been lost. Yesterday at Walmart I returned two stadium seats I had bought for us to bring to the Nascar race that proved useless and had the refund turned into a gift card instead. Tomorrow when Tall Boy's check hits the bank, I'm heading out to places like Old Navy, Toys R Us, maybe Barnes and Noble to add to my "donation". Not exactly a contribution to the Red Cross like everyone else in the country did but knowing that the devastation hit close to home, I held off on my efforts so that I could fine tune them in a way that will hopefully start to renew some semblance of normal for 4 people I love dearly.
This week has been filled with several e-mail exchanges that began with Sara's attempt to find humor amid her devastation. Although we've all been sitting at our separate desks around the country playing along, we also know that there is pain behind the laughter for them. The snapshot I'm left with is the resilience of not just the nation or the city of New Orleans in general but of members of MY family. Whether its celebrating success or banding together to heal pain, I know that they are the safe place to fall. They will take care of me should I ever be the one in need. We do love, deeply.