Visiting a Ghost…..

New Orleans is my City.

She is my Mistress and My Home.

I love her as much as it is possible for any human to love where they come from.

She has Style and elegance.

She has seen a lot of American History.

She has also seen a lot of Human misery and Pain.

But this entry isn’t about Nawlins (The way we pronounce her name, and the only way it should be pronounced)

It’s about where I grew up. A small town, just outside the Embrace of the city.

A very small town, in comparison to New Orleans, herself.

Chalmette, Louisiana.

I lived 28 years of my life there.

In a house, about 500 yards from the banks of the Mississippi River.

Here’s a view of my marshland home from the bridge that you need to cross to get there.

bridge

When you live in New Orleans and the surrounding Parishes (read: Counties) there is one thing you are always acutely aware of: You are surrounded by water. Everywhere you go..everything you do, you have to cross bridges to get there.

marsh

This is a view looking across a wide, marshy area that separates Chalmette from New Orleans. Been fishing out there, more than once!

Fishing is something we do…A LOT!

boats

I used to go just about every weekend with my Dad, when I was younger. I miss it from time to time. It’s a relaxing hobby..even when you don’t catch anything. Just going is always a good time.

There are many Historical landmarks near my house. This one for example:

20130814_110937

Is the ruins of Del La Rhonde Plantation. My house was built on the land that used to be the Fields where Sugar Cane and Indigo were grown.

But the most important part of this is:

oaks

This Alley of Oaks. It used to lead up to the entrance of the Plantation from the River. Back in those days, the only road followed the river banks. So all of the structures faced the River. It was in these oak trees that General Andrew Jackson and his army of Militia camped on their way to the Battle of New Orleans.

One of the biggest battles of the War of 1812 was fought not more than 1000 yards from that spot. And it was fought almost a year after a cease-fire was called to mark the end of the war.  No cell phones back then, word traveled extremely slowly.

And the Battle of New Orleans was not fought IN New Orleans herself, but in Chalmette. The Chalmette battlefield is a national park today. And they do reenactments every year. It is very interesting to go and see. I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Stephen Ambrose give a lecture there about the battle one year. It was fascinating!

I miss Chalmette. Whenever I can, I drive down there and look around. The reason I entitled this post, Visiting a Ghost, is because that is what she is now.

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.  She obliterated the Mississippi coast. Every building razed to the ground. You don’t hear about it much in the Media because there were no cities the size of New Orleans there.

New Orleans was flooded when the man-made levees broke and allowed the swollen river and lake to empty into it. She was dunked in water and left without power. Those people who lived there were without food, water or appropriate shelter for almost 2 weeks.

Chalmette…was not drowned in water. And she was not obliterated by the tidal wave that killed Mississippi.  She was hit by another tidal surge that brought in as much water from the Gulf of Mexico as it could…through the swamps and the marshes…and She was drowned in Mud. 15 feet of MUD! and the Oil refineries, built around Chalmette, lost containment on their massive holding tanks. The Oil came in, assisted by the water, covered everything and formed a toxic layer of sludge just below the surface of the mud. Everything it touched was destroyed.

When we left for Hurricane’s in the past, we took only what we could carry.

We did the same for Katrina.

My home was spared, for the most part, in a suburb of New Orleans called Metairie. I had 6 inches of water in my house. Anything that touched the floor was ruined but I was able to salvage much.

My parents took 1 suitcase with them and the family dog. Everything else, everything…was lost.

Everyone in my family lived in Chalmette.

Our entire family history from the beginning of both bloodlines..until August 2005. Gone.

The first christmas after Katrina, I gave my Mom all the old photos of my as a kid that she had given me over the years. They are all she has now.

I went with my Dad when he traveled down to Chalmette as soon as they started letting residents back in.

This was the street where I played touch football about 5 million times:

edenisles103 edenisles109

This was my childhood home. The place where I learned everything I knew about love and family:

edenisles102

A lifetime of memories. Destroyed.

As we used a sledgehammer to break through the front door. We saw this:

edenisles104

The oil, underneath the mud, stirred up by our footsteps made our eyes sting and made us gag and wretch every couple of minutes.

edenisles105

The dining room where I used to eat breakfast every morning before school/work.

My old room, where I used to lay in bed and dream about leaving that small town behind me:

edenisles107

The “S”. The first initial of my last name. Hanging still in place over the spot where the sofa used to be. In the room where I watched cartoons every saturday morning.

edenisles106

The bathroom where I used to play with toy boats in the tub and get yelled at for splashing water all over the floor.

edenisles108

It’s hard to look at this and say, it’s just a house…just a thing. It was more than that.

It was my history.

But, by some miracle, I was able to save something irreplaceable. This:

edenisles110

It is a Grand Father Clock from Norway. It’s been in my family for almost 300 years. It survived because it floated to the ceiling and didn’t get any mud on it. I still have it. It is my biggest dream to one day have it restored.

My Dad, sold the shell  of the house after it was gutted. He wanted to move someplace safer. He told me, he didn’t think he could live through that again. If it happened again it would kill him. I believe him….and I don’t blame him.

Every time I see him in his new house, he ends up telling me the house is ok..but it’s not home.

I understand that too.  We all miss it.

When i passed by the house this week I took this picture:

myhouse

She looks ok.  I desperately wanted to go up and walk inside. But I thought that might be a little creepy to the people who live there now.

I hope she takes good care of them..they way she did of me.

I miss that old Ghost of a House.

I’ll miss it forever.

Advertisements

About Eric

Writer/Plumber/Poet/Father/Gentleman/Romantic
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Visiting a Ghost…..

  1. D. D. Syrdal says:

    My heart breaks for you, for everything you lost. I understand the attachment to a house. The house I lived in in Massachusetts is that way for me, and I only lived there for 10 years. But to this day I consider it “my” house. I don’t care who lives there, it will always be my house.

    I hope none of you ever have to suffer that kind of a loss again.

    • Eric Syrdal says:

      Thank you, DD. It’s an open wound that will never fully heal for my Parents. I think, after more decades of my own family history with my children, the pain will lesson.

      For now, I can’t resist going back to visit. I feel guilty if I am nearby and don’t go.

      It’s like visiting a grave site. Pay my respects to my childhood.

      And yes, it will always be, “My House” too.

  2. rosie49 says:

    Thank you for sharing such a personal and moving post. To lose photos and mementos of a lifetime make us feel untethered to our past. Home is our touchstone.

  3. Eric says:

    Reblogged this on My Sword and Shield…. and commented:

    Every year…I say, I’m not going to think about it this time. But I always do.
    It was 11 years ago. It was a massive blow to my life. Many times you think you can imagine what you would do…if for some reason, you lost everything in the space of one day….

    Fantasy never matches reality.

  4. VictoryInTrouble says:

    Wow, I can’t even imagine! I have no significant sense of family history due to life circumstances, but if I did I can’t imagine losing all those pieces of the past.

  5. Such a stirring post Eric. I hope you can have the clock restored and with it also a sense of your history.

  6. It must be truly awful to lose so much. My heart aches for you family.

  7. Meg Sorick says:

    Oh, Eric… I hardly know what to say. What an absolute catastrophe. I hope that you’ll be able to save the old clock and get him in working condition again. What a treasure to salvage. Wishing you some peace, today… ❤

  8. It broke my heart to read that Eric. Such devastation. And how wonderful that you were able to salvage something. I hope that you are able to get it working again and every time it chimes you recall another memory.

  9. Dr. Meg sent me your way and I’m glad she did. I lived in NOLA for a while, years ago, and it’s my most favorite city. I’ve spent the next 30 years in love with it. When I met my wife, I found out her mom lived in Long Beach, MS. So for the past 24 years, that’s been a regular for me as well. Friends all over the coast, from Houma to Waveland to Long Beach to Ocean Springs. It’s an area that gets into your soul and never leaves. And Katrina’s impact devastated me too, even though I live 11 hours north of the coast. It’ll always be a part of me, and I am not sure if it’ll ever be the same in my lifetime. I’m terribly sorry for your losses as a result of her fury. But you know how tough and resilient the people are in that area. Keep rebuilding and propping. As Lucinda Williams says, it’s too cool to be forgotten! Nice to meet you, by the way. 😃

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s