Whew, we made it home last night at about 10:30pm, and N. was off to his new job at 7:30 this morning. I am surveying the chaos and hoping the clean up won’t take as long as the vacation itself.
On Friday, our last night in Florida, we had a sweet birthday party for Teddy and then took to the beach for a moonlit walk by the waves. There were tiny white crabs racing about, and a monstrous black thundercloud on the horizon. It was one of the most fun evenings we’ve had as a family, and no one wanted it to end. “Can’t we stay here forever, pleeease????”
By Saturday morning, that huge thundercloud had made it to shore, and it was pouring as we packed the car and waved good-bye to the beach.
It poured and poured through three states, drenching us at every potty break. Tempers were wearing thin. By Saturday afternoon, the rain had stopped and we’d arrived in New Orleans, at our hotel that looked a whole lot nicer online than it did in real life. By Saturday night, after walking through many dirty city blocks to and from a restaurant and crowding into a tiny bathroom without an exhaust fan to get ready for bed, some people’s tune had changed: “I HATE vacations! They’re the most boringest horriblest thing ever!!!”
I don’t know if it was just that we were completely vacationed out by that point, but New Orleans did not seem like a family-friendly place to me. On Sunday morning, we decided to walk to the St. Louis Cathedral. N. had never been to New Orleans, and I was last here about 15 years ago, definitely without the eyes of a mother. Our hotel was a few blocks from Bourbon Street, so we thought we’d take that historic little walkway and witness some local color. I don’t know what we were thinking! 8:30 on a Sunday morning, just a few hours after the Saturday night party had ended, has to be one of the worst times to take your family on a stroll down Bourbon Street, if there ever is a good time to do that. The street was totally filthy and stank. And the shop windows! At one point I had to tell the kids to turn their faces to the wall and look at nothing else until we could turn onto another street. Now, I used to do street outreach in some of the seediest parts of Houston and Chicago, but I suppose family life has restored some of my innocence. So much for the history lesson–Bourbon St. is still, um, very much in business.
Here’s the naive S. family about to walk into the lions’ den (actually the sadly apt name of an adult establishment we passed on the highway).
Happily, not everything about New Orleans was a loss. Gator sausage was a hit with most everybody, and the Cathedral was gorgeous.
Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, the oldest cathedral in the United States
We started our school year last year on St. Louis’s feast day and learned a bit about him in history.
Mural of St. Louis calling for the 7th Crusade (in quite a different era!)
stained glass windows depicting St. Louis’s life
a copy of his personal Bible (beautiful medieval illuminated manuscript)
There was also a chapel dedicated to Mother Henriette Delille.
Mother Delille was a free black woman who lived in New Orleans in the early 19th century and ministered to the slave population and other African-Americans in need. Years ago, I taught at a Catholic school founded by black Creole Catholics who were affiliated with her various charitable and religious organizations. The school served the children of those who moved from Louisiana to Houston after the end of slavery and throughout the beginning of the 20th century looking for work. Every morning at that school we prayed for the canonization of Mother Henriette Delille. If canonized, she will be the first U.S.-born African-American saint and the first saint from New Orleans.
On the way home, we really pushed our luck and stopped to tour a plantation. These 300 year old oak trees, planted by an unknown settler long ago, lead all the way to the Mississippi River.
Tired, but hanging in there.
It was sad to hear how the mistress of the house completely squandered the place. Her husband and his mother had deliberately kept some of the slave families together for years, which was very uncommon, but to pay their mothers’ debts, her children sold off many of them individually, splitting the families up after all. The home was grand, but unfortunately built upon a completely unsustainable lifestyle.
Our kids were scandalized to hear that the owners of the plantation during the slavery era were Catholic. It is shocking. Of course most slave owners of that time considered themselves Christian. Another quite different era from our own!
Reconstructed slave quarters
William was intrigued to learn that an enslaved gardener on this plantation grafted the first papershell pecan tree, which is now found all over Houston.
The kids were pretty interested in this to begin with, but afterwards we stopped for one more food/bathroom break and then barreled home to H-town.
I spent today running errands, making phone calls, and realizing that N. had done all the disciplining in the last two weeks, and I had kind of lost my touch. Good-bye fun vacation mommy and hello mean mommy! I think we are all missing this…