“An odd feeling, being back in the city I was born in. I wish I remembered something about it. Pretty much anything would do. But I was 3 1/2 [when we moved away] and one doesn’t remember much of anything at that age.” And, “it was definitely a shorts sort of day. Almost 80 degrees and a bit of salt stickiness in the air.”
I crossed into Mississippi and stopped briefly at a welcome station and rest area, with the most elegant picnic table shelters I think I’ve ever seen:
My second stop was at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. I turned off the highway there thinking that a national seashore would, well, have access to a beach. Silly me. The road ended at a visitor center in the middle of a swamp. An interesting visitor center, and a very pretty swamp, but not at all what I’d had in mind. So after a little while I headed back up to the highway in search of a beach again.
I found one in Biloxi. And a lighthouse, which is always a plus in my opinion:
This is where I got out and waded again. And was stalked by a great blue heron again. I don’t know what it was about herons watching me wade in the Gulf, but every time I put a toe in the water, there one was.
After lunch I crossed into Louisiana and across Lake Ponchartrain. First thing I did was go find the house my family was living in when I was born. I had the address memorized. I’ve always had that address memorized — I’m not sure why, given how young I was when we left there. But the house was easy to find, on the west bank in a nice little neighborhood:
I was glad to see that it looked like somebody loved it and cared for it. Nobody was home when I knocked, but a very nice man who was working on his car in the driveway next door kindly let me go in his backyard and peer over the chain link fence. “There were two reasons I wanted to do that. One was that I wanted to see if I remembered the backyard at all (I didn’t — the “remembrances” I do have are obviously because I’ve been told the stories of Mother pushing me in a swing back there so many times that I’ve internalized them). The other was that I wanted to see the addition Daddy [we always called him Daddy, not Pop or Dad or Father, even as adults] put on the back. It was odd, looking at something Daddy built over forty years ago and left behind a few years later, never to see it again. Odd to see where my family lived before I was born. … I miss Daddy” [he died six years before my Long Trip].
That house did not survive Hurricane Katrina, by the way. After Google updated its satellite pictures I went and looked, and there’s nothing but a concrete slab where that house used to be.
After that trip down memory lane, I went in search of the hostel in the Garden District where I had a reservation, “a rather large cluster of rundown buildings around a courtyard, and a converted apartment building across the street.” But it had free parking, and was only a block from the St. Charles streetcar, which was an excellent thing.
“I can’t actually believe I’m here. What an odd feeling, 36 years later. But I’m glad.”