October 3, 2012
Old Ladies Are Awesome
The weather is beautiful here in Nola. I love the Fall. I love New Orleans people. The temperature dips below 80 degrees for a few hours and everyone rushes to the store for gumbo and soup ingredients. Last night I dined on smoked duck and andouille gumbo. Dat’s right! 65 degrees is a cold front here. Yes, we are the people who really believe we are in fact dying if we happen to find ourselves living where it gets really cold for extended periods of time. We are the people who curl up and almost really die in January and February, when it is raining and 40 degrees.
I was coming home from the store yesterday, about to lug all the darlings’ pumpkins upstairs, when one of my elderly neighbors came walking down the street. I love living in an old neighborhood, because old people live here. Old people rock. I haven’t spoken to this lady in a long time, and she commented on the beautiful weather and told me she was walking to see her cousin, who lives a few houses down. Her cousin is another old lady that I love. They’re both in their 80’s and I love to tell a story about them…one that happened shortly after Hurricane Katrina. She was living in a FEMA trailer, and Dave was repairing her flooded house. About six months after Katrina, there was actually a tornado that skipped through Lakeview. The weather gods wanted to make sure we were truly down for the count, so they blew a tornado through already broken and flooded homes, lifting them from their foundations and tossing some FEMA trailers around. The gods do this when the people act too resilient.
When the weather started to get bad, everyone was suggesting that the lady leave her trailer. She wouldn’t. I totally get this. You have to understand that we were living in what looked like a war zone, and we lived that way for a long time. The devastation all around us was so severe. You could drive for miles and miles and miles through neighborhood after neighborhood after neighborhood and not find a house that wasn’t completely destroyed. Can you even imagine that? Pictures never did it justice, because just capturing what was in the small frame of a camera was so minute. So trivial. Imagine your entire city, every store, every post office, every school, every bank, every doctor’s office, every office building, every house, everything…being destroyed. Completely under water. The mental toll it took on everyone was extreme. She was tired. She was over it. Screw it, she’d said, I’m not leaving. Her cousin retorted, “Well, if you’re going to stay, at least don’t take that xanax you take every night. You need to be alert!”
“Alert?!” she blurts out. “Are you freakin’ kiddin’ me? Honey, if this trailer goes to flippin’ down the street, I want to be knocked out! I don’t want to be alert!” she chuckles. The exchange still makes me giggle. Especially the way it rings in my head in her perfect yat voice.
Anyway, yesterday she paused to tell me that although she hasn’t seen me in a while, she’s been praying for me and the children, and for David. She especially wanted to give me a message that I should not be afraid to remarry and I should keep my heart open. She happened to say it right as she removed her sunglasses, peered deep down into my soul, and grabbed a hold of my spirit so intently that I felt the hair rise on my arms. As the words tumbled out, I cringed, and I cried. I knew she was going there, before she even began. I knew that’s what she was going to say. I almost laughed, because over the weekend I had relayed to one of the muthas how I’d spotted an incredibly hot swim team dad, from another school, who was single. When I saw him and felt an attraction, my emotions started to spin….could I? Would I? In my head over the next ten minutes, I dated him and then broke up with him. Start to finish. In ten minutes. Not a word was spoken…and it was over. Just like that. It’s about what I’m capable of, I think. I suck.
Anyway, she ended our lovely conversation by reminding me to pray to the angels for protection, especially the warrior angels. She told me about a book she’d read, about warrior angels. Then she gently held my hand and said the most beautiful old New Orleans lady yat prayer ever. It went something like this:
Lord we ask for your sacred blood to protect this family against murderers, robbers, muggers, car jackers, rapists, child molesters, scammers and all bad people. We pray for your protection against hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fire, rising water, wind, hail and trees falling. We pray for protection in our vehicles against wrecks, accidents, flat tires, potholes, bad drivers and red light cameras. We ask you to bless us with love, peace, prosperity, wealth, happiness and good times. We pray for our health, keep us free from sickness, viruses, infections, colds, pneumonia, broken bones, fractures, falling down, vomiting and diarrhea and any other ailments.
No doubt she has perfected this prayer over the years. She said it super fast and it was hard not to laugh at some of the things.
When I picked up the darlings one of them couldn’t wait to show me a new piece of artwork. It was an angel. He’d written Dave’s name on it. I started to cry, and remembered the prayer. I hope she’s right about the angels.
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